American living in Gent, Belgium who gets to travel the world for work. Food lover, daily adventurer, complete wanderluster.

Confessions of a Former Running Addict

Confessions of a Former Running Addict

I was always athletic, but I didn't start running on a daily basis until the end of college. While it obviously helped me stay in shape, I was more seeking something that would help me deal with increasing life stress and anxiety. At the time I worked at a doctor's office where the owner/doctor/my boss was a 40-something woman who ran daily. She was in amazing shape and was someone I looked up to professionally and personally. I figured I should mimic her habits as much as possible.

Virginia Beach Rock N'Roll Half Marathon. I did this race a few times.

Virginia Beach Rock N'Roll Half Marathon. I did this race a few times.

Immediately I started running long distances and training for events. I enjoyed having a weekly running regimen and going for long runs. By the time I entered grad school, I was doing a few half marathons a year and numerous 5 and 10ks. I was decent in the area where I ran and typically podiumed in my age group, 20-24. I managed to podium overall for women at one 10K and I'll remember the feeling on the final hill and hearing the crowd tell me my place. What makes me laugh is this was local racing; I now work with professional athletes who compete against the best in the world. Makes all my attempts at being an athlete feel so minor.

Got to love waking up at 6am on Thanksgiving to go run. My sister was always game to go too.

Got to love waking up at 6am on Thanksgiving to go run. My sister was always game to go too.

I was addicted to running. Regardless of injuries (fought with hamstring and plantar fasciitis), I ran. I did speed work. Rain, shine or snow, I would get in my miles and I absolutely loved it. I couldn't imagine life any other way. By the time I hit the corporate world, I would arrive at work with a sense of superiority knowing I'd already logged seven miles that morning. I had to force myself to take a day off a week.

MRI after tearing up my knee.

MRI after tearing up my knee.

February 2007, I blew out my knee while snowboarding in a stupid and semi freak accident. I delayed surgery until July and about two weeks after the surgery, it was obvious it wasn't successful. I spent the next three months rehabbing from the first surgery just to do it again. The second time involved more screws, a cadaver and a cast up to my hip. From start to finish, I was on crutches for about 4.5 months that year and I ended up in physical therapy three times a week for 22 months. That's correct, 22 months. Nearly two years to rebuild my leg.

This is one of several casts I was in. They recasted it every 10 days because of atrophy. 

This is one of several casts I was in. They recasted it every 10 days because of atrophy. 

I loved physical therapy. I went in and treated it like my own personal training session. I always went to places that specialized in sports therapy and the other patients tended to be professional athletes. They did a wonderful job getting me back to probably 85% of my former self. Once I was given the green light, I started running again and built my way back up to running nearly daily. I did one more half marathon and a few 5ks; I think to prove to myself that I could. But it was obvious my body never loved running again.

Riding a bike is the best way to see Belgium. When I lived in Oudenaarde, I explored I think every nook, cranny and cobbled street in Oost-Vlaanderen. I absolutely loved it.

Riding a bike is the best way to see Belgium. When I lived in Oudenaarde, I explored I think every nook, cranny and cobbled street in Oost-Vlaanderen. I absolutely loved it.

Throughout all of this, I rehabbed and cross trained with the bike.  I grew up on a bike, so it was easy to fall back in love and spend as much time as possible riding. I started doing much longer rides and the occasional race. All was good in the world until I started traveling nearly 200 days a year and couldn't bring my bike with me. It simply wouldn't work for many reasons, so it was back to running. I focused on running about four miles a day, every day, all over the world. It wasn't great but it also wasn't so bad. It worked.

Even ran a 10k in Belgium.

Even ran a 10k in Belgium.

It all started going wrong in July 2015. I was home for a month and figured I would get back into riding shape. While out for a 100km ride, my feet got very painful and then went numb. I was about to hit the road for another long stretch, so I packed my running shoes and didn't think much about it. Yet my feet hurt even worse when I ran. Then they started to hurt when I walked, slept or drove.  Early in October 2015, I went out for what would be the last run of my life. I didn't know it at the time. My body kept giving me signals that I couldn't run anymore; it was too painful. The doctors soon diagnosed me with Hallus Rigidis in my left foot, Hallus Vargus and morton's neuroma in my right foot and arthritis throughout all my toes with severe joint deterioration. Major surgery was recommended but for the time being, I've gotten by on cortisone injections, minor surgery, drugs, custom orthortics and orthopedic shoes. I go back for a check up in a few weeks.....

One of my last rides. I hope to ride again, I just need to figure out the next steps for my feet and then invest in new shoes.

One of my last rides. I hope to ride again, I just need to figure out the next steps for my feet and then invest in new shoes.

I had to keep moving to stay mentally sane, so I started walking. I would do basically the exact same distance, it just took longer. My feet still hurt, just not as much. Mentally, this was so insanely challenging for me. Walking...as a form of exercise?! I couldn't get behind it but I couldn't figure out any other option. I've now walked nearly every day for almost a year. I haven't gained any weight and I haven't lost much muscle strength. I'm completely shocked. I thought I had to run or ride to stay fit. Walking?!

Out walking somewhere in the world.

Out walking somewhere in the world.

I'm sure this journey with my feet isn't over. But I feel proud of how I've handled this adjustment. I've always moved, competed and pushed myself. It took me months, almost this entire year, but I think I'm at the point where I can see that simply walking counts. Believe me, I don't take that for granted. Being able to move freely is such an amazing and wonderful gift.

 

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