A Break in the System—or Ankle

Hillary, one of my new BRF's I made just minutes before.

“Spokane run. Met Hillary. Dramatic finish.”

That’s what I wrote on Strava for my May 1 run. What I didn’t reveal: I fractured my right ankle in two places at the end of the workout.

It was an idiotic, completely avoidable accident at the end of a delightful run. Before I get to the make-me-sob details, let me dwell on the positive points of the run first: Jonna (part of Team AMR and a guest on our most recent podcast) and I were in Spokane, Washington, to work a race expo and scout the city as the base for our fall AMR Retreat.

Also a friend, but not of the BRF kind.

We set out for a long run along the lovely Centennial Trail that hugs the banks of the Spokane River. It was an ideal day for a run: The sun was shining brightly but the air held a slight crispness. We stopped often to snap photos to be used later to entice mother runners (like you!) to our next Retreat. Silly photos, like the duo of marmots we encountered on the riverside, and scenic ones of us on one of the several pedestrian bridges across the tranquil river.


Perusing a mounted trail map near mile 3, we gave directions to a woman runner sporting a sassy “Suck it up, Buttercup” tank top. By the time Strava announced Jonna and I had run four miles, “Buttercup” was about 25 yards ahead of us. She turned around, and we fell into stride as she told us she was doing half-mile repeats at 8:35 pace. Despite having told Jonna we’d be going at a 10:00-ish pace, I eagerly told her we’d pace with her.

Turns out Buttercup is a mom of three from Missoula, Montana named Hillary who is training for her first half-marathon after the birth of her nearly one-year-old youngest son. We fell into easy conversation: Hillary had read Run Like a Mother, and she also admires the non-profit work of Christy Turlington Burns.

Rumor has it, if you kiss a moose in Spokane, you can run a sub 4-hour marathon.

The photo opps continued, including when we approached a massive (read: two stories tall) red wagon with a metal slide dropping down from it. Sprinklers shot streams of water on the grass area and the slide. Jonna exuberantly suggested I go down the slide for a photo, and I eagerly trotted up the ladder at the back of the wagon.

Almost immediately, I realized I was going way, way, WAY too fast down the slide. With no railing to grip to slow or stop by descent, I heard warning alarms go off in my brain, telling me to not hit my butt, back, or head. I kept my feet out in front of me and prepared myself to propel forward upon impact.

My plan proceeded exactly as planned….except for the loud “snap” I heard with my ears and within my body. As I was throwing my body forward toward the ground, I shrieked, “I broke my ankle!”

This is the part where I get nauseated replaying the scene in my head, so I’m going to freezeframe with me sprawled on the wet ground, thinking, “NO! NO! NO! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!”

Now truly a BRF, Hillary waits with me before I head to the ER.

But it was, and it did. At the emergency room, as I tried to stop shivering from anxiety, fright, and regret, the physician assistant informed me I have a fracture on either side of my right ankle. He told me I’d need surgery, but that fractures like this usually heal fairly fast. I’ll know more after I meet with a surgeon here in Portland (which I’m doing after I type this post).

Here’s a shocker: I cry a lot when I talk about this incident and its aftermath. The inconvenience to my husband and children. The inability to drive, cook, head to the basement to do laundry (or fill AMR store orders), and othe daily tasks. The costs not covered by our insurance. The idea I might not be able to take my kids to my aging parents’ house for a visit in June as planned. The fact I can’t join Dimity on our Midwest book tour events.

And, perhaps most of all: the fact I can’t run. With Molly. Outdoors. My 9-year-old son, John, summed it all up yesterday. I had started to cry a little bit (a frequent occurrence these past few days), and John’s twin asked why I was crying. He said, “Mom’s sad because she can’t play outside.”


We’ll give you an update when I have it. Hoping for surgery this week. For now, I’m staying off social media, including a lot of email, because it only makes me cry. Thanks for your support and understanding.  

97 responses to “A Break in the System—or Ankle

  1. I am laying on the couch staring at my own broken ankle and completely understanding all your frustrations and fears. Just remember that this too shall pass. You will be back to playing outside in no time. Until then…hang in there!

  2. I just read this post after google pulled it up. I’m a runner & mom of 3 (one of which is a hyper toddler). My dramatic story is: I stepped the wrong way in a rut. LOL Ok, not too dramatic. But I am on day 8 of the broken ankle journey. I just wanted to comment about you crying. I’m crying! I have found the emotional aspects of it all FAR outweigh any physical pain! Thank you for writing this post. I needed to know that crying about it is normal! 🙂

  3. I am so sorry Sarah!!! We had a no screen week last week so I am catching up. I hope your recovery is going well and I am thinking of you!!!

