On injury, identity, and life after running

A while back my left foot started hurting. A bit of pain down the outside edge. I rested, didn’t run for a bit, it persisted but I started running again.

Three weeks ago the pain started again but this time in my calf muscle and down to the ankle. Tight muscles, I thought, and didn’t run for two weeks while my half marathon training plan ticked over in the back of my mind, guilt growing every day. I carried on with netball because quite frankly, my team doesn’t have the luxury of doing without me. (Not because I’m indispensable, you understand, quite the opposite! but we only just have enough players to make up a team on a good day.)

Anyway, the discomfort eased off and I rewrote my training plan to make the most of the 5 weeks before the Falmouth Half. Then there was one glorious/difficult week of running followed by a 6 miler on the Sunday and a tough match on the Monday. Tuesday morning, my left ankle had doubled in size, and I sported an attractive cankle for a few days while it deflated.

What caused it? I have no idea. I didn’t twist or go over on it and it wasn’t even particularly painful. But what I do know is it meant another week of rest (and coincidentally terrible mental health) and yet again, here I am a few days after a netball match and I’ve had to walk home after setting out on a gentle jog. I can’t blame the netball, but the high impact and constant twisting and rotating can’t be helping.

So now I’m in the frustrating situation of being signed up to a half marathon in just over 2 weeks that I desperately want to run, but not wanting to run over fears of hurting myself even more and causing a long-term injury. The sensible side of me says to just pull out and not worry about it, to focus on yoga and pilates and netball and be gentle with myself. But the other part says to stop moping and get on with it. To follow my mantra of mind over matter, walk as much of the race as I need to, and finally tick it off my ‘to run’ list. And why is this side winning? Because.. I am A Runner.

I use #girlswhorun on my instagram posts, I ask for shoe and bra recommendations on #ukrunchat, I travel stupid distances and pay frankly stupid amounts of money to run around for a couple of hours. It’s what I do, it’s what people remember about me, it’s how I strike up conversations with new people, it’s what I do when visiting new places on holiday. It’s how I compensate for the vast amounts of sugar I eat, it’s how I spend my weekend mornings, it’s what gets me outside in the sunshine in the summer and in the wind and rain in the winter. It’s a way to bond with others, it’s a way to keep the brain fog and crushing weight of anxieties away, and being painfully honest, it changed my life at a time when I was wasting most weekends to hangovers and stupidly late nights, and gave me something else to focus on.

If I can’t run, then what do I do? Who and what will I be? What else is there in my life that could fill that gap, that will give me the same amount of ~wellbeing~? I need a hobby, evidently, and preferably something that can give me the same benefits. Ideas on a postcard, please.

For now, I have 17 days to get to a point of being able to walk/jog/run/crawl for 13.1 hilly miles because spoiler alert: I’m doing the race. And after that, well, we’ll figure something out.

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