Marathon Training Week… 12? 13? Who Cares? I’m Injured and Don’t Run Anymore.

Not actually my foot. My foot is way nicer, albeit extremely flexible. 

MensJournal.com Senior Editor Mike Conklin is running his first marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon, on March 11, 2017, and he’s documenting his training here with weekly posts. Here’s last week‘s. You can also follow him on Twitter and Strava

So! It’s been a while, you guys, and I apologize for the silence on my end. In the more optimistic corners of my mind, I’ve been picturing legions of loyal readers wondering day in and day out where I’ve been. “My goodness, I hope he’s alright,” I keep hearing you say. “I really grew to like that guy over the past three months!” And although this is almost certainly not what anyone has been saying, I will provide an update nonetheless: I hurt my ankle and haven’t run a step in a week and a half, am under strict instructions not to run for the rest of this week, and so I don’t know for sure whether I’m going to be able to run the race I’ve been training for since November. Which is awesome.

How’d I get here, exactly? Well, back on February 5, I had a pretty good 15-mile long run at a very promising 9:15 pace. At a few different points throughout the run, I experienced some tightness in my right calf and on the outside of my shin. I didn’t think too much of it, foam-rolled like a madman after the fact, and it went away. I ran three more times that week, totally pain-free. Then on February 12, I set out for what was supposed to be a 20-miler, the longest run of my training program. I felt pretty great throughout — that calf/shin pain came back a few times, but nothing too bad at all. At around the 15-mile mark, I started to feel some pain on the inside of my right ankle — again, nothing crazy, but totally new and thus somewhat worrisome, so I packed it in after 17 miles in the snow, sleet, and hail, at 9:42 pace. I drove home, and as soon as I got out of the car, the pain in my ankle intensified and would linger for the rest of the day. It felt almost like a bruise — weird enough that I just assumed it would go away.

But then I woke up in the middle of the night, and it seemed worse. So I did what any normal person would do under these circumstances at 4 o’clock in the morning: I picked up my phone and within minutes diagnosed myself with a stress fracture. 

I stayed home from work the next day and made an appointment to have it looked at by an orthopedic doctor. On my way there, while walking to the train, a very heavy metal bottle opener fell out of a hole in the bottom of my backpack and landed directly on the spot that was hurting; this made everything much, much worse, to the point where I could barely walk — more proof, as if it were needed, that running and drinking do not mix quite to the extent I like to think they do. Anyway, after some poking and prodding, the doctor shared my suspicion that it could be a stress fracture, but also said he had plenty of reasons to think it was more of a tendon issue. He mentioned that my hips seemed weak and unstable (thank you very much), which very well could have been the culprit. He told me to get x-rays, start physical therapy, and see how I was in a week. If I was better, cool. If not, he’d order an MRI so we could confirm or rule out the dreaded stress fracture, treatment of which includes at least six weeks of rest and definitely withdrawing from the March 11 race.

The x-ray, as expected, came back negative. Most stress fractures don’t show up on x-rays unless they’re really bad, or they’ve already started healing, in which case I guess the scar tissue becomes visible? I don’t know, I totally made that up. The day after my x-ray, I was scheduled to shoot a Facebook Live video at Finish Line Physical Therapy here in New York, about the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill. We figured it made perfect sense for me to go through with it: These insanely impressive machines are made precisely for people who are trying to come back from injuries, as they allow you to run at a fraction of your actual body weight, limiting the impact on your joints or whatever ails you. Turns out even the alter-G was too much for me — after decreasing my bodyweight to 80 percent, 70 percent, even 50 percent, I was still experiencing pain. 

After shooting, I got to talking to a couple Finish Line employees, and they convinced me to come back and see them, which I did, for the first time just yesterday. My therapist told me there’s pretty much no chance it’s a stress fracture, so that’s good news. His official diagnosis is “right posterior tibialis tendonitis” stemming from decreased mobility in my foot and hip. He gave me a few exercises to do from home, and I’ll be going back to see him twice a week so he can continue to work on these problem areas. 

I don’t have a lot of pain just walking around, and I’ve secretly run a few steps here and there — from the car to my front door, down the hall in my office like a total weirdo — without any major incident. But I still can’t really run, not for a few more days anyway. The plan is to attempt three easy miles at some point this weekend and see how I feel. 

So what does this mean for my goal race? I’m not sure yet. I’ll let you know on Monday. 

For more info about the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Marathon, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and to join in the conversation, use the hashtag #RNRDC. And if you want to sign up to join me on March 11, use the code RUNNINGDC to get $15 off your race fee.