Misery loves company, and nowhere is that more true than for injured runners. If you’re managing an injury this holiday season and feeling downtrodden by the challenges you faced in 2019, you’re not alone. If you achieved any of your running goals this year, savour that satisfaction. And if you’re currently dealing with a sidelining injury and are not sure when you’ll be out on the roads again, this story is for you.
Two completely different runners stand apart from the upbeat, cheery, 2020-is-going-to-be-a-great-year prognostications clogging social media. Both are female runners, and both are American, but beyond that their worlds don’t overlap much. Yet both bring a refreshingly honest take on the physical and mental challenges they faced in 2019, and will probably continue to face in 2020.
There is such much to be unpacked with everything going on right now with Nike (who, in the spirit of full disclosure, is my biggest sponsor). Of all the things that have come to light (and believe me posts on weight,… https://t.co/DZiCUhLJBT
— Tianna T. Bartoletta (@tibartoletta) November 18, 2019
In November, two-time Olympian and double gold-medallist, sprinter and jumper Tianna Bartoletta came out in defence of women battling abusive treatment in sport. Her comments came in the wake of former Nike Oregon Project Mary Cain’s explosive New York Times story about her experiences training under disgraced head coach Alberto Salazar, who is appealing a four-year ban for doping violations.
During the summer of 2019, besides dealing with a foot problem that led to her having to switch to taking off from her right foot in the long jump, Bartoletta was diagnosed with severe anemia caused by abnormally heavy periods. She had multiple iron infusions, which didn’t seem to take. After weeks of uncertainty, pain, fainting spells and sleeplessness, she learned she had a massive uterine fibroid tumour, and had surgery to remove it the same day. (Throughout this process, which involved iron infusions and blood transfusions, she had to be concerned about inadvertently violating anti-doping regulations.) Bartoletta is still recovering, while trying to train for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which take place in June 2020.
Former OCR champion, now trail runner Amelia Boone had a similarly challenging year, suffering her fourth stress fracture in three years and spending three months in an eating disorder clinic, recovering from a decades-long battle with anorexia nervosa. Boone followed this up with two DNF’s in a row, at Big’s Backyard Ultra and World’s Toughest Mudder. “I spent years afraid to lose. I then swung the other way and quashed all competitive spirit,” Boone blogs. “I feel like the pendulum is finally settling in the middle… And that it’s OK to simply go into a race for the love, the joy, and the experience.”
Boone has a lot more to say about the process of letting go of unsustainable expectations, of recovery, and about her decision to go public with her struggle. It’s worth reading, since even those of us who have never dealt with an eating disorder or a mental illness probably know someone who has, and Boone’s insights will impact how you support that person.
In her blog, Bartoletta retells a story she heard in a hot yoga class (which she wasn’t sure she would be able to get through, given what her body had endured) whose lesson she immediately recognized and took to heart. The story is about cooking at altitude, and the lesson sounds like a cliché: when cooking at altitude, as when recovering from something like abdominal surgery or a lifelong eating disorder, much patience is required.
Hopefully the injury or injuries you’re dealing with as 2019 rolls into 2020 are not as serious as these, and in a few weeks you’ll be back on the road, treadmill or trail, testing your recovery and making a start to your 2020 goals. And if they are that serious, take comfort in the stories, find support where you can, and know that you are not alone. Happy New Year.