I was running the other day. I like to run, and I started when I was eleven. However, it’s not been without its traumas. When I was 12, my primary school entered me into an under-13 race, which I won. Then they found out my age, and stripped me of the title.
Who knows what might have been had that primary-age regional championship been better handled? I might never have discovered alcohol*, and I could have run for Australia!
Though let’s be honest, that’s unlikely.
So, running. I continued to enjoy the regular social/fitness run and because I’m not particularly good at it, I’ve enjoyed running without a single injury for 17 years. “I’ve never had an injury!” I’d proclaim proudly to other, actual runners. Then I’d make my way home on a casual little 7km jaunt.
This statement remained true for a long time. Until. Last. Wednesday.
Life can be cruel in its timing. For me, life literally likes to laugh in my face. In this instance, I was happily running, thinking to myself, what a joy it is to run and be healthy – how lucky am I?, when my foot gave out. Did it give out? It’s hard to explain. All I know is, in that moment, my foot failed me. Damn you, Foot. Damn you, for being long and skinny, and making people call me BigFoot, and for generally (and now, literally) being lame!
With pain radiating across my left big foot, I hobbled to the nearest bus stop, sad and annoyed that I’d have no chance of burning 400 calories today. The next day, I hobbled to the physiotherapist.
It’s my navicular. Huh?
Turns out there’s a bone in your midfoot, and mine is slipping. The question is, why?
“I’ve been 17 years without an injury!” I proclaimed to the physiotherapist, with as much pride as someone who can’t walk can muster.
“Okay. How often do you run?”
“Twice a week.”
“Statistically speaking, you’re at more risk of an injury than someone who runs more often.”
“Don’t screw your face up at me,” he said. “I’m just telling you the statistics.”
“Do you wear those shoes when you run?” he asked, gesturing toward my Nike Frees.
“No, just at the gym. I have Mizunos with orthotics for running. Are the Nikes the problem?”
“Do you wear the Nikes with your orthotics?”
“Then don’t blame the shoes,” he said, pinching my foot. “You’re the one who didn’t put the orthotics in.”
“Here’s the deal. You’ve worn orthotics for 17 years. Your arches are weak. They’ve never had to do any work.”
That sounds about right. And probably not just my arches. I like exercising without ever doing any real work. Which is why going to the gym with my boyfriend is painful.
“You’ve started swapping into your Nikes and doing impact work at the gym and occasionally running in them. You’re putting your weak foot under stress.”
Sorry, big foot! It was me all along!
“So, you can put your shoes with the orthotics back on, they’ll support your foot, the navicular will sit in place and you’ll be fine.”
“Or,” he said, giving me the kind of look a hunter gives a deer well in its sights, “You can transition off your orthotics, strengthen your foot and move into barefoot.”
“Erm. I’ve read Born to Run. That sounds like work.”
“It is. It’s your decision, Jessica.”
I hate it when people use my full name.
So, here we are. I’ve decided to transition to barefoot. Will my navicular survive? Will I retrain my arches? Will BigFoot ever be able to master the shortfoot exercise? Only time and whether I can commit to running 1 minute on, 1 minute off, will tell.
*Of course I was always going to discover alcohol. A fellow runner, who I texted about my injury helpfully texted back: “Drop the exercise and pick up a beer.” Which I did.