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The 10 emotional stages of an injured trail runner

What really happens when a trail runner gets injured

Injuries suck. Sometimes they arise completely unexpected, and put a halt in future adventure plans. They involve a range of emotions, affecting all parts of our lives. Trail runners go through a series of highs and lows–mostly lows, which leave them questioning their existence. If you’re injured, or know an injured trail runner, chances are they are experiencing one of the following stages.

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1. The Denial Stage

The denial stage can last anywhere from one day to 365. Runners have a true talent at convincing themselves they are not in pain and can just “jog it out.” During this stage, a trail runner may begin making slight alterations to their training plan and adding in a few more rest days. Even if the injury is more acute, the trail runner will still avoid cancelling their next race registration.

2. The Dr. Google Stage

As the denial stage lingers, a trail runner may dabble on the internet for some guidance. The Dr. Google Stage is a time of dragging on denial and self-diagnosis, since once a runner walks into a physio’s office, they are no longer in denial. Good thing Dr. Google’s office can be accessed from the comfort of the couch.

3. The Pity Party Stage

Once Dr. Google has confirmed a diagnosis, the trail runner can begin to weep and wallow. This is also the stage when a trail runner may begin to question the meaning of life. Their social life, beer choice, and career may be centred around trail running–and they’re not sure where to turn. This stage can get ugly and may result in deleting social media accounts such as Instagram and Strava.

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4. The Physio Stage

As the emotional and physical pain persists, the trail runner may begin to see some professionals. Prior to full injury acceptance, the trail runner will make appointments with every physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, and psychic healer listed in Yelp.

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5. The Acceptance Stage

Ultrarunning Memes wisely said, “The more injuries you accumulate over your life, the faster you just jump straight to the acceptance phase.” If the trail runner in your life has recently written a long text, epic Facebook status update, or Instagram essay using the “I” word, then they are likely in the acceptance stage.

6. The Netflix Stage

Once the trail runner has embraced full acceptance of their injury, they may happily indulge in the next binge-worthy Netflix series.

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7. The Productivity Stage

For the A-type trail runner, Netflix is only fun for so long. Before they know it, they will be putting their endurance training to work. A prolonged injury may result in completing work ahead of deadlines, finishing the novel they began writing last winter, starting a business, and obtaining a PhD in Engineering at the same time. Stay tuned for the next bestselling novel, written by a trail runner with a fractured tibia.

8. The Cycling Stage

This is the stage when the trail runner begins to truly embrace activities other than trail running. Even if cycling isn’t their jam, they may find temporary happiness in ultrawalking, climbing, knitting, cross fit, book clubs, swimming, or aerial yoga. This is a stage when the trail runner pretends to get excited about diversifying their activities and social life.

9. The Identity Crisis Stage

This is a stage of confusion. Once the trail runner has opened their eyes to activities outside of trail running, they may either start to like them, or return to Stage 3. Questions such as “Who am I?” and “What’s so great about running anyway?” become the norm.


10. The John Stanton Stage

The Running Room’s John Stanton is the king of “10 and 1s.” He has trained thousands of runners from couch to marathon by jogging for 10 minutes and walking for one. If a trail runner is in this stage, it means they have received the go-ahead by their medical professional to begin running again. This stage is full of emotions, but it may mean they are on their way out of injury-ville.

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