Since almost everybody I encounter asks about my injury given my footwear “selection,” I should probably just walk around with a stack of handouts explaining my foot situation. When asked, I try to be as brief as possible– I had some foot pain 1.5 weeks out from a major goal race, minimized how much I ran on it, developed/worsened a stress reaction/fracture while competing in two races one weekend, and got the confirmed diagnosis a few hours after getting back to DC. The reaction from the (mostly non-athletes) I run into on a daily basis is generally something along the lines of “Wow, you are really tough! You did those two races on a broken foot?”
Not exactly the reaction I’m looking for.
What? Doesn’t everybody like to get some affirmation that they are super hard-working, determined, and altogether badass?
Maybe under some circumstances. But to be honest, racing on a known injury is arguably stupid, and should really only be undertaken in some very rare circumstances.
Hypocrite much? Maybe. Read on.
Racing on a known injury puts your long term athletic goals and health in jeopardy, and is highly unlikely to result in a stellar performance. There are rarely good reasons to do it.
Because you paid for the race/travel? Nope. That’s a sunk cost, and by racing on an injury, you could potentially hurt yourself badly enough to set yourself back even MORE cash as you try to heal in the months after the race.
Because you trained really hard? Uh-uh. See note about low likelihood of a stellar performance. Better to delay, maintain fitness as best you can with the injury, and bank those months of work for a later, healthier, race.
Because your friends are racing? Sorry, 6th grade is over.
Because you are in PR shape? Funny, if you are injured, you aren’t in PR shape, regardless of what those 800s at the track two weeks ago said.
Because you want to prove what a badass you are? Hardly. It takes a lot more strength to back away from a major goal and save yourself for a better race down the road than to stubbornly slog away through the original goal.
So then, why would you do it?
Had this just been a target Olympic distance race, I’d have pulled the plug and found another race to build back up and taper for once the foot healed up. But this was a very different, very special situation.
This level of “worth it” might be different for everybody. Maybe it’s your only shot at running the New York Marathon, maybe it’s your final championship NCAA race, maybe you are racing with a dying relative, maybe it’s meaningful to you in some way that you can’t explain to anybody else. But the common thread in the decision HAS to be that you fully understand the potential consequences, and that you are willing to accept them WITHOUT whining about it after the fact.
This is why you won’t see me complaining about 2+ hour pool runs or races I might be missing this fall – I made my bed, time to lie in it. It had nothing to do with proving how tough I was, and everything to do with taking advantage of an experience that I thought I might never get again. I don’t regret it, but won’t hesitate to pull out of another race in the future if I’m injured. It’s highly unlikely I’ll find something so special in a race again.