Sticks And Stones

I was on crutches at the beachfront yesterday, watching Ironman 70.3, while my husband was doing his training run. Standing in the warm sunshine, starring out at the sea, was heavenly and I found myself reflecting over the past few months and was once again reminded of all the good that has come out of this unexpected injury. One of the highlights has been the people I have met, who have changed my life, and I now know this physical and mental break was an essential part of my story and I am better for it.

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It has been hard watching on the sidelines, often battling to do something basic like clap for the athletes, as my hands are always tightly gripped around the handles of my crutches. There have been times when I have had to fight the urge to become a hermit, as it is easy to get frustrated with myself and the situation, but it has taught me humility and patience and I’ve cultivated a renewed appreciation for every day blessings.

While taking my crutches for a stroll along the promenade yesterday, I bumped into my sports doctor, who was working at the medical tent. After an impromptu consult, he gave me permission to slowly start day-to-day walking unaided, letting the pain guide me. At last, “Sticks” is now allowed to toss the crutches aside (not completely but I no longer need them 24/7!) and although there is still a long road ahead, I am thankful for this next step in my recovery and almost cried in front of him!

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Although I choose to focus on the good, there have been a few ‘stones’ thrown at me along the way too. We all know that most people share only their highlights reel for the world to see and even those of us who share the stress and struggles too, often have far more happening behind the scenes than you will ever know. Life is messy and complicated, so let’s remember to spread love and be kind, instead of tearing each other down. Fortunately, the running community at large is an amazing and compassionate one, and I am blessed to be a part of this family.

I do not know what the future holds, but I am learning to be okay with that uncertainty. Running is like life and we only learn from failure, or we simply keep doing what we are doing, which is not always the best thing for us. I have been reminded that although running is an important part of who I am, it is not my whole self. It can be a positive part of the process, but that self-acceptance is an internal journey. No run, or race or outcome on any given day can fundamentally change who we are or what we think of ourselves. When I return to running, I am going to keep this in my heart and because of it, and many other lessons, I have certainly grown as a person during this season and am grateful for this opportunity.

Give Yourself And Your Injury Some LOVE

Depending what research you read, up to 80% of runners will sustain an injury at some point. I was diagnosed with my first ever stress fracture in March this year, and it has been the most serious setback I have had in my running journey to date. It has been a tough 3 months, with more to go and at the moment I am hoping to be allowed to walk crutch-free again soon, with running still a distant dream. The better you handle any injury, the better your return to running, which is why I am going to be conservative with my comeback and doing my best to let my body and mind rest.

A recent blog in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, proposed new acronyms for treating and rehabilitating injuries. Many of us are familiar with the old RICE, which stands for Rest Ice Compression Elevation. Now they are suggesting a combination of acronyms to be used in both the acute phase as well as the continuum of care needed. The authors suggest a two-part acronym to treat soft tissue injuries: PEACE and LOVE.

PEACE: Protect, Elevate, Avoid anti-inflammatories, Compress, Educate

LOVE: Load, Optimism, Vascularisation, Exercise.

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These focus on how to treat the injury and as well as how to treat yourself during the process. We often forget the athlete’s psyche and emotions need attention too! This is what I have been concentrating on a lot during the last few months. I think my nickname “Sticks” will stick around well after I am back running again and although I cannot wait to toss the crutches, they have been good learning tools. There are days when it feels hopeless and my hard-earned training has gone to waste but I know a positive outlook is vital and I will keep pressing on.

Tomorrow, here in Durban, KZN, my friend, Gords Reid, is organizing a 24 hour hand cycle relay race, to benefit disabled children and I look forward to supporting these incredible individuals, as they bring awareness to this great cause. They are such an inspiration and remind me daily how blessed I am to be able to enjoy the mobility I have and never take this for granted.

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We need to be generous with what we have and who we are. Let’s keep an attitude of gratitude and spread some love this weekend.