Running after injury: Becoming a different runner

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Before I was injured I was a different runner. It seems like such an obvious statement that it’s almost silly to say. But Denyse Whelan’s Life This Week prompt is “hobbies” and I’ll be damned if I let it roll by without a mention of running.

Honestly, though, I thought the way I ran and my athletic “ability” was ingrained or dictated by my genetic makeup and not subject to change. When I tore the cartilage inside my hip joint a few years ago, I knew it would be a long road to recovery. I didn’t expect that it would turn me into an athlete with a different running approach and mindset entirely.

Long story short, I’m yet to get the surgery that will most probably fix the hip pain and the issue. Like many runners (I suspect), I just keep putting it off in the hopes that:

  1. I’ll return to Australia and get it done there
  2. It’ll magically go away on its own

Both of those scenarios are unlikely, so I’m running with a plan that gets revised by my fantastic coach Zoey, every time she thinks she can tweak things to help me out a bit more. I think having a different kind of training plan and mindset has turned me into a different runner.

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I even stopped for a photo of Alf taking a photo of himself. Very meta!

Pre-injury Katherine would not dream of walking during a race. She’d only walk one water stop for a drink, if she needed one. Her goal was always time-based: beating personal bests, shaving minutes or seconds off, and finishing feeling like she earned that medal with sweat and sometimes pain.

She was great for feeling accomplished. There’s always some further distance to conquer in a shorter amount of time. It put a smile on her face, a spring in her step and got her out of bed insanely early on chilly mornings.

Post-injury Katherine is a different beast all-together. She doesn’t run hills if she can help it, and sprints are the exception rather than the weekly rule. She walks whenever she needs to. That can be in the middle of a 5km, after 2km, or in the middle of a race.

And she doesn’t care.

She (this third person thing is getting weird), ran Bay to Breakers on the weekend and walked a fair amount of it. Not just Hayes Street Hill (because that was never going to happen at a gallop), but even in the last km when things were getting rough. Crossing the finish line at all felt like a gift and an achievement.

Because last year I couldn’t have done it at all. And getting any time, no matter if I’d walked the entire thing, was always going to be 10 rungs up the ladder than getting no time at all.

Sure, my endurance isn’t where it was a few years ago and I’m certainly nowhere near as fast as I was, but is that really important to me anymore? Not really. The fact that I’m running at all is good enough for me.

Do you feel as though injury has made you a different athlete?

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19 thoughts on “Running after injury: Becoming a different runner

  1. I’m definitely a different athlete not from injury, just increasing age and weight gain! I’m more of a plodder than a runner now and find that I value and appreciate my achievements more because I’m not obsessing about PBs and fast finishes. I often follow a walk/run system because I find it more enjoyable, more efficient and it takes about the same time as if I ran slowly but continuously. My new running mantra is “it’s not how fast you go, it’s how much fun you have.”

    1. I like this outlook very much. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older too… I do sometimes feel like a walking stick is necessary.

  2. Running after an injury just can’t help but change you. I’ve had a stress fracture in the past and what I learned from that experience is that it’s important to listen to your body, as cliche as it sounds! I’m much more cautious and more willing to take breaks now rather than overtrain!

    Great job with doing what you can. And omg Alf creeped me out!

    1. Hahaha, I’m sorry that Alf creeped you out. That’s San Francisco for you!
      It’s a bit of a shame that we have to get injured to learn these things, but I’m really grateful that I’m still able to enjoy getting out there and running when I can.

  3. It’s is funny the way our perspective changes when something like an injury happens? I have also learned to respect my body a lot more and while I enjoy a good challenge, I don’t try to push myself every race I have. No shame in walking and taking it easy, running is supposed to be fun, right?!

    1. Exactly Annmarie! And you get to enjoy the view and the ambiance of race day that little bit more if you’re not pushing every single race. It’s also great for runners doing their first races to see other people walking I think.

  4. I’ve damaged my feet with distance walking (though it may just be the start of arthytis – oh yay) so I’ve decided I won’t do 35km but 30km is fine (I know, it’s all in my head, right??) So sort of….

    1. Hahaha, this sounds so very familiar Lydia! Fingers crossed that it’s not arthritis, that would be a massive pain (excuse the pun).

  5. Love the third person! Also love Alf. As for injuries, I don’t love them. I was wondering if you’d have to come home for that surgery. Do you just get on an Aussie waiting list for public and then jump on flight at short notice when you get the call?

    1. I had health insurance at home, but put it on hold while I was here thinking I’d only last the two years and come back. You can only hold health insurance for two years so I guess the only thing I’d be able to do is get on the public waiting list? I’m not too keen on that, don’t really want to clog up the system. Plus the company I work for is merging with another one that gives even LESS paid vacation/sick days. Actually no paid sick days. But whatever.
      Otherwise, I’d do it here in the US. Which is scary to me.

  6. Yes!! I’m not a distance runner or super fit but having had a baby, being forty something and having shoulder problems catch up with me have changed how I approach fitness. I seek help earlier for symptoms now, listen to my body (mostly) and focus on how exercise makes me feel rather than how I hope to look.

    SSG xxx

  7. I hear you as I’m a runner but I haven’t been injured. My thinking is slowly changing because I’m 60 this year and whilst that won’t stop me (I’ve just entered a 35km run) it will make me re-evaluate the way I run. The Sue of old, like you, would never think of walking in a run I would just keep pushing through. I still like to push myself but I’m listening to my body more and accepting that perhaps I will never run faster than I am now. I think the secret is to enjoy what you do and not be in the mindset of an Olympic athlete! I love running with my Saturday Sisters and that is being social, connected whilst keeping fit at the same time.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    1. I love that you have Saturday Sisters to run with Sue! And that you’re listening to your body and making little adjustments so that you can keep on keeping on. Gosh, 35km is huge, the closest I’ve come is 34km and that one wasn’t the prettiest. Good on you Sue, you’ve put a huge smile on my face!

  8. I’m not a runner, but I’ve been struggling with illnesses and injury for nearly a year. Last night I was watching some TV show and someone ran off around a corner and I was so jealous (temporarily!) that they could run. I always want to exercise more when I’m sick and can’t

    1. Ugh, ongoing illness is the pits. I’m sorry that you’re still coping with it Vanessa, it must be so very frustrating 🙁

  9. I’ve never been a runner – I have envy in my heart for those people who love the thrill of running and who are always exceeding their personal bests. I’ve never quite understood it but I think it would be great. I’m glad you’ve found a sweet spot where you can still do what you love, but at a pace that doesn’t make your injury worse.
    I have an impinged shoulder atm and it’s limiting me in lots of different ways – I’m looking down the barrel of surgery and I’m really not thrilled so I totally understand why you’ve been putting yours off! (and I live in Australia so that’s one less excuse for me!!)

    1. I used to be the same Leanne. But maybe I took it a little bit further? I hated sport and would avoid it at all costs. I don’t really know what changed. I think I just wanted to set myself a challenge that I honestly believed would be impossible for me.
      Ugh, shoulder surgery 🙁 That’s not good at all. Sorry to hear about that, wishing you all the best for when you get it done xx

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