My (not so complete) Comeback Story

from Running with Purpose

 

It’s a fact of life that people LOVE comeback stories. Last week, while the lady Beasts sat around Katie Mackey’s TV watching the Bachelorette, (all in the name of “recovery” of course), I was reminded yet again of the powerful effect of a comeback story. During his one-on-one time with Kaitlyn, everyone’s favorite Ryan-Gosling look alike opened up about how he had been in a severe car accident that nearly ended his life. The hearts of women across America melted as they heard him tell his story of how he spent months in the hospital, unable to walk and horribly injured as doctors marveled over how he had survived. However, as he sat there fully recovered and looking like a GQ model, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would find his story less captivating if he was still in the process of learning to walk or if his face was marred with scars. The point is people do love comeback stories, but they love comeback stories in which the comeback is complete. Less appealing are those narratives in which the comeback is still a work in progress. My current running story is very much the latter.

 

Quite frankly, the last year and half has been a disaster for me with regards to running. In March of 2014 I was diagnosed with a sacral stress fracture. Since then I have attempted numerous returns to running only to be sidelined once again by a new injury. I could go on and on about the different theories I’ve heard as to why I’ve been in this endless injury cycle- funky biomechanics, building up too quickly, weak glutes, past overtraining, dominant hip flexors, nutritional deficiencies, cardio fitness that exceeds my muscular-skeletal fitness, high pain-tolerance- but in reality, there is no one reason that fully explains my setbacks, a fact which has proven at times to be highly frustrating as I attempt to claw my way out of this injury cycle. After my latest injury occurred in February, I was devastated, emotionally exhausted and at a crossroads of whether I should continue this running journey. Clearly my body was not cooperating with what my mind wanted it to do so maybe it was time I just gave it up. Fully prepared to walk away from professional running, it was at this time that I experienced just how supportive and ridiculously awesome the running community is. I received an outpouring of encouragement from teammates, competitors, coaches, Brooks employees, running media and friends checking in on me, offering to cross train with me and most importantly telling me I was too young and had too much potential to be done. I couldn’t help but feel that if this many people believed in me, I owed it to them and myself to give it another try. However, this time I was going to take the tortoise approach- slow and steady-in my buildup.

 

Throughout this process, I’ve tried to keep my struggles off the radar for the most part. It’s hard to talk about your injuries while you’re in the thick of things with no return to racing in sight. For this reason I’ve always admired Lauren Fleshman for being bold enough to share her frustrations as they are occurring… not just once she’s had a solid performance and is back on top. I look at the sheer positivity of Christine Babcock even as she faces a long recovery from getting a screw put in her foot, and I’m reminded that this sport is about more than running fast times. I’ve realized it’s ok to not have it all figured out and to be able to enjoy the process of the comeback even before I’m where I hope to be. The fact that I can go out to practice with my teammates, enjoy their company and put one foot in front of the other is a victory in itself. Watching amazing comeback performances, like Emily Infeld’s 15:07 5k, gives me hope that I one day will be back setting PRs and testing my potential, but for now I find joy in the everyday process of building back up, no matter how painstakingly slow.

 

In reality, I have no fast race performance, no ridiculously impressive workout, or even a race on the calendar in which to point to as proof that I’m indeed “back.” A cloud of uncertainty regarding my contract, my financial future, and my return to racing looms overhead. For all I know I could get injured again tomorrow. Yet despite all of this, I remain optimistic that this running journey God has sent me on is worth the struggle. At the end of the day, I’m chasing my dreams with some of the most quality people this world has to offer. And for that reason I will enjoy every step I run. After all who wants to live a life of utter predictability?

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