Sunday, March 29, 2020

They Can't Cancel My Virtual Race

I didn't run for several months, so when I signed up for a spring virtual race in January, it was because I needed a no-pressure goal to get me back into running. Of course now that every race in the world has been cancelled, it is now the only game in town and I'm feeling pretty smug about being able to stay on my race goals.

Actually, I'm feeling heartbroken for everyone who has been training for races that were cancelled. I know how upset I've felt when I've had to miss races because of injury or they've been cancelled for weather, etc. None of them were goal races or races I'd been looking forward to for a long time. It has to be so distressing to have trained for a race, to still be able to train for the race, and then just not have it held.  If this is you, I'm so sorry.

In a way, I know how you feel though because until this month, I hadn't run since last June. I ran a 5K race (on my birthday no less) and had a great time, with the exception of the sudden ping in my left leg with about a mile left to go. I ran through it and then began my journey through eight months of injury.

Photo of me post-race. I am sweaty, smiling, and holding a glass of free beer.
Post race, pre realization of injury
At first I just limped and waited for it to get better. I Googled the difference between shin splints and stress fractures and was disappointed to discover that my pains more closely aligned with a stress fracture. Eventually I went to my orthopedist who sent me to get an MRI. Evidently I didn't have a stress fracture, but the MRI indicated damage that could have led to a stress fracture (or something; it was a long time ago, I'm foggy on details)

Photo of a computer screen on which is an MRI image of my leg. It's gray with white lines running through it.
I waited for the doctor to leave the room then took this photo of the MRI image that was on the computer. I don't know what it means, but look how cool it is!
I rested it for several weeks and then got another MRI at which point the ortho told me it was better but not healed and I should wait a few more weeks.

I waited for those weeks, tentatively started to run, and the leg pains jumped from the left shin to the right shin.

See, I had run a mile on my treadmill and took an entire week to recover. I ran another mile and based on my pain level decided that something was definitely wrong with my right leg, I was evidently made of glass, and I should probably go back to the ortho. He sent me for another MRI, which showed a slight meniscus tear and I don't know what else but the ortho—who by this point was just tired of seeing me, I think—told me to rest it longer.

So I did. I rested it, I stretched it, I did some ugly crying during the movie "Brittany Runs a Marathon." I developed a growing fear of never being able to run again. I asked my PCP about it. I went to a rheumatologist about it. I talked to my therapist about it. I started taking a joint supplement. I was aware of my pain level at all times.

In a fit of optimism based on waning pain in January, I signed up for a virtual race taking place in April and May. I figured that worst case scenario I could walk it and I'd at least be outside on trails again. But mostly I wanted to run it. I didn't want to sign up for a real race, worried that the pressure of an actual event might lead me to train too hard if I wasn't ready and knowing I wouldn't want to walk at an actual race.

Every doctor pretty much told me that I might not be able to run anymore. I grew to actively resent every person I saw running on sidewalks and trails, up to and including Alex, who is kicking the shit out of running, which is great and infuriating all at the same time.

Photo of Alex dressed in all black in a gym. He looks buff.
Look at stupid Alex with his stupid hardbody. Infuriating!
Alex, who had watched me mope for several months, was excited by my registering for my virtual race and bought me maybe the most thoughtful gift of our entire marriage.

Photo of a silver necklace inside a purple mesh bag. It is the silhouette of a female runner.
It even has my ponytail. *sniff*
I put the thing on and have worn it every day, even as doctors tell me I probably shouldn't run anymore. It reminds me that I am a runner. I also realized at some point that what I was talking about and what my doctors were talking about were probably two different things.

I was talking about acute pain that showed up when I would run. I think my doctors were talking about my shitty, deteriorating knees that have been shitty and deteriorating for years. I've been ignoring doctors talking about that for forever. I just wanted to be able to run without sharp pain that made me limp.

I was afraid to try running again. After waiting so many weeks for my left leg to heal (it now feels wonderfully stable) and then for my right leg to immediately crumble, I was terrified that trying again would end everything.

Early this month, I did some walking workouts and incorporated some running into them. When nothing hurt more than it did when I started, I took an outdoor run/walk. For a couple of weeks, I did one bootcamp workout with walk/runs and one outdoor walk/run. Yesterday I added another run/walk to my weekly routine. I think on a chronic level, my knees actually hurt less when I am running regularly. I remember thinking that years ago, but based on my experiences this month, I really think it's true.

I am slow as shit. Running is so goddamn hard. I am waaaay behind where I used to be. I am supposed to run my virtual race any time between April 28 and May 19 and am hoping that I can run 5K with no walk breaks by then—partly because, as I mentioned before, running is HARD, and partly because I am very intentionally increasing mileage incredibly slowly to prevent more injury. I really don't want to go through this again.

I'm doing the Zombies, Run! virtual spring race. They have an app with story missions, but the races are independent of that storyline. I've used the app for years. I love it. One of the sad parts of not being able to run for so long is that I am way behind on the story now. I'm excited to catch up.

I've done one other Zombies, Run! virtual race before and it was really fun, so I'm excited to do this one. There is a package to be opened at the end of my mission that is suspiciously medal shaped. Normally I wouldn't be too excited about a virtual race medal, but I have a feeling this one is going to mean a lot.

Until then (and even after), I have my own permanent medal that I get to wear.

Selfie of me post workout wearing the runner necklace and a necklace that reads "Stimey"

If you run, you are a runner. And I run.


  1. AHHHH!! you're back!!! I knew I kept you on my list of favorites for a reason!! I hoped you'd be back :-)
    Julie A

  2. OMG I had to go back and re-read from the "beginning" (to be in sequence of course!!) and you have me laughing like always!!! and holy cow---the photo of the dude at the gym that I assumed was your's Alex!!!
    Julie a

  3. Loved reading about your return to running. Hope all goes well. But OH MY GOSH ALEX! Actually, you both look GREAT, but Alex is transformed. Wow.

  4. You look great! And it is wonderful that you went back to running. Hopefully, you also enjoy "lockdown cardio" like me. Love from the Netherlands!


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