Fit Bits: Diary of an Injured Runner
February 29, 2016
In the journalism room, my nickname is Wreck-It Ralph, a reference to my tendency to trip and fall, which causes everyone in the room to collectively shudder in fear for my life whenever I climb a table to grab something from the highest shelf. But when I lace up my running shoes, I’m a wholly different disaster, albeit a disaster nonetheless.
I’ve had so many injuries in the past three years I’ve been running that the people at physical therapy joke that I’m an old man and my coach once called me “Porcelain Izzy”. For the record, the litany of injuries I’ve brought upon myself have, for the most part, not been because of any inherent clumsiness, rather from overuse, stubbornness and a hint of bad genetics.
I’ve gotten shin splints and what my doctor referred to as “patellofemoral pain syndrome,” which basically meant knee pain. I irritated a calf muscle by rolling my ankle too many times by running on grass, and for weeks was convinced it was a stress fracture, wrapping the leg tightly in a bandage before and after runs.
The winter of my sophomore year I hurt my IT band after conditioning too hard. When I tried in vain to hobble through just a minute or two of running, I would break down and collapse onto the grass, my legs screaming at me. At night, when I would bike on my dad’s trainer for an hour or two to stay in shape, the only thing I thought of was the training that I was missing but my competition wasn’t.
In my junior year of cross country, I pulled my left hamstring to the point where even sitting in my car hurt. Desperate to finally have the season I wanted, I continued to run, telling myself the pain wasn’t that bad. On Sep. 19, the North Port Invitational, I lined up to race, my hamstring crisscrossed with black tape that matched my black uniform, however, even I couldn’t fake a good race on a bad leg.
At the mile marker of the 3.1-mile race, my coach yelled after me, “Izzy, drop out. If it hurts, drop out.”
I ignored him and kept running, because I despise weakness and I saw quitting as weak.
After racing North Port, with my hamstring wrapped in ice and plastic wrap (I am no. 1).
After that race, I didn’t run again for six weeks. Instead, I woke up at 5:15 a.m. before school to swim laps, putting me in a perennial state of exhaustion. In the afternoons, I alternated between physical therapy, which I attended three times a week for two hours a session, and coming out to practice to help time and support my teammates.
If there’s anything my injuries have taught me – besides how to apply KT tape like a physical therapist – it’s the value of the team. My injuries have showed me that being a leader and being there for a teammate doesn’t always mean you have to be out there competing with them.
Although I’ve been a captain since sophomore year, I don’t think I was near as good a leader until I learned how to lead without actually being able to run with my team junior year.
For me, being injured taught me that self-pity often doesn’t help. Even when I was upset or frustrated because I couldn’t compete, the Izzy my team needed wasn’t the one looking for sympathy for her hurt leg, but the one who would smile, give them advice and assure them that everything was going to be okay.
A leader has to lead people, and being a leader means putting your own problems aside for a little while for the good of the team. Whether it is on a sports team, in the journalism room or elsewhere, true leadership takes sacrifice.
As a freshman, I never would’ve expected to have to sacrifice what I have to continue running: the lonely early morning wake-ups, the races where I thought I was going to fall apart, the times when I was discouraged after giving more than the next person and yet still falling short of my goals.
As a junior, I still haven’t met all of those goals. Some still elude me, which I suppose is good, since I still have a year and half of high school running left to chase them down. Some, I’ve accepted that I may not reach, a harsh truth I’m not going to deny any longer.
I’m an injury-prone girl who loves to run, and even if my legs fall apart, my passion never will.
Isabel Hanewicz is a senior at Robinson High School and is the editor-in-chief of RHStoday. She was named the 2014 Emerging Young Journalist of the Year...