For Those Who Can't
August 26, 2016 is a day I’ll never forget. I was helping a friend at a school event in Bed Stuy and decided to walk four miles over to Fort Greene to visit my boyfriend’s family. I noticed something was wrong with my right ankle and as it started swelling, the pain grew unbearable. Being a runner, my gut reaction was to panic, but I tried to remain optimistic that it would go down and I would be back to running in a couple of days. Little did I know that the pain and swelling would last for more than a year.
My doctor referred me to a podiatrist who told me that I had Achilles Tendinitis. I had never heard of this, so I read up on it, but soon grew discouraged. I f you ask anyone, they will tell you: I am obsessed with running! It allows me to be completely free, fearless and enables me to stay grounded. But Achilles Tendinitis threw a monkey wrench in my plans - I feared that I would never run again.
The 2017 NYC Half came and went (I had to defer to 2018) and I began to get frustrated at my rate of recovery. I began to question myself and why my ankle just couldn’t get better. I decided to step out on faith: I realized that in order to get better, I had to start with believing in my ankle’s capacity to heal, even though its appearance suggested otherwise.
With that in mind, I decided to invest in my efforts and started seeing a physical therapist. My initial sessions were rough: my balance was off and my right ankle swelled after each session. But in late May I started to see a huge improvement in movement and the swelling started to go down. In June, I felt that I was ready to get back into the gym.
In the summer of 2017, I trained with the idea of the NYC Marathon being my comeback race, but I had to defer to 2018 as well. However, after falling off track with my diet (hello “see food” diet, goodbye portion control) I decided to train as if I was starting all over, and I began with focusing on cardio and strength training. In February, I continued to get stronger I and saw a post about the Harlem Run Stairs event. Interested, I saw this as my test to see if I can handle running on pavement and I signed up at the last minute.
The day before the event, I was nervous. Was I ready? Will I injure myself again? All these questions and more filled my thoughts. By the morning of, my fear switched to excitement and I couldn’t wait to go uptown. It was great to reunite with my running community and see great people I hadn’t seen in years (literally!). Even better was that I did three laps (the Stairmaster pays off y’all) with NO PAIN. It was at this point I knew I was ready for the 2018 NYC Half.
My healing and recovery had finally come full circle. Last year, if you told me that I was going to run that race, I would’ve looked at you as if you were crazy. Last year I sat on my butt watching the elites cross the finish line on TV. Now, on March 18, 2018, I stood freezing in my corral, but I knew there was no turning back. No more second guessing, no more time for doubt; I either believed in my recovery or not.
At mile seven, I was overcome with emotion as I ran through Times Square with my sole sista, Tricia. I could not believe that I was not only running but completing a marathon post-injury. I felt great the entire time and seeing Harlem Run’s cheer section at Mile 11 was the icing on the cake. I felt like a champ as everyone gave me high fives and hugs. I was grinning and smiling all the way to the finish line. Upon crossing, I knew in my heart that I was back and reunited with my passion.
This experience taught me to be patient and that I can not only endure but thrive. I am grateful that I recovered and I don’t take one ounce of it for granted. Learning from my past mistakes, I now foam roll, stretch, observe my rest days, take multivitamins, watch my diet while still eating what I like in moderation, and drink plenty of water.
There are some people out there who can’t ever be active or run again after an injury. I run for them; I run for those who can’t.