A few months ago I suffered a concussion. I’ve found that this is not a common statement, and typically people are surprised when I say it. To be completely honest it’s a phrase that has been quite common in my life as I have now suffered through seven of them. Yes, I just said seven. For the most part it’s because I’m reckless and don’t protect myself enough, but the other part is that once you have one it gets easier to have another. Basically concussions are like Lays chips. That, however, is not the point of this article. The point is that this concussion has caused more damage to what I think is important than any other. With other concussions I’ve suffered memory loss, headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity (which is still there a bit), and even developed a stutter once that lasted nearly two months. I had begun to wonder if it would ever go away, but still none of that compares to the devastation from this most recent bang to my skull. This last concussion has cost me my running form.
Yes, my running form has gone. Over the years I honed a form that has been considered ideal by many. I have had words like deer and gazelle used to describe the way I look when I’m really moving. Most importantly I had developed a form that was efficient and left me with no pains during or after a run. I loved my form, and I was extremely proud of it. It took a long time to develop, and I had lost it before. I was not born with very functional legs. In fact I was at one point told by a specialist that I would probably never walk in my lifetime, and others said I would need some sort of leg bracing, crutches, or a walker. I had already spent a good part of my young life being teased for my small size and leg awkwardness so I was not going to make it worse by needing some apparatus to get around. I somehow figured out a way to use my legs in a way similar to those around me. It wasn’t pretty as my feet pointed directly at one another, and I stepped over my own feet like a windup toy, but I could walk.
The next hurdle was finding a way to make my legs function normally, and the big dream was to be able to run and play like the other kids. Most of my attempts at running ended with my face in the dirt after tripping over my own feet. A brilliant doctor told my mom to take me roller skating. “You can’t roller skate with your feet pointed at each other, and that can probably help teach his legs to straighten up”. It was extremely simple, and it worked. I would skate as much as possible any time I got the chance, and I learned how to keep my feet straighter during the day as I walked. This all led to being able to run. I was not fast, but I could do it. Over the years and as I got older, I got faster at running but had a serious limit in my abilities. After a biking accident where I was hit by a car, I spent a lot of time rehabbing and learning how to walk/run again. During that time I really focused on form, and I learned all I could about the mechanics of the motion so I could try and be a better athlete.
It paid off, and right up until I blew out my knee I was a running machine. After the knee injury I spent nearly nine years in pain before I finally had surgery. I waited that long because at eighteen my surgeon told me to hold out as long as I could because the surgery techniques weren’t good enough then. He said he could go in there and “fix” it, but it wouldn’t ever really be right, and I’d have problems for the rest of my life. I heeded his advice, and all those years later I found out that they could in fact put me together again. Three years after surgery I had finally found my form again, and I was back to running. I’ve enjoyed the past couple of years being able to rediscover my lost love, and I’ve even more enjoyed hearing people tell me how good my form is. It has taken a lot of hard work to get something that resembles good form, and I’ve been very proud of it.
Now with one quick blow to my noggin I have lost it all and am again sent to rediscover it. It took me about two months to recover from the concussion, which is by far the longest recovery period I’ve faced. The doc said to give it two weeks and go back slow, which I actually did, but every time I’d try to do anything, and my heart rate was raised I would feel weak, dizzy, and light headed and have to stop. I would then feel weird for the rest of the day. That basically kept me from training for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon I ran in early October, but I gave the race a shot anyway. In the two weeks before the race I was able to put in about six miles worth of running, and on each of those runs I just felt “off” and uncoordinated. I spent some time getting treatment from my all around nervous system healer friend James, which helped, but during the race I could tell I wasn’t there yet. I suffered joint pains and cramps and just felt awkward for the nearly three hours I was on the course. I finished, but I was left in a lot of pain. I even had to get my knee iced after the race, which is something I’ve never had to do. My form is not so smooth anymore, and even now as I try to get ready for the Dallas White Rock Marathon it’s not quite there.
I’ve done all I can do to try and correct it on the fly, but it may be time to go back to the drawing board. I’ve found that my beloved minimal shoes and even barefoot running are not working for me. I actually feel the most awkward when wearing minimal shoes, and barefoot running is not far behind it. In a very strange twist I am actually the smoothest when I run in my Altra Instincts which is a fully cushioned running shoe just without the elevated heel. In minimal shoes my feet aren’t landing correctly, and my legs are not travelling in the proper lines, which causes my knee to ache severely. When I go barefoot I can’t get my feet to relax and land smoothly. Instead I am too far up on my toes and sort of prance more than actually run. When I run in my Instincts I can make adjustments to my motion, and I am actually smoother without trying. I question all of this, as it goes against what I have always taught and believed, but I’m dealing with unnatural circumstances.
I have a feeling some serious video analysis is in my future as well as some specific drills and strength training. I may even bring in a coach to try and figure out where my groove has gone because I want the gazelle back. I’m tired of feeling like an unfolded lawn chair when I run. All of this will be put on hold as I try and get ready for White Rock in a mere eighteen days, but this is most definitely something that cannot be allowed to go on beyond that day.
I anticipate being forced to draw on everything I know and use all my years of knowledge and studying to get it worked out. Then again perhaps I can sift through the concussion cloud that was left behind and find that which was lost. Only time will tell, but I won’t give up because I’ve worked too long and too hard to get here, and I want my love back.