  4. So sorry to read this! It’s so hard when wrenches get thrown into our plans. I think I would feel the same way that you’re feeling… feeling bad about how my injury would be affecting others. Hang in there!

  5. Just catching up and read the post. I am so sorry, hang in there! When I broke my pinky finger from a fall while running and had to have 2 surgeries, my first response after picking myself up was happiness that I hadn’t injured any parts used in running, such a runner response:) I held it together for days until I was reduced to a blubbering mess when I realized I couldn’t hang up clothes without help, such a mom response 🙂 Best wishes for a fast recovery and a speedy return to running!

  6. I am so sorry to read this, Sarah. I guess by now you’ve had surgery… sending you positive thoughts you will heal strong and come back even better than ever. Hugs to you!

  7. Oh no!!!! Sending positive vibes for a smooth recovery! And Portland has nice weather all year, so you will be back to playing (running) outside 🙂

  8. Wish I could hug you! I was hoping to meet you in person in Mpls. but maybe this just means I need to attend next year’s retreat : ) Hope you’re on the road to recovery … in all ways.

  9. I hope your surgery went well!!!! I am always amazed by how fast bones heal and I’m sure yours will too with the fantastic shape you are in!

  10. Oh, Sarah. This made me cry. On March 1st, I slipped on ice, dislocated my knee, broke my kneecap in 2 places, tore a ligament in my knee, and lay on the ground waiting for my very first ambulance ride. It was by far the most traumatic moment of my life. I cried for weeks…for all the reasons you listed. I still shake if I allow myself to think about the actual snapping & falling & pain. ;( I am so sorry you are experiencing this. I am praying for a quick & complete recovery. Much love.

  11. Sarah, so sorry to hear about your break and wishing you a speedy recovery. I can only begin to imagine how upset you must be about this turn of events. In order to help you recover more quickly, I’d like to suggest you drink bone broth every day. It is great for building strong bones, and repairing cartilage and ligaments. I know this may sound a bit crazy, but it is part of the Paleo Aporoach to eating and supposed to work wonders. Just a suggestion from a fan hoping to see you hit the streets again very soon. Recipes are available online and some retailers sell it too.

  12. Oh no! So sorry to hear this! My 12-year-old daughter has the same reaction of nausea re-telling how she broke her arm last fall during tumbling class. She says she heard “a snap like celery.” You are strong and resourceful and will be back on the road soon!

  13. I’m so very sorry, Sarah! 🙁 Sending prayers and thoughts of speedy healing to get you back out doing all that you love to do. ((hugs))

  14. Sorry to hear your story. And I am sorry you are feeling so sad. I think I remember you saying that 2015 was to be a year without racing for you, so maybe that is slightly positive thought.

  15. Bloody hell!?!?!!! It’s ok to be sad for a bit after an injury. In fact, wallow in that sucker. You have until the day you start PT to wallow. Then you can suck it up buttercup. So sorry! Heal fast.

  16. OH NO! I am so sorry to hear (read) this! I know EXACTLY how you feel – this was me 6 weeks post partum – got the all-clear to run, and go out for a run I did. Slipped on ice, broke all three bones in my kankle. Surgery: 2 plates, 6 pins. Lots of tears. I couldn’t even carry my baby for 2 months. 2 MONTHS! BUT, I had an amazing ortho surgeon who is also a runner and understood that I needed to get back to running shape. And I had amazing physical therapists and I was running a 9k race 7 months later. Less than 2 years after breaking my kankle, I ran a marathon. You can do this, you can get better, you will run again. Fast even. Being as healthy as you are, in as good of shape are you are now will help you recover from the surgery. It totally sucks right now, and it will still suck for awhile. You can be sad about it and angry and frustrated, but it will get better. Hang in there.

  17. I got a stress fracture in my heel on December 7th. I did it at the end of a half marathon (yes, I hobbled to the finish). I was so so so sad. I was 3 races in to a 6 race series called The Austin Distance Challenge which would end with my first marathon. I was so miserable for all the reasons you listed above. I just couldn’t get over myself. I cried constantly and spent a lot of time complaining. My friends were so awesome and encouraging. My running group sent me flowers at work. People were incredibly helpful and generous. I was still a basket case.
    I think about two months in to the whole thing my husband hit his breaking point with my self pity. He took me gently by the shoulders and in the sweetest voice he said, “Gina, you aren’t an amputee. You broke your foot. It’s going to heal. Please, get some perspective on this.”
    I stood there with my mouth gaping open. I wanted to be angry at him but truthfully it helped me so much. I couldn’t admit it to him at the time but the more I thought about it the more perspective I got.
    You will go through emotions that resemble the stages of loss and grief like I did but the sun will come out again and you will be okay. Accept help and know that you will run again!

  18. Sarah, just so sorry about your injury. Sending lots of strength, patience, and super-healing powers your way. We are all pulling for you!

  19. When I broke my foot last summer I cried more in the pity party, this sucks months that followed than I did when I actually broke the stupid thing! Hugs & happy healing thoughts!

  20. SBS, oh my heavens. I am so sorry. I know that snap all too well. Don’t let your kids play minecraft anytime soon. I broke my leg in 1999/2000 and still to this day I hear that noise and it makes me nauseous. Hang in there girl. I agree with another poster, it will make you stronger!!! I just had unexpected shoulder surgery, I am on my bike trainer in my living room. It isn’t the road but it is something. It’ll make me stronger. Heal fast SBS and we’ll see you on the road soon enough.

  21. SBS-
    Prayers for a quick recovery. My BFF used to live in Spokane, I know exactly the place that you are talking about…. so sorry that this happened!

  22. I feel your pain. Two weeks ago I fractured(shattered)and dislocated my wrist while working out. We were running backwards and I lost my balance and braced myself with my left hand. Had surgery three days later where they discovered I tore the ligament that holds my radius and ulna together. I’m in a full arm cast for 6 weeks and a shorter cast for 4 more weeks. I’m missing 3 half marathons and can’t do any exercising for at least 6 weeks. It stinks. It’s hard on my husband and kids and dog!!! I keep saying, “This too shall pass.” Hang in there!!!!

  23. Oh, SBS, I’m so sorry! Thoughts and prayers for a successful surgery and speedy recovery. Try to let your family and friends do things for you – if you’re like me, that’s the hardest part of being injured. BAMR love to you!

  24. My grandpa always said, “What doesn’t kill ya will make ya stronger” (in a wicked north country accent). You and Dim are gonna be more BadAss than ever before. Keep smiling. Keep huggin’. Keep lovin’. At least you were doing something “fun” like going down a slide 😉 Feel better soon!

  25. I saw that run on Strava and wondered. I had hoped it was something good. So sorry to hear what happened and wishing you a very speedy recovery. Sending hugs and lots of good thoughts your way!!

  26. SBS, I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you! Here’s hoping that your recovery is swift. On the positive side, maybe this will result in another AMR book idea — How to Heal Like A Mother Runner.

  27. Sarah, I am so sorry to hear this! I am wishing you a speedy recovery. If the AMR tribe needs any help in Cincinnati on the 18th, I can help! (This is Laura from the retreat, y’all!)

  28. So sorry to hear this 🙁 Sending healing thoughts your way and wishing you a speedy recovery. I don’t think you will lose all your base.

    After running outside on slippery, snowy, icy roads all winter, I had a non-running injury as well. I tripped and fell walking shelter dogs and broke my wrist. 2 weeks later, I was able to resume running. I am still not where I was before, but I am getting closer. And my cast came off today!

  29. Hi, Sarah. Sending you a hug from NC…I am so sorry to read about your injury. Please keep us posted on your progress.

  30. Oh no! When I broke my ankle, I thought I’d never be able to jump again for fear of the pain. How do bones even hold us up? It seemed magical. But, here I am on the other side running again. It was a sad fall and winter, but looking back it seems like a blip in my long running future. Give yourself enough time to heal and this will be your blip.

  31. Sarah, I’m so sorry to read this. I just bought all three books in March and decided that I’m going to start running and run my first 5K in May (which is now less than 3 weeks away). I have been listening to your podcasts while I run – which I enjoy way more than the same tunes I had been listening to before. I truly never would have thought I would run and now I’m running according to the 5K plan in your TLAM book and it’s working. Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration to this new runner. And, I’ll echo everyone else’s comments and say that I’ll be thinking and praying for a quick recovery for you. Sending you lots of warm wishes from Las Vegas!

  32. I didn’t leave a comment earlier because……really, what can I say? this sucks!!!

    but, after letting it ruminate for awhile I realized that this still sucks, but better now than in 6 months. you still have ample time to heal and train for Boston 2016. (yes, I AM that guy from Monty Python….”always look on the bright side of life.”)

    and hey, summer is coming so the kids will be home to wait on you hand and foot……so to speak! HA!

