RUNNER DOWN! When You Can’t Run

feet in flipflops

In 2009 I decided that after just three years of running, I was going to run my first marathon. Knowing I would need a mission behind my goal, I chose a foundation to raise money for : The Larry Frimanslund Oral Cancer Foundation. I signed up for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon and went about my training.

It wasn’t until my 17-mile long run, just eight weeks before the marathon, that I ran into trouble. It was my IT band. I took 4 days off and went out for a seven-mile test run. At three and a half miles I was unable to walk let alone run. The pain brought tears to my eyes and a sadness to my heart. The thought of not being able to finish my training and having to back-out of the marathon paralyzed me.

I sat on the side of the road contemplating how I would manage to get the 3.5 miles back home to my house. I thought about the book I was reading: Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, and made a rash decision. I took off my shoes and started walking toward my house, there was no pain. With a shoe in each hand I worked my way into an easy jog and amazingly remained pain-free.

By the time I reached my home I had decided that I would finish my training, even if I had to run stocking-footed to do it.
It didn’t take too many mid-week runs to realize I couldn’t afford new socks every day and besides, my feet needed a little more protection from the gravel on the roads.

I experimented with shoes, finding that my flip-flops were the best for running in. I used medical tape to keep them on my feet and more tape to cover the blisters caused by the straps. My training went on without IT band pain.

Eventually I decided to purchase a pair of Vibram 5-fingers. It was those shoes that I ultimately ran (and jogged…and walked) my marathon in.
blue vibrum<

What I did was stupid. I mean, yes, I finished my marathon and met my goal, but no one should go from a full shoe to a minimal shoe in the middle of training for a marathon. That was proven to me on the first run after my marathon. After a few days rest I went out for a simple three-mile run with my run club and returned with a stress fracture. Boom, six-weeks of no running.

I am still a minimalist runner, I don’t believe in arch support and especially believe that kids should start with a minimal shoe and remain in one their entire life. But that isn’t what this is about.

This is about not being able to run.

Running junkies the world over can be heard moaning when they are sidelined for even a few days. Many, like me, will risk major injury instead of taking much-needed rest and recovery. Our intense desire to run is remarkable, impressive, maybe even honorable…but it isn’t conducive to longevity.


1. Take the time to research your condition and learn as much as you can about it. I guarantee you’re not the only one suffering with your condition. Find out what worked for others in your situation. Don’t take your doctor’s advice as gospel, he doesn’t know everything (especially if he isn’t a runner). Get second opinions, don’t be afraid of physical therapy, chiropractic’s, and alternative treatments like acupuncture, supplements and diet change to get you well.

2. Don’t return to running too soon. If you have a stress fracture, you need 4-6 weeks off, period. Coming back after 3 weeks because you don’t feel any pain is stupid. Don’t be stupid.

3. Don’t just sit there (not that you would anyway). Just because you can’t run doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. With most injuries you can still swim, cycle, do yoga and you can most definitely weight train. Even with a huge boot on my foot I could still ride my stationary bike for hours at a time and I could swim to sustain a certain amount of fitness.

4. Don’t get out of the loop. Don’t avoid your running friends or your run club. While your buddies are out running you can walk. Take part in the social time with your running friends. Talk about your injury, express the difficulty of not running and let them assure you that you’ll be back.

5. Don’t worry! Just because you are taking some time off doesn’t mean you’re going to have to start from scratch. Nor does it mean you will come back as a mediocre runner. I’ve seen it over and over, people not only return to run strong, but they run faster and stronger than ever before. I can only assume it is a result of the forced extended recovery time. After my stress fracture I returned to run my fasted half marathon ever.

I hope to bring some examples of people who have returned from injuries to inspire you. If you have a story, please feel free to tell everyone about it in the comments below! Happy running.

#running #injury #marathon #stressfracture #fracture #vibrum #borntorun #racing

5 thoughts on “RUNNER DOWN! When You Can’t Run

  1. Sad to know you’ve been in pain! Happy that you are mending!

    Your post should be very helpful to those who suffer from running injuries — and others as well. My friend, Dr. Timothy Tays (he’s following you on twitter – @timothytays) will identify with your good advice for he has had a few of those ‘running’ aches and pains. Tim has written a book titled “Wannabe Distance God” – I’ve read it and enjoyed not only the ‘running’ experiences but the lessons of life in the book…it’s due to come out this Spring. Olympic Gold marathon winner Billy Mills has read it as well and will have a place in the book. Be on the lookout for WDG because I’m reasonably sure you will like it. Can’t imagine any runner not liking it…

    Tim is now a Clinical Psychologist but once was a distance runner at Kansas University, competing in many events with some great runners of history. He is also a neighbor in our little Mexican resort (Bella Sirena) here on the Sea of Cortez. Tim is married to Renni and has a son named Gentry. He is a good man and I wanted you to know about him — if you don’t already. Tim is new to twitter and I’m sure would love more followers and more entrees into the ‘running community.’ If anything occurs to you and your time allows, please let him know.

    In the meantime, get all your good health back and hit the running track. Also want to add one other fact: you are a great writer, and I’m honored to be associated with you…I’ll let you tell your blog followers about “The Candlestick Killer.”

    My very best to you,

    Billy Ray

    • Thanks Billy! I will let them know about The Candlestick Killer for sure.

      BTW, the injury occured in 2009, I’m been running strong (especially now that I am working with the chiropractor) for years now!

      I’m going to go check out @timothytays right now, and hopefully others who read your post will too!

  2. Hi Diane, just had to make a comment as while I was reading this I kind of knew the outcome. A case of been there done it! Converting to barefoot/minimalist is hard, only because your feet are weak and now I tell everyone start completely barefoot before you move to minimalist shoes.

    I think I may have given up if it was not because I started a company called the Naked Runner and did not want to loose face. Now nearly two years on I am loving it, doing my fastest times ever for the longer distances and I have to admit I actually prefer the Huaraches rather than the shoes.

    Anyway all I am saying is that you will go backwards but if you keep at it then it will pay dividends.

    Oh on top of this I thought I would see how long it would take to get injured, given it is supposed to be better on the joints, so I started a running streak (Inspired by Ron Hill) and I at around 180 days without missing a run


    • I love being a minimalist and I am sure I would love the Huaraches if I had a pair. I’m celebrating 4 years of being minimal now, no injuries (except recently I’ve had some sciatica issues).

      Thanks for the comment! Keep running!

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