Anyone who knows me knows that I live to run. I run in the dark of winter, with sleet and snow driving in my face. I run in the heat of summer, when the road looks like it’s melting into nothingness. Anyone who knows me well knows that this last year has been incredibly difficult for me, as I’ve faced my first real career threatening injury. Last year, almost to the day, I began having numbness in my foot, which caused me to trip over things and generally be miserable while running. What was once my escape from everything else became a huge stressor and my race times and attitude reflected that.
I was diagnosed with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome, which means that when I run, pressure builds up in the compartments of my calf and pinches off the peroneal nerve that innervates the foot. Not great news for a runner. Over the past year, I’ve tried many conservative therapies. Research suggests, however, that surgery is really the only solution for CECS. As my symptoms returned in full force about two months ago, I was resigned to the fact that I would need surgery in the near future. This past week, however, when I was unable to run through the pain, that near future became next Wednesday.
In trying to make this decision, I was incredibly frustrated at the lack of popular or anecdotal literature on this syndrome. It is rare and primarily seen in young women, so that may explain some of the silence – not very many people go through this. However, staring down at surgery made me really want someone else to tell me what they had experienced, how they had found their return to running. I have had blogs before, but always for an academic purpose. This will be my first personal blog. I expect it will become intensely personal as I navigate the days and weeks after having my calf cut open. I don’t expect it to be all lighthearted – after all, for me, this is heavy stuff. I do hope, however, that sharing my experience both creates an account for someone else with this injury and helps me to work through the myriad emotions I expect to experience in the next 6 to 8 months.
I look at today as the first day of the rest of my running life. As I write this, it’s 80 degrees out and beautiful, but I’m looking at a workout in the gym or the pool. It’s hard to watch everyone come out of hibernation and run. I ran all winter with this kind of day in my mind’s eye, dragging me through snow drifts and puddles. Now, I’m restricted to walking only. I laugh a bit imagining myself in 6 or so weeks, when I’m cleared to jog again. That first quarter mile is going to feel so luxurious after this. I also laugh at the thought of a 2 mile week, down from 70. Undoubtedly, this is going to be an adjustment. As I said to a running friend today, however, I am hoping to use the down time to really reflect on running. It has always been my therapy and honestly, even if the return from this surgery means my competitive marathoning days are over, to be able to run on a daily basis without pain will be worth it.