This installation of our on-going series of mother runner dilemmas came to us from a longtime member of the tribe, Susan DiLeo. If you've been on our Facebook page or Strava discussion boards, you probably feel you know this compassionate, dedicated runner who lives in New Jersey. We have been all sorts of excited to hang with Susan at November's Philadelphia Marathon (which is shaping up to be the marathon/half-marathon for mother runners to convene at this fall!) This edition of WWAMRD is about, alas, an injury--and whether or not to ramp up training for a race, or not. Read on!
Susan has spent most of this year ignoring shin splints, employing the logic that as long as running felt better than the splints felt painful, she’s keep hoofing it. A few weeks ago, she took her younger son, Seth, to see fireworks in her town. Rushing across the street, Susan landed on her left foot and felt a new and intense shooting pain--"the kind where you immediately and instinctively realize it’s not right," Susan told us. What began as a lovely evening devolved quickly as she nervously and obsessively contemplated the discomfort she felt with every step. Susan could not even acknowledge the feeling as pain, she tells us, because she was set to begin Philadelphia Marathon training in a mere two days!
As any slightly obsessed runner would do, the next day Susan ran around the indoor track for three miles. She says, “I managed it as long as I thought about nothing but maintaining form and cadence. My shin barked the entire time. But I could run! That’s still a 4 on the pain scale, right? Riiiight.”
By the next morning, she could press on a spot and find pain and tenderness. Since she had never failed the hop test during her bout with mild shin splints, she hopped. She failed. Miserably. She could no longer rationalize the pain away. Susan called her physical therapist, who suggested an X-ray.
She stopped running. Without even realizing it, Susan admits she followed the grieving steps in Train Like a Mother: “I wept and binge-watched, ‘Orange Is The New Black.’ As soon as my husband uttered a phrase I could interpret as less-than-supportive, I stopped speaking to him. I watched my friends post excitedly on Facebook about beginning training. I ate French fries.”
The X-ray showed no evidence of a new or healing stress fracture. As her running friends gently pointed out, though, this is cold comfort: just because there’s no evidence of a stress fracture doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Susan thought about having an MRI done, but being a typical mother runner, she decided the money would best be spent helping her son buy his textbooks for the fall semester. Her PT suspects tendonitis.
To maintain a schedule, fitness, and sanity, Susan is replacing runs with pool running or Spin class, and adding some extra strength training along with a little bit of walking. Yoga, “lots of stretching,” and self-myofascial release. “I had no idea how many ways there are to use a foam roller!" The tender, inflamed spot on her shin is no longer tender or inflamed. The shooting pain in her shin has diminished noticeably.
Susan's quandary is whether or not to rehab the injury as if it is a stress fracture--which means six to eight weeks of no running, and writing off doing even the half-marathon in Philly. Alternately, she could give herself until the end of August or maybe even early September to see if training for the half is an option--even on a run-walk interval plan.
What would you do?
Sarah answers: My mind would be spinning, whirring, and grasping for an immediate answer, just like Susan's is. But I'd talk myself down from the ledge and take the wait-and-see approach. If I had money left over after getting textbooks, I'd buy an entry to the half-marathon--hey, I'm an optimist!--but wait until early fall to make my final decision.
Dimity answers: I always say: You've got one body, and there are always more races. As much as it probably pains Susan to read this, I'd table a fall race and concentrate on getting better in the worst case scenario: 6-8 weeks of no running. I played wishy-washy with a stress fracture in my foot for a few months before deciding to finally give into the boot and heal the thing once and for all. I'm not saying Susan needs to do that, but the collective us are not getting any younger—and neither are our bodies. Her body has been repeatedly sending her signs that it's time to chill out for a spell. She's an experienced runner who has many more fast, strong races ahead of her, if she can just give this one speedbump the attention and respect it deserves.
What Susan is doing: She is honestly going to wait to make her decision until she's read through all the comments from you mother runners! Susan is hoping other gals, "have had similar experiences with a positive outcome."
What would you, another mother runner, do?
And if you’ve got a running-related moment you’d like some clarity on, via WWAMRD, feel free to email us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks!