Newflash: It turns out I’ve got some messed up knees. According to my new physical therapist, they’re chilling too far toward the inside of my legs. They just miss each other and want to be closer, I guess.
Because of this, whenever I bend or straighten my legs, my kneecaps are rubbing against things they’re not supposed to rub against, and those things (cartilage) are getting really pissed off. Hence the injury. My goal, apparently, is to get the cartilage to chill out (I’ve been trying to do that for three weeks now; I don’t know why it won’t let this go), and then to make my kneecaps go back to where they belong.
Apparently, I have tight quads and weak hips, which is interesting because I had been assuming I had weak quads and tight hips. But either way, I’m strengthening my hips and attempting to lengthen-strengthen my quads and train them to work on the top/center of my leg, instead of toward the inside, which is where my knees convinced them to go before, I guess. This is all very confusing to me. The point is, my kneecaps are rebels and I need to literally get them in line.
Throughout this process, I’ve been torturing myself with one question: Why? Did I do something wrong? Am I just deformed? Was I born this way, or did I create this situation? Did I do too much too soon?
Obviously, my misplaced kneecaps are the primary cause here. But I’ve had this issue since high school, or maybe earlier – a chiropractor told me so when I was a teenager. Why is it causing such a problem now? One would imagine that it’s because running puts so much more stress on my body than anything else I’ve ever done, and perhaps I added too much mileage at once, but Brad has been putting the same amount of stress on his body at the exact same rate as I have, and he’s still sailing along without a care in the world. I’ve read that everyone’s level of “too much, too soon” is different, but why? What makes Brad sturdier than me? His straight knees, sure, but it’s not like his body is perfectly built for running, either. He has long legs and a slender build, but he also has the flattest feet you have ever seen.
Those things are an injury waiting to happen. Why can he put so much mileage on them without any problems?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about running form, and I’ve wondered if that’s my answer. Despite Brad’s relative inactivity over the past several years, he did spend his high school career training with a running coach, learning how to run properly. I just tied on my shoes and took off. Could I be running in a way that puts additional stress on my legs, while his method is more natural, gentle and biomechanically correct?
My mom has another theory. She believes that people who expect good things to come to them will eventually receive them, and vice versa. Since the first day of our new running life, Brad has headed down the road without even warming up, and it never occurred to him that he might get hurt. So he didn’t. Meanwhile, I obsessed over my troublemaker knees and took every precaution possible, just waiting for something to happen. So it did. In mid-January, my friend Courtney asked me if we had signed up for the half-marathon yet, and I told her I was waiting, just in case something went wrong. “Honestly, I’m starting to transition from being worried about my mental motivation to being worried about my physical abilities,” I told her. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to do this!”
And now look at me. Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe there’s just one thing to blame for this injury: doubt.
Despite the implications of this new theory, I’m going to continue to be cautious. I don’t have a choice at this point, now that I’m damaged goods. But I hope to be cautiously optimistic. When I asked my physical therapist whether she thought it would be a matter of weeks or months before I was recovered, she said she was leaning toward weeks. When I asked her if I should give up on the half-marathon, she said, “We’ll see.” I’m still hanging on to my silly little dream by a very thin thread. I know it’s not likely. But I’m just not ready to give it up. There’s still too much uncertainty.
In the meantime, I’ll keep stretching and strengthening and suppelementing and icing and resting and compressing, and reading about form and biomechanics and running philosophy. Because some day, even if it’s not on April 28, I’ll be running again. I know I will. I’m too damn stubborn not to.
What do you think? Are sports injuries a result of weakness of the body, or weakness of the mind?