  33. Sarah, I am so sorry to hear this. I’m sending your ankle lots of good karma. Heal and focus on the future: You WILL play outside again!!

  34. Bleh! Yuk! Dislike! But given that you can’t unring a bell (or unbreak an ankle) it is forward to healing and wholeness, cleansing tears and renewed appreciation for all things working correctly that help us to function day to day. My husband broke his fibula in early March and the road had its tough days. We chose to focus on what didn’t get injured in his fall (i.e. concussion, broken wrist, etc.). It helped. Wishing you a renewed perspective and a positive surgeon’s report!

  35. I’m so sorry, Sarah.. What a timely post! On Friday I rolled my ankle during a beautiful hike at the coast. My tendons are fine, but there’s pain at the top of the foot, which could be a break… Ugh…

  36. Oh snap!!! Say it ain’t so?!?!?! So so so so so sorry, SBS. I will send many many good jumbies your way for a speedy recovery. Since it is always said that ‘everything happens for a reason’, maybe you will find some really cool, kick-ass reason why this occurred. Hang in there!

  37. I’m so so sorry Sarah. Hoping surgery plans move along quickly and you recover at a rapid pace. Know you have a ton of cheerleaders supporting you.
    I’m still recovering from a fractured inferior pubic ramus and haven’t run (for real) for almost 2 months. Cried a lot, whined a lot, ate a lot. It’s hard, but the latest book has been carrying me through,. I read it one bit at a time as a small reward to myself after tough pt.

  38. There is nothing like that awful sound. Sucks sucks sucks. I am so very sorry. I fractured my ankle on the most lovely of warm December days, seconds after a moment of euphoria — “I love this running thing, I feel so alive and happy…” crack.
    Trust that although it sucks and that the (slow) healing process sucks harder… you will be back on the roads you call your friends, very soon. And you will appreciate them more. And push yourself harder, because of that stupid effin’ ankle.
    Heal soon!

  39. i did the same thing!! Awesome 5 mile run then a pit stop at the park to play with my nephew and broke my ankle going down the slide. Reading your story made my stonach hurt….I’ll never forget that “snap”.
    I was told running in my future was iffy but 1yr later I ran a half.
    Good luck to you! You can do it.

  40. What the heck, SBS!! I so feel your pain and am sending you MASSIVE healing thoughts and love from Michigan.

  41. Sarah, I am so sorry. I have no doubt that you’ll heal fully. You’re tough and resilient and you always follow the plan and that will serve you well on the road to recovery. It’s hard now, I know, but it’ll get better. Hugs!

  42. Oh no Sarah! I feel your pain, I broke my ankle on March 9th and am still in recovery. It gets better as you go along but the beginning is hard on you and the family. One thing I highly recommend is getting a knee scooter, it makes a huge difference in your ability to get around and is a lot more stable than crutches.

  43. SBS, I’m so sorry! I cried a little with you as I read your story. I’m praying for quick recovery for you and extra grace and compassion for your husband and kids while mommy can’t play outside. I’m trying to rest my new running injury this week, runners knee. I’m training for my first full marathon, which is only 5 weeks away, and last week my knee decided it wanted to scream at me. So when I’m feeling bitchy this week, I’ll remember to pray for the both of us!
    I am more than a little excited about the next retreat being in Spokane! 😉

  44. I am so very sorry! I broke my ankle about 3 weeks ago while thinking I could jump at a trampoline park with my 5 year old….lesson learned. It isn’t as bad as yours but I can commiserate and honestly look forward to hearing about your awesome recovery (I already know it will be awesome!) and going through running withdrawals with you (virtually). I am praying for successful surgery and fast healing!

  45. Sooo sorry to hear! You’ll come back stronger but in the mean time enjoy quieter “mom” time. Hugs from Missouri!

  46. Oh no! I’m so sad for you, Sarah! And how much we need our feet! Not only to run, but life gets so hard and tiring on crutches or worse. When I spent time out for a foot injury, I watched LOST on Netflix. The whole series. And I cried a lot and I was sad and complainy a lot. But it gets better. And I healed. And you will get better. And you will heal. And soon, social media will be just what feels good. And you can read and be uplifted. Maybe still cry, but it will be with sweet tears. Hang in there!

  47. Sarah, this may not sound like consolation, but you know that your injury is temporary and thank goodness you like to read! My daughter had a tumor removed from her femur a month ago, still on crutches. We found out it was benign and breathed a sigh of relief. You will be back and stronger than ever in no time!!!! Sending healing thoughts your way—and thank you for all that you do to keep our running community strong 🙂

  48. Oh my no! I know that you are strong and will heal but I cried a little with you today. I say cry all you want today, then move on as you can. John’s words were right on. Love and positive, healing vibes sent your way from Pittsburgh.

