I’ve had plenty of chronic injuries throughout my running career, but the shin pain I had over the last two years was the first time I ever worried that things might not get better. To be fair, I didn’t give it the maximum amount of attention I could have, but I did try a number of things to try to fix it:
- Rest. This worked, at first. I’m pretty sure my shin was just about healed when my naughty dogs* escaped and I had to sprint three blocks on pavement wearing rain boots to catch them before they ran out on to SE 82nd (I was worried they’d get wrapped up in prostitution and a nasty meth addiction). This put me back to square one. Resting it took me from pain while walking/sleeping/doing anything to just pain on impact, but no further.
- Physical therapy. I went to the guy that helped me out with my stress fracture in the other shin when I was 15. He specializes in running and it felt like we were getting somewhere, but my leg was still hurting with any running at all. Then he switched locations to a new clinic that didn’t accept my insurance.
- Acupuncture. I definitely didn’t give this a fair chance, but I really hated it, and it was expensive. When I was in the first grade I discovered I could slide a safety pin into the top layer of the skin on my thumb without it hurting, which I thought was pretty cool. I assumed that this is what acupuncture would feel like, but instead it hurt and then continued hurting while the guy left the room for 20 minutes while I sat there with needles in me. And I paid him like $70 for this.
- Weight lifting. I thought that balancing out my muscular imbalances and just growing muscle in general would protect my leg more. This probably worked, but didn’t necessarily stop my leg from hurting.
- Orthopedist. He took an x-ray (which showed nothing), prescribed me an MRI, and refused to explain how he would change treatment based on the results. MRIs are expensive, so I bailed on that plan.
- Massage. At the massage school I went to, with student massage therapists on the cheap. It turns out that professional massage therapists are way better than students. The first time my hamstrings were a little tight, so I requested work on my lower legs and hamstrings. The girl gave me a full body massage. The second time, I had a dude who noted that last time my hamstrings were tight (not an issue whatsoever on the day I saw him), and spent half the time working on my hamstrings. Then he crammed a full body massage into the remaining 20 minutes. This was ineffective, but at least enjoyable in that I’m able to internally gloat about what a better massage therapist I am.
At this point, things were looking pretty bleak. So I finally decided that if nothing was going to fix it, I was going to just run anyway. If it started getting worse, I would think about seeing the doctor again, but I was feeling like I didn’t have a lot to lose in terms of running anymore. So I just started running again – gradually – and somehow, my leg stopped hurting. This was about six weeks ago, and now I’ve built my way up to 15-17 miles per week. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to run pain-free for about a year before I really believe my shin isn’t going to give me trouble again, but for now I’ll take what I can get! I’m sticking to the trails to avoid hard surfaces – other than a timed mile I did this week (more on that later).
As you can imagine, I’m pretty pumped about this. I’ve been waiting years to get back to running, and spent so much time imagining how hard (and smart) I was going to work this time around, and how much faster I would get, if my leg would just get better. I’ll confirm that it is awesome, and I am super happy, but here are things I didn’t imagine while I was hurt:
- How completely miserable it is getting back into shape, especially when you’re only allowing yourself to run in Forest Park. For anyone unfamiliar with Forest Park, just imagine a never-ending uphill trail of death that has a constant stream of people walking past you/trying to block your path, who will undoubtedly laugh at you and call you names if you ever stop to walk for a minute. This may be the most negative light you’ll ever hear anyone talk about Forest Park in (other than the stories reporting hobos trying to stab people and random bombs being left in the fire lanes), but when you haven’t run in two years, it’s pretty terrible.
- How cold winter is. You know what’s not cold? The inside of the gym. I have yet to come to terms with the cold, but I’m trying to remind myself of how great running is in order to deal with it. Really great. The greatness definitely outweighs the horrible-ness of the cold. Except when it’s cold and windy, then there’s no way I can convince myself that running is a remotely reasonable sport to do.
That’s basically it. I forgot about how hard it is to be out of shape and in cold weather. Next summer I’ll
probably definitely remember how much I hate being in hot weather, if I’m so lucky. The bright side of this is that the more miserable I am, the more I have things to complain about in the blog, so good news for everyone!
Miles run in 2014: 86