Life on the Sidelines

“Running shouldn’t hurt.” With that one statement, my running life changed. I was sitting in my RRCA coaching certification course and our instructor, an exercise physiologist and noted running coach, told us that running isn’t supposed to hurt. In that room sat seasoned ultra-marathoners, Iron Man triathletes and others who have run myriad races and none of us could believe it. She went on to explain that if one trains PROPERLY, one should not feel more than typical muscle discomfort. “Say what, now?” I was always of the opinion that running was supposed to hurt, which is one of the reasons I ignored the nagging pain in my groin for so long. I don’t even know when my pain started or what caused it. I just assumed it was from over-training, but it could have also been due to my over-zealousness in spin class or the weight room. I had been near the end of training for the Richmond Half Marathon when I took the coaching class and I had come to accept “the limp” as part of my life. Confounded by her statement, I pulled her aside to discuss my pain. After she told me how wrong my training had been, we discussed the possible causes and implications of my pain and she strongly suggested that I not run the race and let my INJURY heal. Wait…injury? I never thought of it as an injury. Annoying pain, yes, but an injury…?

Let me be clear, I am hardly a “soldier.” I don’t often “suck it up and move on” when it comes to illness, aches and pains. I will run to urgent care if my nose runs for more than two days. I wasn’t toughing the pain out, I was in serious denial. I kept telling myself that the pain was normal and that it would eventually go away. Well, it didn’t, and after that discussion I could no longer deny it. So the following week, I made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist and prayed for the best. The problem was I couldn’t get an appointment until after the race. What to do? (Incidentally, my instructor knew I wouldn’t listen to her suggestion of cease and desist so we discussed an action plan to get me through the race that was just two weeks away. ) Rather foolishly, I completed the Richmond Half Marathon, limping by mile 7 and hobbling in agony through mile 11. It was the first time I seriously considered a DNF, if only the sweeper truck would have driven by. Adrenaline, a long downhill at the end of the course, and the prospect of pancakes got me to the finish line. It was a truly painful experience and I promised myself that I would do whatever I needed to do to heal properly. That meant I had to stop running cold turkey. And with that, I began my life on the sidelines.

Next up – diagnosis and recovery.


8 Responses

  1. I just flashed back to University Park.. reading this story brought back memories of my first knee injury diagnosis.. I thought it was from banging hurdles.. wow.. looking forward to hearing about your progress..

  2. i almost wrote about my herniated disc and its ridiculous effect on my life this week. I’m glad I didn’t, because your perspective is far more fresh.

    I will say that injuries and denial about them comes easily. It took me two or three months to even realize I had more than just some weird pains in my body, and I consider myself reasonably aware of my body. I am a stubborn person, though, so I pushed beyond what I should have. I’m sure we’ve all been in both your place and mine at some point.

    Anyway, I took a pilates class last week and totally blew my back up again during it. It really stunk because I really wanted to take this class and I dragged Elaine to it. So instead of outsourcing my core strength, I’m going to have to go back to doing it myself. I have a good routine, but self-motivation is a finite thing for me and I’m trying to eat right and keep my miles up while staying healthy. Sigh. At least my back is finally feeling almost normal again.

    • Yikes! Sorry about Pilates. I was hoping you would enjoy it. We should send each other reminders to do core work, because I slack on that a lot as well. Too many things we have to stay on top of. :-/

  3. Cass, your experience at this half sounds just like my first half at Shamrock in 2007, except I had severe ITB pain. Every step was searing. But that beer at the end kept me going. It was the only thing. I vowed to never be in pain like that ever again at a race.

    Very glad you are on the road to recovery now!

  4. Hello Cassandra, thank you so very much for sharing your experience being in pain. I have a seriously limp because I wore a cheap pair of shoes with no arch support while shopping one day. It never healed. So, when I run or jog the heel just get worse. There is also something going on with both of my knees. I noticed recently that when I walk up my stairs at home they both make noises. I was jogging and walking regularly in 2011, but in January 2012, I entered graduate school and cut back. When I started circuit weight training and the PGRC start run program in May (?) 2012, my injuries have become worse. Would really appreciate the name of a good orthopedic specialist . Margie Gross (PGRC Run Start Program)

    • Hi Margie. Sorry to hear you are having these problems. I go to Anne Arundel Orthopedic Surgeons but you should ask around for recommendations. You can email the club ( or post on the PGRC Facebook page to get suggestions. You really want to take care of this now before things get worse.

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