Ack. People are dropping like flies. Fallen soldiers. ‘Tis marathon season. As athletes are making their way through the final weeks of their race training plans, many are fighting fatigue, sickness or injury.

Injury is not a fun subject. But it is real life for us runners.

When we get injured, sometimes we blame ourselves. Sometimes we blame our aging bodies, shoes, coaches, mechanics, training or God. Sometimes, it is tough to know exactly what the culprit is. We can do our best guesswork, but we don’t necessarily know for sure.

If you are dealing with an injury that might potentially take you out of your dream race, know that your condition is temporary and that you are not alone. I have been there. It sucks. It takes you to dark places. It defeats you.

Although an injury happens to your physical body, it is your mind that really takes the beating. The stages of injury tend to follow the stages of grief:

  1. Denial – Are you freaking kidding me? My marathon is in x weeks, and I’ve trained my butt off. There is no way I’m not running this thing, even if I have to crawl. It’s just a pain in my hip. I’m sure I just pulled a muscle walking to get the newspaper. Or maybe this pain is a figment of my imagination, part of tapering madness. I’m sure I’m fine.
  2. Anger – Are you freaking kidding me? This still hurts, might be worse. Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong. Everyone else can run and not get injured. Heck, some people run across the United States and never get injured. This sucks. I don’t deserve this. I pay my taxes. I follow a training plan. I bought the stinking $100 shoes that they told me to buy at that dang store.
  3. Bargaining – You are not freaking kidding me. I’m hurt. I get it. But, I swear if I am healed enough by marathon day to at least complete the race, I will never [insert vice: cuss, drink, overtrain, do meth, run with scissors, yell at my kids, lick a knife] again. Once I complete this race, I will rest for a really long time and go to the doctor. I swear. Just let me run this race.
  4. Depression – (Warning: Here’s where it gets really ugly). I’m done for. I’m out of the race. Hell, I might never run again. I hate swimming and biking and most of all running in the water. I want to run. I only like running, and I am nothing without running. I will get fat. I will get lazy. I will lose all of my fitness. Why bother getting out of bed?
  5. Acceptance – I can’t race. I can’t even run right now. But, it’s going to be OK. I am still an athlete. I am still a runner. I am just recovering. I will be back. Stronger than ever. Even though I can’t run, there are other things I can do to maintain my fitness. Even though I can’t run, I am still worthy. There is more to me than being a runner.

We all move through these stages at different rates. When I had a hip stress fracture, I wasn’t allowed to be in the denial stage very long because my pain was too intense and an MRI showed the fracture immediately. I also moved through the anger and bargaining stages pretty quickly because the injury was so black and white. I was pissed as all get out, but that just made me more tired. And there was no bargaining to be done. There would be no race, no running. For quite a few months.

I got stuck in the depression stage for a while. I’d have good days and bad days. I don’t think I reached the point of acceptance for about eight weeks. And even then, I ping-ponged between depression and acceptance quite a bit. My acceptance wasn’t just based on knowing I would get better. It was based on knowing I would be OK even if I didn’t.

One of my most very favorite things about life is that it is constantly changing. If you don’t like it, it will be different soon. If you are flying high, you might crash next week. The only thing you can count on is that things are temporary.

Hang in there.

Are you dealing with an injury? If so, in which stage do you find yourself?

For more from Beth Risdon, visit Shut Up and Run!

By Nichols