Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Legends of the Fall(s)

I fell during our warm-up on Tuesday morning. Hard.
For most runners, this would be no big deal. We’ve all had to deal with a little road rash in our day – especially those of us who live in places so hot that pre-dawn running is a necessity. We even share the questionable belief that the best way to make a runner who has just wiped out feel better is to regale her or him with tales of our own mishaps. In my opinion, this belief holds partially true. If your story involves relatively minor injuries and is exponentially more embarrassing than my own immediate situation, it does make me feel better. If you’re story involves exposed bone or any part of your face hanging off, it just makes me feel nauseous (in addition to sore and embarrassed).
To me, this fall was a huge deal. This is the fourth time I’ve fallen (hard) in the past 2 months.
At first, I chalked my falls up to clumsiness. I’ve always dragged my feet a bit, even walking, so it seemed natural that I would trip a few times. And there always seemed to be a different potential explanation for the fall. Let’s review:
Fall #1 – Washington, DC
Description: Tripped over a raised piece of sidewalk at the end of a 15-mile run.
Injuries Sustained: Abrasions to right knee and heel of right hand.
Attributed to: Exhaustion.
Fall #2 – Koenig Lane (2222), Austin, TX
Description: Tripped on a hole in a particularly damaged piece of sidewalk.
Injuries Sustained: Abrasions to right knee and heel of right hand.
Attributed to: Sh*tty sidewalk.
Fall #3 – Duval Rd., Austin, TX
Description: Tripped over a curb while jumping from street to sidewalk.
Injuries Sustained: Abrasions to right knee, heel of right hand, and right hip.
Attributed to: Tough call. I was looking right at the stupid thing.
Fall #4 – Mesa Rd., Austin, TX
Description: Tripped over an “asphalt mogul”.
Injuries Sustained: Abrasions to right knee and heel of right hand.
Attributed to: Pitch-black at 5:45 in the morning. Or possibly a serious genetic problem.
When I mentally review these 4 separate incidents, there are a few things that make me doubt the likelihood that each one was due to random chance or old-fashioned clumsiness.
For one thing, while I’m not the most graceful person in the world, I’m not particularly clumsy either. I’m not – as far as I know – famous for dropping objects, falling down stairs, or knocking things over (unless alcohol is involved).
Second, only this most recent fall occurred in the dark. In every other case, I was looking directly at, or at least near, the object I tripped over. This one particularly bothers me in relation to Fall #3, which occurred when I was simply hopping up a curve onto sidewalk – an action runners perform hundreds of times.
Third, there’s the disturbing consistency of the injuries. The heel of my right hand has literally not been completely intact since July 4, 2010. The fact that I incur the exact same injuries every time leads me to the conclusion that I fall the exact same way every time – catching the same foot (presumably my left?) and pitching over with the same trajectory. Not to mention popping the top clean off the same poor little water bottle.
My year of dealing with a brutal case of ITB syndrome was already strong evidence that my running form is not quite perfect.
ITBS is an overuse injury wherein excessive inward rotation of the knee causes strain and rubbing on a long piece of connective tissue called the illiotibial band, which runs from the outside of your hip all the way to the inside of your knee. It is often caused by weakness in the hips and core, and all three of the physical therapists I saw told me I had some of the weakest hips they’d ever seen.
At first I just took this as a reprimand. After all, I’m lazy about strength-training, and don’t necessarily spend my entire day doing leg raises. The only problem: In the height of physical therapy, I DID spend my entire day doing leg raises (and planks, and lunges, and backward lunges, and squats…), and yet my right hip only attained a mediocre level of strength.
After some fancy custom orthotics finally fixed my problem, I decided to ignore my weak hips and just move on with life. This strategy worked until Rogue introduced me to the joy of running drills. One specific drill – high knees, which involves trying to bring your knees to your chest in an exaggerating prancing motion – caused me notable problems. My left leg can get to my general chest area (okay, upper abdomen) but my right can barely pass parallel with my waist. After that, there’s simply…nothing. It doesn’t hurt, it just doesn’t go any higher.
Then there’s my mother. I spent the majority of the Beijing Olympics at her house in San Antonio, helping her recover from a resurfacing—a kind of fancy replacement—of her right hip. She was barely 50.
Another source of concern from my mother was an off-handed comment she made after a mini family reunion with 2 of her 4 brothers and sisters. As they were going down the stairs at my aunt’s house, she noticed that the three of them were ALL favoring their right side. And were largely unaware of doing so. When I probed on this family connection a little more, Mom went on to tell me about my cousin who discovered his own hip issues when he mysteriously couldn’t clear hurdles in track. Hurdles that, like that curb, he was looking directly at.
Nowadays, I’m literally scared to run on sidewalks, uneven surfaces, or in darkness. I’ve been shaken in the same way that made me give up mountain biking and cancel my Olympic equestrian dreams. But this time I’m backed into a corner. It’s simply not feasible to be afraid of being on your own two feet.
Granted, maybe I’m letting my paranoia get the best of me, but I can’t help but think that these falls are just the early warning signs that no amount of running will let me escape my genes. So, while I’m still shaken, I’ve formed an action plan. I’m getting back in the gym for strength-training 3 days a week for a full-body workout. I might hate the weights, but I feel like strengthening my underperforming muscles is the only shot I have at keeping this running career going. I also might start running with bandages on my hand and knee, just in case.
It’s hard to push on right now, when my arm still aches from a tetanus shot and the bruise hurt so badly on our long run yesterday that I briefly convinced myself I was in imminent danger of dying from a blood clot. (I don’t blame you if you’re trying not to laugh right now.)
But push on I must. It could be more overreacting, but it also could be that my real race is against time. If Mom is any example, I have about 20 years to knock out as many marathons as I possibly can. After that…well heck. There’s always the wheelchair division, right?

One comment on “Legends of the Fall(s)

  1. Jeanine
    September 21, 2010

    New Goal: 1 marathon a year for the next 20. After that nice even number, hang up yer shoes and hit the pool.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on September 19, 2010 by in injuries.
%d bloggers like this: