The Runner’s Low: Acknowledge the Role of Injuries in the Running Process

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s trail running journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I spin wheels on a bicycle that doesn’t go anywhere. Everyday I ride my bike, which is attached to a stationary wind-resistant-trainer resting outside the house. I watch my breathe rise in the cold winter morning air and imagine having magical powers to turn it into more spectacular shapes, such as a sailboat or a mountain range. My left foot wears a medical grade Aircast boot, which could pass as a ski boot. On my right foot is a Nike Trail Kiger running shoe, with a hole on the right side from past adventures in the Himalayas and a sole missing because of an accident with a heater turned too hot. I find a rhythm in my breathing and my legs churn faster. I’ve been riding for 50 minutes and haven’t slowed my pace. I close my eyes and imagine running effortlessly. I float into an unnamed finish line and turn around to run the course all over again. I race Steve Prefontaine and match his every stride. I spring through boulder fields in the Pyrénées mountains like a mountain goat. I go places in my mind, but on my bicycle, I go nowhere.

I’m a runner who isn’t running. I count tiles on the ceiling of indoor pools, show my hopefully not-too-smelly feet to Physical Therapists, practice “flamingoing” on stability disks, imagine I’m running while riding a wind-trainer, and best of all, blow dry my boot with a hairdryer after workouts to make sure it remains a fungus-free environment. These aren’t usual images of a runner’s’ life one sees shared on Instagram, Facebook or other social media, but they are images of the “ugly,” injury-plagued side of running. Injuries are a true and essential part of being a runner and acknowledging their role better prepares one for dealing with their challenges and how to enjoy every step of the running process.

See the Full Picture:

Getting a handle on the “ugly” side of running is like acknowledging there will always be bad apples during harvest. There are piles of beautiful apples in the store for purchase, but there are many bad apples thrown out at harvest that never make it to the grocer’s shelves. In running, one often sees runners at their best, and rarely sees the hours spent aqua jogging or stationary cycling when these runners are injured. Almost every runner I know has been injured, or not able to run at some point in their running journey, but that doesn’t make them any less of a runner. Injuries are nothing to be ashamed of and are just part of the process.

Strengthen Your Identity as a Runner:

Thinking of one’s self as a runner when injured can be difficult. One might think, “I haven’t run in so long I must not be a runner anymore.”But injuries also give opportunity to find purpose in being a runner, apart from actually running. For the past several months, I’ve been struggling with injuries and have chosen to involve myself in the sport in new ways. I’ve written articles, volunteered at races, watched countless videos featuring my favorite runners, read books about running, and found a coach. Injuries provide a chance to expand and strengthen one’s identity as a runner.

Share Your Running Lows:

I am presently rehabbing my Achilles’ tendon, and am about four weeks post surgery with possibly 4 months before taking a running step. I’m happy to report that I’ve received much support from my friends and family. Sharing the “lows” as well as the “highs” in the daily running journey helps establish a more true picture of what it’s like to be a runner.

I encourage everyone to embrace where you are in the running process and share. I want to know how many tiles there are on the ceiling of your indoor pool. I want to hear your morning routine to deal with sciatica pain. I want to hear how many hours you spent on ellipticals last week. I want to hear how much stronger your arms are after walking with crutches. I want to see if your boot is a nicer color than mine. Being a runner is about more than just running.

[Editors Note: for more background about how Tayte became injured, read his article “My Life in a Boot” from August 2018.]

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