Monday, October 11, 2010

I Didn't Run Chicago Yesterday

I sat there on the exam room table, clutching my x-rays from the urgent care center a few days earlier and dangling my legs which were nowhere near the ground. I felt childlike; small, unimportant and intimidated by my surroundings. Needing guidance, help from someone who was supposed to have my best health care interests in mind.... and not sure I would find it.

My left foot was in a large boxy boot somewhat similar to the picture on the left, covering my toes to my knee. It kind of reminded me of a moon-walking suit. Not that I could really walk. In fact, the reason I'd come to my regular doctor was in hopes he'd either send me to a specialist or let me get some additional testing done to find out why I was in so much pain. My x-rays from a few days earlier indicated nothing was amiss.

He came in, pronouncing my name formally and then sat at looked at my chart. He looked up at me disdainfully, and stated: "Haven't you had a couple stress fractures from running already? It doesn't look like your body agrees with running. Maybe you should consider not running." Well, that was helpful.

I had hoped, at least, to walk out with a plan. Get an MRI, make an appointment with a podiatrist. Receive a suggestion of what might be wrong and how long it might take to heal.

If, it would in fact heal. The fact was, it had been thirteen days. And I was in more pain that I was on day one. I was worried.

After chiding me for running and pointing out further that I was no longer of an age to run and the repeated injuries should be my signal to stop, he poked around where my foot / ankle hurt and said, "I'm not going to send you for an MRI for that. Keep the walking boot. I don't have a better idea."

I limped out; defeated. Swing-thud; swing-thud; swing-thud. I was more depressed than ever. After all, it was a stupid, chain reaction thing. Not an over-use injury, but I simply got caught wearing the wrong shoes and a cascade of issues resulted.

Yesterday, I watched Chicago from afar. I filled my list of runners and hit refresh / reload hundreds of times over a four-and-a-half hour period until my last runner-friend crossed the finish. How I wanted to be there. I was thrilled and overjoyed to see a few people do really well. I actually got chills watching some friends just nail it and get stronger and stronger. It is a gift to be able to have everything line up to execute your marathon strategy, and I celebrated vicariously for several of you as you crossed the finish!


  1. Alex,

    Knowing how much work you put into trying to make it to the starting line in Chicago, yesterday had to be a painful & sad day for you.

    Hope you are healing up.

  2. Phil, Thanks for writing and the encouraging message. I had mixed feelings watching the race. I really, really wanted to be there, and yes, there were some really sad moments for me. I was overjoyed at some of my friends victories, and sad that others didn't do as well as they could have. I'm doing much better now, and out of the boot for a bit. No thanks to my lousy doctor though :) I am, at least, making some positive recovery. --Alex

  3. Alex,

    Good to hear that you are recovering fairly well. I thought about you while watching the race online, and tracking several folks, and how we were all tracking you last year at Chicago.

    Your greeen man in last year's race picture is now doing TV commercials (probably not the same guy, but the same outfit).

    You are one of 2 people that are helping me to get motivated for MCM on 10/31, and ultimately ING Miami on 01/30/11. The other is one of my former training partners, who has a lifetime best of 2:18:18 in the Marathon and has been to the Olympic Trials when he was much younger. He's now 56, and had microfracture surgery on his right knee in March. He still cannot run, not even a single step, and I saw him walking on the trails on Saturday while on my long run. Breaks my heart to see him like that.

    It really helps to put things in perspective when whenever I'm not having as good a run as I would like to think of my buddy (and you as well) and think that either of you would settle for a sub-par run of any sort these days.

    There's a quote that says "what great things would you attempt if you knew that you could not fail".

    Chin up, one foot in front of the other, and hang in there!

  4. Phil, Your words are really helpful to me! Thanks for letting me know that my little travails over here are making a difference :) That's so funny about green man! I kept hoping he was going to run again this year and would show up on the cameras. Would have made me smile.

    Super bummer about your Olympic Trials friend. I hope he is able to run again soon.

    I'm really glad you are going for the MCM at the end of the month, Halloween, no less! I wonder if a lot of the marathoners will be decked out in costumes. Tempting not to... --Alex

  5. Chin up, you'll get through this. Clearly nobody has assisted you in finding the root cause of your leg problems. I would venture a guess that running is NOT it, but rather may proove to be a big part of the solution. Keep on searching for a specialist who will not simply give you the same easy-way-out response that your Doctor seems married to only because he is lacking in the humility department to admit that he may not hold the magic key to all the answers. It took me two sports medicine specialists, four physiotherapists, one orthopaedic surgeon, and countless hours of reading and trying things on my own before I stumbled onto someone (a physio in the end) who didn't look at me like I was an idiot and who's first reaction was to say "your ankle is not your problem, so let's find out what is causing your ankle injury". She immediately searched for issues such as range of motion, flexibility, and strength starting with the lower back and hips.

    Having just finished my first marathon after being told by more than a few so-called experts that I should "never run again" you can guess how I feel about those types of people.

    Keep fighting!

  6. Do take care. Maybe try some lesser impact sports at the moment like swimming. It will help.

    Your story is not the worst I have heard recently. One of my good friends was diagnosed with cancer. Like us, she also runs a lot and she also do tris.

    She is seeking treatment now. As what she had told her friends: "I am not sick. I am just temporarily out of action."

    Hope this will help to spur you on. Maintain a positive mindset. It will aid in recovery.


  7. Vava, Thanks so much for your encouraging words! It was a bit ridiculous hearing my doctor tell me I shouldn't run any more. I was sitting there thinking, "Aren't you supposed to help manage my healthcare?" Or, maybe he'd rather see me in there due to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or any other number of maladies because I don't exercise! The good news is, I am finally healing up... but athletes should unite against this kind of medical "care"! --Alex

  8. Jacky, Thanks for writing! Yes, my story is nothing compared to that, my heart goes out to your athlete friend with cancer. I hope she is doing well and persevering, but it sure sounds like she has the right attitude. It makes me think a bit about Lance's "It's not about the bike," book on his cancer. My injury is (was) trivial compared to anything like that. I was a bit discouraged, because I was tired of the cross training. I worked really hard staying fit earlier in the season.. and just didn't have it in me to go through that again. I've been blessed though, my health is intact and I've just started running again! Thanks for some very good reminders. Let me know if your friend has a blog also about her struggles. I'd love to read it. I'm sure she has a lot to share. --Alex

  9. Alex- I'm sorry to hear you missed your race, but I'm happy to have noticed you did 10 miles today. I'm not 100% sure what the status is with your injury at this point, but I think it's safe to say you know you'll get through it and it will eventually pass.

    Hang in there..

  10. Herb, Thanks for the visit and comment! Yes, I'm slowly coming back... not concentrating on pace yet, just working on getting my miles back up to somewhere decent. I had a good 10-mi run yesterday, not too bad considering the heat and the wind. Hope you are doing well! --Alex

  11. Killer - I know you're gonna make it back on the road soon. As much as you want to take that boot and drive your Scandinavian motor vehicle over it, just give it a little more time. Trust me, Chicago last weekend definitely taught me every race isn't guaranteed, and neither is good weather :-)

  12. Bill, Copy that! It is so hard to get all of the right things to line up for a perfect marathon. At least I'm out of the boot and doing some runs, so I'm hoping that Houston is solid for me :). How are you recovering? --Alex

  13. alex

    her blog is at