27 Mar Making a Comeback (Guest Post by Diane)
Running has been my main-stay for exercise and socializing for over twenty years. I have been running with the Longboat Roadrunners since 1996 and have developed many friendships that have brought much joy into my life. I have many fond memories of running, racing and enjoying many parties with members of the community – a group that is always ready to support and encourage their peers.
When I retired almost three years ago I decided to dedicate more time to training and challenge myself to become more fit to see how much I could improve my race times. I began working with coach, Michelle Clarke, also a member of Longboat, and the hard work paid off. Not only did I increase my race times, but realized a number of personal goals. I am so grateful to my coach Michelle. With her help I was honoured with the Most Improved Runner of the Year Award by Longboat. She patiently guided me through a lot of tough workouts and tapped into my inner animal – that deep competitive nature that keeps me focused on the finish line.
At the end of that exciting year I began to notice a nagging pain in my knees which seemed to be getting worse. By the New Year I could no longer run without pain and began the long road of discovery. After x-rays, MRI’s and many consultations with physiotherapists, I learned I had advanced, severe osteoarthritis. It was a devastating diagnosis. I believed my running career had ended. I made my way through the winter months with a cloud over my head and had a really tough time regaining my usual positive attitude. Yes, I could enjoy snowshoe treks through the woods, walks down our wintry road and I even explored yoga classes which I have really enjoyed. But the thrill of the run was no longer mine, and races were out of the question.
I tried physiotherapy, but nothing seemed to work. By August I tried to run a bit, but still had pain after a couple of kilometres. Friends in the running community were so supportive and many suggested that lots of people have OA and continue to run. I just had to find the secret formula that would build strength to support the knees. I was never good at cross-training, but now I had no choice.
A friend who had a knee replacement and was a former aerobics instructor suggested that squats and lunges were very helpful for her to regain strength post-surgery. So I began lunging and squatting all over the house to see if that would help. After a few weeks I tried a little run and was pleased to discover I could now run a little further before the pain set in. Eureka! I was on my way back to the race track.
No sooner had I begun to feel like a runner again, I took a wrong turn on my bike and flew over the handlebars, landing on my shoulder. As my friends pulled my bike off me and helped me out of the ditch I swung my arm and cheered that it was a wonder I hadn’t broken something. Yes, it was uncomfortable but I thought since I could move it, it must be fine. Back on my bike to finish the ride and I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. Sure enough, after checking in with the doctor I was advised I had broken my clavicle. So much for making a comeback. I had to spend the next six weeks in a sling, and even then, there was quite a bit of pain. We older folks don’t heal quite as quickly.
By October I was given the go-ahead to try a little run. “Just don’t fall on your shoulder”, I was advised. I was elated. I had begun doing my squats and lunges about a month before, and it was starting to pay off. I was painfully slow, but I was out there. By January I did my first eight kilometre race, slowly, mind you, but I was participating.
As I continue with my own home-therapy I am discovering how important it is to enable me to run. Missing my workout is not an option. Although I now run on a treadmill during the winter months because the uneven snow-covered roads are not conducive to my knee condition, I am still able to keep training. I’m enjoying yoga, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and, yes, running. Through all of the down time I also discovered a deep love of painting, and my artwork is scattered all over the house.
Sometimes when life forces us into a time of reflection and meditation we discover things about ourselves we might not otherwise have unearthed. I am so grateful to be able to once again include running in my repertoire of healthy lifestyle exercises.