My knees were hurting after running a pretty fast 5k in early December. I had knee pain before but this time it felt different. No amount of icing and ibuprofen could take away the pain in my calves, quads, and knees. I had taken a break from running before but this time, my knees made that decision for me.
I couldn't run. I really couldn't run. I had seen several doctors, had an MRI and X-rays, bought another knee brace and finally went to a couple of physical therapy sessions. I kept getting different diagnoses. Between the anticipation of a slow recovery process, not being able to run, and being told to just quit running altogether, I was devastated. All the copays, hours on the phone with my insurance, referrals, and needing to take time off from my already hectic schedule to get to a series of appointments was unbelievably frustrating.
Alison referred me to Finishline, a well-known physical therapy clinic in Manhattan. My therapist Alicia was also a runner, and so she understood why I needed to run again. Finally! We were figuring out all the different aspects of my injury that I had to work on rather than just thinking of quitting as the only solution!
As we started to address some form & technique issues, I learned a lot about what I was doing incorrectly. Our short term goal was to get me to run the Brooklyn Half in May (one week to go!). Long term: being the gray-haired old lady running miles on miles on miles.
For the next couple of months I took the time to do my physical therapy exercises/stretches 2 - 4 times/week before bed. I signed up with a gym and had my gym buddies lined up. I had my support system and my weekly PT sessions scheduled. I focused my time on meal prepping. It became like a new routine: PT at home and cheering my friends on from the sidelines.
Sometimes I would feel defeated and sad because I was benched, but at the end of each day I knew something was paying off because my knee pain was slowly diminishing. The trick to feeling better about it mentally was keeping busy behind the scenes and visualizing myself joining ya'll on a run soon. I kept hearing April's voice in my head saying "you will come back faster and stronger". I had so many high hopes for myself post-injury and lots of supporters in Harlem Run rooting for me.
So even though it wasn't guaranteed that I would be able to run the BK Half, I still signed up when I got an email notifying me of my acceptance. Meanwhile, at Harlem Run, I was pacing the Walk It Out crew and feeling like my old self again. I even started running once a week for 10 min per my therapist's instructions... which, let's face it, really means I'm going to push 15 minutes. Eventually, I was able to run the Washington Heights 5k and got a huge rush of endorphins and motivation.
Even though I ran it successfully, the pain will still come back on occasion. I was so confused! How could I mess up again? And thats when the hard part really starts: the mental aspect. Self doubt fluttered around me. Will I be able to ever run again without pain? Can I do this? Will I have to give up my spot in the BK Half? Soon, the pain became consistent. No running at all, again. I took a step back, stopped PT and stopped going to the gym. I felt sad, defeated, and depressed.
I started running 2 years ago as a way to combat my anxiety and depression and now I was missing my most effective weapon. After a few weeks of soul searching, apathy, anger, and self loathing, I scheduled another PT session. I remember laying on the massage table and just crying while my PT worked out one of the many knots on my quads. I was embarrassed and my therapist was clearly concerned.
I opened up to her about my fears of not running, my brother's incarceration, my struggles to keep one of the last rent stabilized apartments left in Harlem and I made my way home feeling discouraged. But I went back the week after and the week after that. I went back to the gym too. I did my awkward but effective PT at home and went back to Bikram. The pain subsided again and soon after I was able to run 5 miles during a Monday night run. It was the motivation, the confidence, the push I needed to finally say it out loud: I will run the 2016 Airbnb Brooklyn Half. But more importantly I will run.