One Lesson From A Running-Ending Injury

Susan Donnelly many 100-mile race finishes later.

“I’ll never run again.”


“I wasn’t ready for this!”


The two thoughts rang in my mind for days, at least when I could free my mind from the pain, the endless search for any position that would relieve the pain, and figuring out how to accomplish simple tasks like driving to the doctor, around the pain.


There was no hiding from it, no relief. Painkillers and muscle relaxants did nothing. 


No one I knew ever had anything like this.


It was a herniated disc in my neck - my spine.


Frighteningly serious.


Life altering.


Excruciatingly painful.


I couldn’t endure weeks of referrals back and forth to specialists. I almost couldn’t function. The pain consumed my waking moments and most attempts at sleep. And there was no clear solution.


But that didn’t mean there wasn’t one.


A friend happened to mention a local PT who’d helped with his neck so I made an appointment ASAP.


When the PT asked for my treatment goal, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “To get back to running 100-milers.”


Without a pause, he replied, “Alright, then that’s the plan.”


I cried right in front of him. That someone else believed it was possible.


There was no percent chance. No proven method. No case studies. It was unknown territory for us. Apparently, other people accepted surgery, limited activity, and lowered life expectations as the natural answer. 


I was not. Not while I still had possibility. 


To me, settling for a sedentary life of chronic pain was no life.


I was going to do everything possible, no matter how small or unlikely.


I wanted to know that I didn’t give up too soon. 


I worked diligently at it. 


For months. 


I hit plenty of down days, setbacks, and plateaus where progress seemed nonexistent.


But I never quit trying. 


If you are pursuing anything important to you, there’s no reason you have to quit trying.


How long is enough time? As long as you want. 


How many tries are enough? As many as you want.


Who can say what’s enough? Only you.


It’s not crazy, strange, selfish or even impolite to want the most for your life.


People will have opinions, there will be days when it feels hopeless, and there will be moments when your options seem gone. But there’s no rule that says you can’t keep trying anyway.


Forever, if you want.


That was me. Faced with choosing between the life I wanted and no life, I was going to try for a solution until something worked. Period.


I had nothing to lose.


My PT came up with a theory and a plan of action. I bought in.


And I did live to run again - tens of 100-milers since then - because I wasn’t ready to quit.

And if you’re not ready to quit on the life you want, I believe in you too.

Susan Donnelly’s signature

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