Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm not even supposed to be here today!

I started distance running when I was in seventh grade, when I was just 12 years old. At least I thought it was long distance running. I was running 3 mile cross country invitationals, which hardly count as long distance in todays world of ultras. I still have a few of the commemorative blue ribbons that I received for participation in the runs.

I was a pretty active child. I played soccer, loved riding my bike everywhere on and off road and was basically outside and in the woods every chance I got. I don't know what drove me to run a race but I know it was love at first run. Mostly I enjoyed the solitude of distance running. There was a level of camaraderie in running but what I really enjoyed was the time it gave me to clear my mind and to become more aware of my body. I loved the challenge of pushing myself to run a distance that most non runners would be shocked by.

I ran many invitationals and when I was in high school I ran cross country my freshman and sophmore year, getting my varsity letter when I was a freshman. Then my life as a runner came to an end with some soreness in my feet.

One day while out for a run I began to really feel my feet starting to hurt particularly in the front "ball" of my foot. In addition to competing in cross country I was also playing youth soccer, and I thought all the activity was catching up to me. I went home and iced my feet. the next morning my feet were so swollen and sore that I could not even walk. My feet hurt so bad, I thought that I must have broken bones in my feet.

I went to the doctor and after much testing he told me I had what is known as Metatarsalgia. By know means am I a doctor but I will try to explain what this is. It is a somewhat condition of sometimes chronic pain in the metatarsal region (ball) of the foot that involves inflammation and swelling of the metatarsals. It is caused basically by "overdoing it". In some cases rest and ice will resolve the problem. I was fitted with crutches and told to not put too much pressure on my feet for the next few weeks.

I spent the next four weeks on crutches until I finally started to feel better. By now it was winter so I was not looking to try to get back into running right away but as soon as it was remotely warm out I started running again. Within a short amount of time I began to feel the tingle in my foot and was afraid the metatarsals were acting up. I immediately stopped running and went home and iced my foot. The next day I had the extreme pain in my feet. After another trip to the doctor I was on crutches again for a few more weeks.

After three weeks I went to the doctor again and he told me something that nearly destroyed me. he told me I could not run again. I asked "For how long?" and he responded "Forever." Apparently my injury was not a case that ice alone would treat.

How could he do this? How could he take away one of the things I loved most? I realize it was not him that was taking it away, but I was really in shock.

I was determined that I would prove him wrong and run again. After several months of not running I began trying to run being very cautious but after working up to about 2.5 miles in a run my feet started to hurt so I stopped running. this was a vicious pattern that I went through for several years until I finally gave up running. I started mountain biking to fill the void, but it just was not the same.

Finally after years of not running I was talking with a guy who was a rolfer. He told me that rolfing may be able to help my body structure which may help with my feet problem.

Now I need to tell you that I am a HUGE sceptic for new age treatments, like rolfing, but I figured if it meant that I could run again I would give it a shot. I went through the ten sessions, and while at times I was very uncomfortable, it was never really painful.

Now was the real test, to start training. I started slow and after a few weeks I was up to a few miles. I was nervous to run 3 miles because that was when historically I started to have problems. I passed 3 miles without incident and began training for a 10K that I always wanted to run but never had, the Holyoke St. Patrick's day road race. I completed that race in my goal of under one hour (59:45) and by know I was starting to feel really good and started shedding a few pounds, so I kept running.

It has been about two years since I started running again and I have stretched myself out to almost 12 miles without major issues. My feet remind me sometimes that I have to focus on my form and to not over do it. I buy new running shoes more often then I probably need to, but it is totally worth it to me. I am currently training for my first half marathon.

I really enjoy every moment of when I am running, because as Dante says in the movie Clerks, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"


1 comment:

  1. HI John,

    What an inspiring story! I'm glad I finally checked out your blog.