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The End of the World (As You Know It)

Posted by Filed Under: Inspiration & Motivation

running wisdomNow, I think I would be guilty of being a bit dramatic if I compared being diagnosed with a terminal illness to that of being stricken with a running injury. But with that noted, I have sustained a marathon ending knee injury and, for me, it sure felt like it was the end of the world!

Elsabeth Kubler-Ross, in her seminal work, “On Death and Dying,” (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1969) presents five stages that terminally ill persons may go through upon learning of their illness. I think many runners go through these exact five stages when we are afflicted with a running injury—I know I did.

  1. Denial. The first thing I did after sustaining my injury was made a plan to run again the next day just to make sure it wasn’t just in my head or a 24 hour thing. Also, right after I got the injury I “googled” my symptoms and hoped there was nothing conclusive, and if there was something that did seem to apply to me, I ignored it.
  2. Anger. I ran the next day and couldn’t stand the pain so I stopped and walked (I also stretched a random muscle every 10 feet in case there was something tight—yup, back to stage one). The whole way back to my house I was furious with myself about the stupid things I did to incur the injury and all the great things I was now going to miss out on now that I was being sidelined.
  3. Bargaining. For me, prayer was quite prominent at this stage. I made deals with God (or any higher being who would listen to me). Deals like “If I don’t run for a whole week will you fix it?” or “If I spend more time with my family and do the jobs around the house that I have been avoiding can you make me better?”
  4. Depression. I soon felt very sorry for myself because I was no longer able to train, bond, and laugh with my running buddies (now they would be laughing and talking about me instead). I was also very despondent because the race I was training for was now slipping away and my knee was not getting any better.
  5. Acceptance. At this point, race day was almost upon me and I could barely walk. I had to come to terms with my injury and accept that I would not be participating in the event. I had to put that race in the past. It was now time to concentrate on physiotherapy and strengthening exercises so I would be able to get back to running again. I realized it would be a long journey toward the unknown but I couldn’t sit around and feel sorry for myself. I had to start moving forward!

Is getting a running injury similar to being diagnosed with a terminal disease? Many would say “certainly not,” and I would have to agree. But the feelings can be the same. You feel like someone has just had the rug pulled from beneath him. When you are in the eye of the tornado, it is very scary (especially when cows and buildings are flying around). If you go through the “five stages of a running injury,” it is totally understandable, because, to many runners, an injury really IS the end of the world.

(This is the first in a two-part series. Part two: “Starting Over.”)



5 Comments
  1. Lake Runner on September 2nd at 12:55 am

    I know how that feels! My blog lakerunner.blogspot.com was started as I was injured the week before a marathon and could not compete. Is ‘Stage 6′ therefore ‘Start a blog about how you are going to recover’?

    My recovery was going great until Thursday when I repeated the injury while doing a 5K relay race. And I started at the beginning of the stages all over again…except I have not yet written up the blog post for it.

    Good luck with ‘starting over.’

  2. Aaron on September 2nd at 6:45 am

    I am really sorry to hear about your re-injury – that is terrible news. Do you mind me asking what it is? It is funny you bring up blogging. I was blogging after my injury as well. One thing that I found is that if I “blogged” about improvement it used to curse me and the next day I would hurt more or things would be worse – so I stopped blogging about it! I started blogging about other stuff that was not related to running or my injury!

  3. Lake Runner on September 3rd at 2:25 am

    Right now I am not sure what it is – a physiotherapist relative of my mother’s who heard about it, but I have never met myself, reckoned it is ‘Achilles tendonitis’ – however in accordance with the ‘denial’ stage I googled it and think it is something else – the pain is higher up in the calf, not down on the tendon.

    The ‘anger’ stage has not happened this time – though it did the time I was injured just before the marathon. I have 2 months to go before the next marathon this time so it was more ‘resignation’ – ‘OK, here we go again…’

    Bargaining – I didn’t do much of that, but depression certainly set in. I am a lone runner, I don’t have training buddies. I enjoy the time on my own, the paths, seeing someone ahead and ‘reeling them in’ to overtake. I like seeing people I know out for a walk or a run and then meeting them in the office the next day, usually to comments like ‘that looked a fast pace you were making yesterday’ and so on. And just being confined to a small flat with no exercise for weeks is enough to drive anyone up the wall.

    Acceptance – well this time I accepted it early on, actually as it happened. But the first time it did take a long time to get to that stage. Then I started blogging!

    The other stage I am taking this time is actually to go to a physio and find out a) what it is and b) what I can do about it. Will post back here and on my blog as to what it actually is! And maybe I will follow your example of being cautious in reporting improvements!

  4. Aaron on September 3rd at 4:19 am

    My injury is also one that has beeen difficult to treat because I injured my hip as well as my knee (hip was first a year before but I did not really mention it to doctors), so we should have been working on both, but for the longest time we were only treating the knee. Now I am working just on the hip and I am hoping and praying that it helps the pain and swelling in my knee!

  5. Eyl Mersha on November 1st at 9:01 am

    WHY DIDN’T YOU DO ‘STARTING OVER’?????????????????????

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