I am supposed to run a half marathon next Sunday. 10 days prior to the race, I went to my sports medicine doctor to get a sore toe checked on. I casually mentioned to him, after he checked the toe, that my left Achilles heel has been really tight after every run for about 9 months now. NINE MONTHS. He felt the heel, looked right into my eyes and said “Laura, you have an Achilles tear and I won’t know how significant it is until we do an ultrasound and take some xrays.” Of course, at this time, in my head all I heard was “Achilles tear” and then “yadda, yadda, yadda” because my brain said “you are running next weekend. You are fine. You are going to crush your PR and then you’ll ice your leg.”
The next morning, I found myself back in his office (after a 5 mile run) and I had the ultrasound and xrays. The ultrasound confirmed a longitudinal Achilles tear. Again, I felt like it was all OK because hadn’t I been running on it for months without significant problems? I mean, what runner doesn’t have a sore Achilles every once in a while? The doctor said “I’m not telling you not to run but you need to know that it’s a 50/50 chance that your Achilles will rupture during or after a long run. Maybe you’re in that lucky 50% since you HAVE been running on it for months. I would suggest starting physical therapy right away and see how you feel next weekend for the race.”
Ok, then. I was going to go to PT next week 3x and then be all set to run on Sunday. Ironically, the Achilles doesn’t really hurt that much when I run. Maybe I’m used to the “pinging” feeling during the first few miles but after the first few, it feels great. Maybe I AM in the 50% that won’t rupture.
Fast forward one more day. Yesterday morning came, I take a slower 50 minute run and now that I know about the tear, I’m thinking about every little leg ache wondering “is this it? Will this be when my leg goes out? Nah, I’m fine. It will all be OK.” I’m tight and sore after the run and an hour later, receive a phone call from my doctor’s nurse: “Ms. Laura? The doctor wants you to come in to the office today and be fitted for a boot. You will have to wear it for two weeks while you do physical therapy and then come back for a follow up.” I was stunned. What is she talking about? My response was one of denial and what came out of my mouth sounded like an addict. “Well, I have a half marathon next Sunday, so I am going to run it and then I’ll come in and get the boot next Monday, OK? You can have the doctor call me later.”
“The doctor is right here,” she said. She put him on the line.
“Laura, your Achilles tear is much more significant that originally thought. It is a large longitudinal tear in the critical zone of the Achilles. I need to let you know that the risk involved in running your race is great. There’s a 75% chance that it will rupture fully if you run on it. You should really be booted for a few weeks and give it time to begin to scar up and heal.”
Do you remember the teacher in the “Charlie Brown” shows that sounded like “Whaa, Whaa, Whaa?” That’s basically what I heard after he said “75% chance of rupture.”
I am a runner. It’s my sport. It’s my therapy. It’s what I LOVE to do and hearing this news was like a kick in the stomach from my arch nemesis. I actually thought about not listening to the doctor and just pray that I’m one of the lucky ones in that 25% that will sail through this injury and not have anything bad happen. It crossed my mind and I sat in denial for about 3 hours before showing up at my doctor’s office, crying and getting fitted for a big, bulky black boot – no, they look nothing like Uggs.
I am a runner but I’m not invincible. I have gone through denial, anger, fear and disappointment all within the past 24 hours but tonight, I am at acceptance. Knowing that a full rupture would require surgery, months of PT and no running at all for a very long time, I’m willing to take a few weeks off and do as told.
I will be thinking of my friends on race day next weekend and looking forward to when I run my next one – stronger, healthier and free from pain.
Run on my friends.