Disappointment and a New Focus

Back in April, my sister and I registered for the Run or Dye 5k. She had been training for her first 5k and I had been training for the Fargo Half Marathon. We thought it would be a fun race to start her running career and to start my taper.

We arrived at the race about an hour early and had plenty of time to chat with other runners and get covered in the pre-race dye scattering that was occurring. I learned fast that there is NO point it trying to avoid the dye!

Runners were released in waves at the start, so we didn’t actually start running until almost an hour after the race officially started! Once we got started, though, things were going well. We went at my sister’s pace and tried to stay out of the way of the faster runners by hugging the curb.

Just after we crossed the 1 mile marker, I slapped some blue dye on my sister’s derriere. She returned the favor by trying to smear some on my face, which I dodged. That moved proved to be a very bad idea. As I dodged away from her, I stepped off of the uneven pavement of the path and hit the ground HARD, while twisting my ankle under in an unnatural position.

After a few minutes of deep breathing to try to make the pain subside, and brushing off offers from other runners to go back and get the medical staff for me, I was able to stand up on it. A few more minutes and I started hobbling. We had to make it approximately two miles back to our car. I was in pain and could tell by the heat and throbbing that my ankle was swelling. However, I’m stubborn and insisted that I could get to the car without assistance.

This whole time, I felt horrible for wrecking what was supposed to be an awesome, glorious moment for my sister. Meanwhile, she felt terrible for “making me fall.” Which, as I explained to her, wasn’t her fault. I could have either not dodged away from her and just accepted a Smurf face, or I could have been more careful about my footfalls.

Anyway, after much hobbling, we made it back to the car. This was when I finally had the courage to take a look. My ankle was officially three times the original size. Ouch!

However uncharacteristic, I did actually sit on the couch with and ice pack on my elevated ankle when I got home. Had I stuck to that regimen longer, it might have healed faster, but I’m impatient.

In the three weeks following Run or Dye, I waffled back and forth as to whether I would be healed enough to run the Fargo Half Marathon anyway. A week out, I realized that my ankle wouldn’t hold up to that, so I considered dropping to the 10k or even 5k. A few days out showed me that running was still a no-no. Then, I considered going to Fargo with my running buddies just for a weekend away. Ultimately, though, I decided that being around the race atmosphere and not being able to participate would drive me crazy, so I stayed home.

Of this whole experience, I was mostly depressed. Like anyone else, I hate being injured, but I hated having to give up a race I had actually trained for. This was the first time I had actually followed the recommended training for an event. I was even feeling good about the distance.

Once all of this happened, I actually considered giving up running altogether. Even though I knew my injury wasn’t anything permanent, I felt emotionally and mentally crushed. I actually cried over missing a race. In the past when I’d read about runners being depressed over an injury, I thought it was silly. Now, I completely sympathize because I’ve been there.

Perhaps the crazier thing is that even after I’d healed, I didn’t want to run, with the exception of Warrior Dash. I skipped races, telling myself I didn’t feel like doing them or finding any excuse to stay home – it’s too dark, it’s too early, it’s too far to drive, etc. While I have done a few races since, I’ve taken the easy way out by deciding to do walk/run intervals with friends either just starting out in their running careers or returning to running after a long break. I’ve told myself that I was helping them out, but in truth, I was partially avoiding running.

Last month, I ran my first solo race, the Esprit de She 5k. I had fun and felt good during my run. I wasn’t fast, even compared to my own previous race times, but it felt right. Yet, I’ve still skipped races since that one. Again, using the “it’s too early on a Saturday morning” excuse.

While I can’t exactly put my finger on what I’m avoiding, I’m allowing myself to focus on something else in the fitness world until my mind feels okay with running regularly again. I’ve signed up for small group personal training session at a gym just a few blocks from my house and am loving it. The weights and I are becoming friends. My trainer knows what he’s talking about. There is a sense of camaraderie among everyone participating. But, I’ll have more on that later.

Really, this post was about organizing all of those thoughts and feelings I’ve had since April and getting them out there as a means of examining them. I need to decide whether “runner” is truly part of my identity or simply something I’ve done. I also need to determine where it all fits in with my long-term goals.

While I am running a Halloween themed 5k this weekend in the Halloween Capitol of the World, I’m not ready to call myself a runner again yet. And, I’m okay with it.

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