  49. Your post made ME cry! I kept thinking, “this post has to have a different ending”…meanwhile, I know this is not Grey’s Anatomy! It is just life, which sometimes sucks. This I know: you are tough and your body doesn’t fail you. It will heal. This will be a story you probably laugh about in time (namely, when you are back on your feet and on the road). In the meantime, you are lucky to have a sister from another mother runner who has BEEN THERE and is living proof that what goes down comes back up 🙂

  50. I am so sad for you Sarah and pray the surgery goes well and you heal strong and fast. I dropped a lawn chair on my big toe over the weekend and my first thought was “oh no I won’t be able to run.” Thankfully, nothing broken. My prayers are with you. I feel your pain.

  51. Darn it! This made me cry with you. So sorry SBS. Easier said than done but hang in there and just take care of yourself and get better. The family will rally around you and things will still get done. Here is to a fast recovery.

  52. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear this!
    I don’t know if it helps, but the first week the kids were in school this past fall, I headed for a run, tripped on a sidewalk crack and (later realized that I) broke my kneecap. It stunk. 8 weeks in a brace that kept me from bending my knee. I used the gym ergometer with one leg during that time, along with doing any core work that can be done one straight legged… which is a lot, as it turns out!
    Everything healed and after 12 total weeks, I was running again. And 2 weeks ago, I was still able to run Boston as I originally hoped. So keep telling yourself, this is a temporary blip and things will resume normalcy faster than you think!

  53. My heart goes out to you, SBS. Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers for a full, and quick, recovery.

  54. Oh, SBS….. This is heartbreaking to hear. Spokane is so pretty (and I’d love to run there at a Retreat!). Please know that your tears will be felt by all of us BAMR and we’ll be right along with you as you heal.

  55. Sarah, I am devastated for you! So sorry to hear that this happened. It sucks for so many reasons (which I’m sure you’ve reviewed repeatedly in your head). Sending you best wishes for your surgery and the healing to follow. We’ve all been there (or eventually will be).

  56. Oh Sarah, I am so sorry! I just don’t even know what to say but am sending you hugs and heeling vibes. When you get back on social media, head over to the retreat FB page for some hanky Panky and Fannee Doolee fun. Maybe that will put a smile on your face. Thinking of you! Xoxox

  57. Oh no, I can’t believe that this happened to you and I cried a little for you too. We all know what a passion running, moving, and going going going is for you. Take care of that ankle and you will be back at it before you know it!

  58. Your family will shock you by how much they pitch in. (mine didn’t but I think yours is different) You will come to love the crutches and develop smoking’ arms. You will get through this like the true BAMR you are, but you already know that. My husband rigged my elliptical so I could kneel on the footpads and get in cardio that way. And yes, I did it. Also ride a stationary bike and pull up with the good leg. It’s motion and it feels good. I walked the dog for miles on those crutches and you will too when you’re ready and desperate enough to move. You’re not as powerless as you’re thinking because you are one tough cookie. A mental hiccup that you’ll swallow. A season killer–yes. A BAMR squasher–no! (stop thinking too far ahead, it will come whether you stress about it or not) Hang tough baby! And have a cookie.

  59. At first I thought it was Dimity writing (her name is at the beginning of the email), but I quickly figured out it was Sarah. I’m so sad and heart broken for you! Selfishly sad for myself as I won’t get to meet THE SBS in Indianapolis. Take care and heal quickly!

  60. Oh Sarah – I’m so sorry this has happened to you! You will be in my thoughts and prayers throughout your healing. Hope you feel all the mother runner love coming your way.

  61. Oh Sarah! I am so sad to read this. The tribe is behind you all the way. Thank you for the countless words of wisdom you’ve given over the years, I know you would tell us BAMRS to stay strong, work on strength, and physical therapy and come back stronger than ever, which I know without a doubt you will. Praying for healing both physical and emotional.

  62. My heart hurts reading this. When one of us hurts, we all feel it. The Tribe has your back, SBS. Take care of yourself. Hoping for a fast and full recovery for you.

  63. I am sending healing thoughts your way hoping all goes well with surgery. I have been sidelined with foot and ankle problems and miss running terribly.

  64. I am so sorry. I cried for you reading this. I hope for a very speedy recovery so that you can go outside and play very soon!

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