When Your Body Fails You

Posted on | May 6, 2014 | 10 Comments

In late 2011, I herniated a disc in my low back. The pain was excruciating and I wound up getting an injection to relieve some of the inflammation. As 2012 crept on, my back felt better and in October I started to run again… something I’d loved before J was born.

I ran a half marathon in February of 2013 and I felt… unstoppable. Running gave me not just an adrenaline rush, but a feeling that I was beating the odds. There I was, a 3o-something year old woman with a bad back and I was making it happen. I was pounding out miles and it felt good … it felt really good. I loved tuning out the world, charging forward on a quest to beat my last time or run even one step farther than the day before.

And then this year, my back flared up again.

“No big deal,” I thought, “I’ll just get another injection and be good to go.”

Only that’s not really what happened.

This morning, I sat on a high table in front of my orthopedist and listened to him earnestly tell me that I had two options: I could keep running and all but ensure that I’d need back surgery in the future, or I could stop running and perhaps let my back heal itself the best it can.

I heard the words but they sort of swam around my head, not really sinking in until sometime mid-morning when I thought to myself: “I have to stop running” and felt tears well up in my eyes in a rush of fear and sadness. Sadness because it is giving up something I love. Fear because I believe that running saved me in the months and years after my divorce.

Fear because I have so fully embraced the notion that I am a runner, that I can’t imagine being anything less.

Fear because I have never had to make this type of decision… never had to admit to myself that I’m not as young as I used to be. That I’m not as young as I think I am.

Fear because if I can not run… if I’m not a runner… then who am I? How do I identify myself in the absence of something that became so much of my identity?

I feel suddenly old and abandoned by the body I live in. I feel as though I have to redefine, rediscover who I am now… who I can be without this thing that has really consumed me for the better part of two years. Running is what got me out of bed, what got me motivated to get in shape. Seeing the miles add up on my Nike + app, feeling the steady pound of my shoes against whatever surface I could find.

Being a runner was important to me. It made me feel important… feel like I could do and be anything in the world.

But now I am not a runner.

I am just me again. Average and unrewarded by the tick of a mile marker in my mind.



10 Responses to “When Your Body Fails You”

  1. Andrea
    May 6th, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

    Don’t give it up yet. You may need another break from running, but use it to heal and strengthen your back. Yoga and a trainer who understands a runner’s heart may help. 🙂

  2. Law Momma
    May 6th, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

    Thanks. I’m just feeling all woe is me at the moment. I’m sure it will pass. 🙂

  3. bjh
    May 6th, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

    NO NO NO!!!!! Listen, and I caveat this by saying I come from a family full of medical doctors- so many it’s frankly annoying, and many docs think chiro’s are quacks- BUT, find yourself a really fabulous and well-trained chiropractor ( some are chiro’s AND MD’s, those are awesome) who ALSO runs. I am a 44-y-o- mom of 4 ( youngest is two, yes, I’m insane) and my hubs is 47, and we BOTH herniated disks ( I think if you don’t do this by the time you turn 40 you’re supposed to turn yourself in somewhere and have it done for you BTW) and we both run and we were both saved from back surgery- recommended by my orthopedic surgeon cousin of course!-by our fantastic Chiro’s skillful, patient and knowledgeable care. It took a while- me 4 months and hubs almost a year- and now maintenance visits every 3 or 4 months, but he’s 5 years out and runs almost every day, including 3 marathons in that time. I am less consistent but still get our 3 or 4 days a week. There are back stretches you do, there are ways to heal yourself with good care. PLEASE do yourself a favor and ask around!!! Not everything fixes everyone, but before you let one person tell you you’re done, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and get a few more opinions. You deserve it!!

  4. Law Momma
    May 6th, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    I guess I’m just concerned that I’m doing just as much harm as benefit to my body… which seems foolish. Why push it if it’s hurting me and I can find another activity to keep in shape with…

  5. Nissa
    May 6th, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

    My husband is a runner, has had back surgery, and under the direction of his surgeon still runs. The surgeon is a runner and has done all the research and thinks that runners can still run with back problems. So keep searching for a doctor/surgeon who is a back specialist and does sports medicine. I’m from MN so not sure how prevalent that is where you are but keep looking for someone who can help you. And besides that there is always swimming, low impact. That’s what I do.

  6. Law Momma
    May 6th, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    Yeah. I am thinking about making a jump into something less demanding.

  7. Erin Joyce
    May 7th, 2014 @ 8:19 am

    One runner to another, I know how frustrating it is to be sidelined by an injury. Take care of yourself, it will mean a more triumphant return to running at a later date, or could be an opportunity to fall in love with a different activity (swimming, yoga?).

  8. Law Momma
    May 7th, 2014 @ 10:19 am

    I’m hoping some time off and an MRI that shows no further damage will mean I can slowly work back into it. I think my long distance running days might be over, but I should be able to 5k when I feel like it, I hope!

  9. Jess
    May 7th, 2014 @ 9:58 am

    Oh honey!!! Huge hugs. I know how hard that can be. Take care of yourself. Can you do some modified running, ie. jogging? Treadmill?

  10. Law Momma
    May 7th, 2014 @ 10:19 am

    I’ve been on the treadmill almost exclusively except for road races. I’m going to take some time to heal and see what my body says after that. ::sigh::

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