The Boot

Ten days ago, I went for a short, after-work run with a friend. Due to continued calf soreness resulting from a micro tear I sustained several weeks earlier, I cut the run short and only ran five or so miles rather than the eight I had planned. Aside from the calf soreness, however, I felt pretty good after the run, especially after completing some of the best speed work I'd done in a long time. I was elated with renewed energy and motivation to tackle my challenging summer race schedule.

That night, my left ankle started to feel sore in the peroneal area. I iced it and rolled it, but the rolling made it feel worse, so I ceased that pretty quickly. The next morning, my ankle was still sore, but the soreness was tolerable, so I ran another eight miles on the treadmill. That run, however, was apparently too much for my tendon. From that point on, my ankle hurt and I limped. I iced it regularly, I did range-of-motion exercises, I elevated it, and I took ibuprofen, but nothing seemed to help. I did not run, but I continued to cross train because that did not cause any real pain.

Finally, frustrated that my ankle was not improving much and anxious to get running again, I went to the doctor to assess my ankle and, hopefully, confirm that I did not have a stress fracture, which, of course, was the doctor's first inclination. Any runner who has had to get X-RAYS for a possible stress fracture knows how stressful and scary the situation can be and how waiting in the examination room for the results is tantamount to water torture. Looking at the computer screen in the room, I tried to examine my X-RAYS and determine whether or not I had a fracture, but I had no idea.

Finally, the doctor returned to reveal that my X-RAYS looked good. She said that a stress fracture was still possible, but unlikely, so she did not feel that an MRI was necessary. I asked if it could be a sprain, which was what I had thought initially. She said that a sprain was unlikely as well; the pain was too high up. After further examination, she said that she thought I had an overuse injury to my peroneal tendon and that this sort of injury was common among endurance trail runners. Then, she uttered the dreaded words: "You're going to need to wear a boot for two weeks." I think my heart stopped. The possibility of having to wear a boot was not completely unexpected, but, like most desperate, injured runners, I didn't think that would really happen, not to me. In a final act of desperation, I asked: "What about an ankle splint? Maybe I could try a splint." No, an ankle splint would not be appropriate for my injury, she explained. It simply would not provide the stability that I needed. No, I would have to wear a boot. Gulp. A boot. I told myself that it was only two weeks and that I knew runners who were out for much, much longer periods of time. I was lucky, right? Unfortunately, two weeks can feel like two months when you see someone approach you with a large package containing a heavy, knee-high boot.

Once, many years ago, my older, and slightly wiser, sister explained to me that a person does things she doesn't want to do, she deals with whatever level of pain, discomfort, disappointment, or sadness necessary because that is what she needs to do to survive; we deal with these things and face them head on because the only other option is to give up. This conversation, though a innocuous and seemingly irrelevant conversation among thousands of others, resonated with me. Consumed by disappointment, but with her words in mind, I took a deep breath and I was fitted for the boot.