That time I didn’t go running

I stand on the edge, looking down into deep water. Is it colder in there than it is here on the deck?

There are a lot of bodies around. Who’s nervous? asks one of the coaches. A few hands go up, eyes catch each other’s glances in recognition.

It’s going to be fun! he enthuses.  I notice he is not in swim gear.

Who says that: ‘It’s going to be fun’?

Everyone says that. Nervousness and excitement are the same emotion.

I’ve made it to my first official group swim practice. I’ve done masters group swims years ago but it was nothing like this. It all seems so tame in comparison: there are probably 40 bodies here and once we get in the water it feels like a feeding frenzy the way the water is churned up.  It’s like each swimmer creates their own personal vortex.

I often choose my swim times when it is least likely there will be others. I like the feeling of calm water where I can control the amount of disturbance. Here it feels like I am battling white caps each time I try to take a breath.

I am moved from the beginner group to the intermediates before the warm up is finished.  “You’re with us” says one of my shark colleagues. I comply.

After a few laps it gets easier. I get my breathing settled. I remind myself that this is a workout I could have done last week and it’s just water. I move into another lane to reduce congestion and get into the back-and-forth of the rhythm.

The hour goes quickly. It was probably closer to 50 min. I finish the workout and completely ungracefully make my exit. I climb up the starter blocks and get stuck half way up, my belly not quite at my center of gravity and my feet kicking uselessly in the air. The guy beside me is too tired to even notice.

I don’t consider myself a swimmer, but maybe that’s not the point. The same argument goes with runners: you don’t have to race, or run a certain pace, or be able to run a certain distance. If you run, you are a runner.  I swam.

Funny bone

I don’t know how many different opinions I’ve heard in the last few weeks regarding my foot. Usually the ones I agree with are the ones I remember.


My foot is not better. It is better than it was, but it’s hit a plateau where you can see the horizon for miles and it’s just a mirage where (complete pain-free) reality starts. I’ve had bone scans and x-rays where one or the other alone would have come up with wholly different results. And after practitioners with many years of medical worth poured over my foot photos, I have Freiberg’s disease.

Freiberg’s is a progressive situation. It begins when (unknowingly) you lose blood flow in your metatarsal bone. The bone then loses durability and during activity starts to hairline fracture. The continued activity can lead to the bone becoming malformed and — in my case — you get a square stump trying to fit in a round joint. It would be funnier if it wasn’t painful. It usually happens in adolescence (which is a few generations ago for me), and if you get (as I’ve coined it– “later-onset”) Freiberg’s disease as an adult, you’re almost sure to be female. The 50/50 odds were not in my favour this time.

The surgeon I saw listened carefully to how I described my 9 month history. I felt like he understood my plight and his nodding lead me to trust he was going to give me a positive outcome with a definitive timeline. But he told me that marathons, half-marathons or any longer distance running was out of my future. When I asked if I could cause further damage if I ran in pain, he said that I shouldn’t be running at all. I didn’t hear much after that.


There must be a bone in here …    somewhere!

Naturally I have options, but no one is sure which one will pan out. Surgery is a last resort. I am getting custom orthotics to alleviate pain in my metatarsal arch when I walk. I’m trying different shockwave treatments in the hope that it will help mend my bones a little stronger. Shockwave is much like having a jackhammer at full throttle caress your foot: the hope is that you will find the most painful situation and then endure it. The greater the pain the more likely it is you are treating the weakest area.

I do miss running and want to get back to it. I may never run a 50km race, but I still crave the endorphins, the suffering, the elation of moving forward on only willpower that running brings. My swimming is improving and I’m starting to feel sore and fatigue as though I’m actually doing something, but a swim cap is not a replacement for a running shoe.

Who knew one little bone could be so funny?

It happened a year ago

It’s been over a year since I ran my last marathon. A year and a week or two.  I ran a marathon in Paris, then ran a half-marathon a few months later, and then experienced a lot of foot pain. I continued running through pain (because running fixes everything). I could resemble a run with adrenaline and endorphins and stubborn determination, but I was lame if I tried to walk.

So my last run was in early September. I have given up being a junior meteorologist where I would check the weather daily to ensure I was prepped for any climate anomalies during my runs. I now operate in two zones only: wet in the pool, dry and stinky in the gym.


The weather is definitely spring where I live but I wouldn’t know it: cherry blossoms, breezy days, and sunshine. I barely go outside. I am either wet or dry.

Time is a strange progression. I recently heard that when we have established routines, or habits, our sense of time is warped and shrunk. The first month on a new job is exhilarating and tiring and overwhelming with so much new stimuli. But after five years in the same routine it’s hard to remember what you had for lunch the day before.

When I was first told to take time off from running, I thought it was to take a day off. A “miss one workout and see if you feel better” suggestion. I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken more than 4 days off in a row, let alone a week! It made me nervous, as though if I missed too many days I would forget what to do and my running “habit” would go off the rails. It was like that feeling of dreading New Year’s resolutions that you make and give yourself the obligatory two weeks to fail.

I worried about my fitness level, my sanity, and my running friendships. After the first few weeks though, I adjusted to this new measure of time: I got into a new routine. I knew I needed to replace running with something else (fitness) and give myself that me-time back (sanity). I still had my running coach, he now just also became my strength and swim coach.


This is my kid a few years ago. I am still not opposed to the use of water wings.


I like being in the gym and doing strength work, I’m not such a big fan of swimming. Joining a group would have been ideal, but it didn’t fit with my schedule. I realized pool running (although in a group setting) was not only incredibly boring, there were also no measurable improvements I could gauge. The class I attended was full of high-intensity intervals where we were encouraged to give “100%” for the interval. It was hard to measure if my 100% had increased after 8 weeks of bobbing around in the deep end. I was tired after the workouts, but felt more drained than enjoying the satisfaction of an exhaustive accomplishment.

I have found ways to make the swims work for me. What I liked about running was that I could measure improvements (and not just that I could eat more before I felt full). Through this I found that measuring aspects of swimming made it more enjoyable and rewarding for me: increasing distances or measuring times helped me see that I had gotten more efficient.

I still like to think of myself as a runner (the clothes are so cute). I trust that my foot will heal. I am currently transitioning from an air cast/walking boot to regular footwear. But my perspectives have changed. I’d still like to run another marathon, but for now walking pain-free around the block would be nice. My swimming has improved and I am getting stronger in different ways than running would do. It will take as long as it takes, but I don’t have to stop myself to wait for it.