The Five Stages of Grief

It has been over a year since I managed to injure myself, and if I knew that I would still be in running limbo this far along when I first limped to the finish line of Crathes half marathon last year, I would have been inconsolable.  Now, I didn’t initially embrace the changes I have had to make to my training, but because I allowed myself to be hopeful, I could press on when I was feeling down, and throw myself into new experiences.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a difficult 12 months, and it doesn’t mean I haven’t grieved the loss of something I find important.

DENIAL

It’s nothing a few days of taking it easy at the gym won’t sort out, I told myself after my disastrous experience at Crathes in September, 2014.  After all, it has been over a week since Glenmore 12, and I had done a fairly decent week’s training at the gym with no ill-effects since, so why should I be worried about not completing Loch Ness marathon, or Amsterdam, or Pisa in a couple of months?  Crathes was an isolated incident.  Everything is going to be fine.  I just had an off day.

OK, so I’ll drop down to the 5k at Loch Ness, and if I have to I’ll speed walk Amsterdam.  No problem.

OK, so the 5k did not go to plan, and I had thoughts of kicking a small child en route (see the next stage), but maybe I just got overexcited and set off too quickly.  Amsterdam will be fine.  Everything is fine.

OK, so I’ll give Amsterdam a miss just to make sure I’m fully recovered by Pisa.  After all, Pisa is my goal race.  Everything. Is.  Fine.

ANGER

Everything is not fine.

I don’t know how long each stage is meant to last, but I have a feeling that this was where I spent the majority of the first few months.  Throw a handful of jealousy in the mix and season with a dash of wishing-ill-upon-anyone-with-a-fully-functional-set-of-legs, and you’re getting a clearer idea of my state of mind.  Oh, you had a great race and took twenty minutes off your PB?  That’s terrific.  Fuck you.  Of course, that was merely a representation of my internal monologue.  Externally, I was more like this:

I can tell you with certainty that when you’re injured it is impossible to experience other peoples’ success without feeling a little bit of anger towards them.  There is also a 100% chance that every asshole and his dog decide to go for a run whenever the weather is nice.  Which, for some reason, is frequently.

BARGAINING

In this particular scenario, ‘bargaining’ became more like, “please take my money and fix me.”  I had sports massage (which I would have normally, but I focused on the muscles around my knee), I had physio, I did all of the exercises, I foam rolled, I did yoga classes (not my forte, for sure), I allowed a woman to stab me in the leg and butt with long needles and run a freaking electric current through them.  I would have considered, should it have been made easily available to me, voodoo, witchcraft, and/or hypnosis.  Hell, I considered the restorative effects of aromatherapy.  That’s when I knew I’d hit rock bottom, and the fourth stage of grief.

DEPRESSION

I give up on life.  What’s the point in even trying?  Running is dead to me.  I want to become a hermit.  I don’t want to communicate with anyone.  I don’t want to enjoy myself.  Oh, some kid on the news has terminal cancer?  They don’t understand real misery.  Somebody please, just put me down.

This is pretty much the point where I threw myself a pity party.  Every day.  For weeks.  I was not a lot of fun to be around, but that was OK, because I didn’t really make much of an effort to socialize.  I basically lived in tracksuit bottoms and a hoody, and my diet consisted of beer and bread.

ACCEPTANCE

The last (running) race that I had already signed up to before my knee crapped out on me was Berlin marathon.  It was going to be my A race.  Every time I made any type of running progress over the past year, it has all been for Berlin.  But every time I faced another setback, I could sense that dream slowly slipping away.

Berlin came and went, and I stayed in Scotland.  With no scheduled runs for the foreseeable future, there is no added pressure on me to rush back into long distances.  Instead, I have accepted that progress will be restrained, and realized the importance of having other things in my life to keep me going.

Over the past 12 months I have accomplished several things I have always told myself I’d get around to “later” because it clashed with some running adventure or another.  With that obstacle out of the way, I could commit to completing my Exercise to Music, Gym Instructor, Spinning, and – most recently – Body Pump training.  I’ve started teaching fitness classes before school (which is disgustingly early, I should add), and I’m working on a Sport and Exercise Psychology course in my free time.  I’ve even completed my first (and second, and third) cycle sportive, and my first ultra-length open water swim.

2015-10-11_12.43.45

I’ve also started running again – but only very short distances.  For the next couple of months I’m going to focus on 5k, and if everything goes well, I’ll work up to 10k by January/February.  After two rounds earlier this year of quickly working up to 9 miles before getting over-zealous and trying for too much, too soon, I’m being very strict with myself to ensure I have the best chance of making a gradual but steady return to running, and taking up my goodwill place at Berlin, 2016.

Here’s to relentless forward progress.

21 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Grief

  1. Firstly, yes it must be incredibly hard to find yourself devoted to something and then to have it snatched away. At least you have focused, very successfully, on other things. I am sad for young soccer professionals (for example) living the dream and who are trained for little else and who then pick up a career-ending injury. It must be beyond devastating.

    One of the main things that keeps me running is the knowledge that it WILL all be taken away sooner (through injury) or later (through age/death) and I want to make the very most of it while I’m able.

    Battle on MS.

    • Roger that! I agree that it’s probably important not to put too much worth into any one activity, and I guess I’m lucky I had such an active childhood and the opportunities to try out a range of different sports.

  2. I’m sorry you’ve been injured for an entire year… that is awful. I’ve been injured off and on all year, and your anger section sounds quite familiar 🙂 Fingers crossed you turn a good corner soon!

    • Yeah, the anger section perhaps overlaps several of the others, and it still pops up every now and then, but thankfully to a lesser degree than before. Here’s to a return to form for all the fallen runners!

  3. Great post medal slut. Can totally understand / sympathise. I discovered triathlon because of a running injury (well.. the swim and bike part of it) – and it was the best discovery I could make. I never looked back, and thanks to the all round fitness and variety, my running is now also stronger than ever!

      • Yup – after a touch of stalking I see you come to some of the swim sessions. I usually only manage Monday nights, but put in the effort to make it along to the social last night. Suffering the effects today…

      • cyberstalking is easy in a small place like Aberdeen + small circle of triathlon! Swimming is my weakest link.. and the one area where I need the most help! I wasn’t there last night.. still quite new to the club

  4. Oh those stages of grief are so very familiar! I’ve always found that removing the pressure of having a goal race to train for really helps the recovery process. Take it nice and slow and fingers crossed you’ll soon be able to run all the races you want.

  5. I have been following your blog for a long time now. This is my first post. I completely relate to your post as I jhurt my knee in an Obstacle Race – adn kept trying (in vain) to come back and run. In the end, after spending a huge sum of money – it was old-fashioned time. It took nearly 2 years. During which I was convinced I will never run again and even if I did – I would not be as good as I was before.

    To be honest, it’s still not quite right – it’s not like it was before – but its ok. I really really hope your knee gets better soon.

    chin up.

    • Oh man, that’s both depressing and hopeful. Did you realize you’d injured yourself during the run? And did you get to the bottom of what you had done, or was it just pain during running? I’m glad you’re back running, even if it isn’t 100% where you were, and I hope I can find a happy medium soon. Thanks for reading.

      • It wasn’t one injury. But the compounded by trying to come back too soon and not wanting to DNS my races that I have already entered.

        Initially I fell and hurt my knee 3 miles into the 8 miles Obstacle Race. I was on the floor screaming as both shoulders popped as I fell. I lied to the St Johns Ambulance guys and said it didn’t hurt as I really wanted to finish. That was a mistake #1.

        Then I shrugged it off and pretending it a one-off – and I was fine. That was mistake #2 as my knee went whilst running my 3rd run after the event.

        I then did a HM 6 weeks later without any running for 4 weeks – and my knee went at mile 4.

        Then after physio and rehab 3 months later whilst running, my calf went ping and I couldn’t walk. My dreams of London Marathon over.

        I deferred my VLM space and repeated the above for the following year. Except this time I was able to get some long runs in (16 miles) for this years VLM. Even the end, the calfs held up until 18 miles at which point they both siezed. I finished in 6 hrs 35 minutes and couldn’t walk again.

        Ultimately I was putting pressure on myself because of events I wanted to do.

        After the VLM I took time off, and came back much more slowly. My calf twinges sometimes but by and large it was worked.

        It’s weird once you have had so many injuries you don’t want to jinx yourself.

        I still get scared that Iwill have an injury – but to be honest I am grateful than I can run a 5k – everything on top is a bonus.

      • I can definitely see a lot of similarities between our situation in your description. It does seem to suggest that time is really the only thing that is going to make a noticeable difference, and hopefully not trying to struggle through Berlin will have done me a few favours…

        Hopefully you have found something to replace – or at least supplement – your running!

  6. I can relate to this SO much!!! The denial part lasted a lonnnng while for me…it’s tough going for sure!! Sounds like you have done so much with your time off running though which is amazing 🙂

    • Thanks – injury is the pits, but I guess I have to count myself lucky that this is pretty much the only time I’ve been sidelined for more than a few days, while other people I know are out for months at a time on an annual basis (so it would seem). Once I’m back to running a 10k comfortably (and without the fear of not being able to finish), I’m considering treating myself to Metro membership (it’s where all the cool kids seem to hang out these days), so might see you ’round! 🙂

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