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One Stumble Sparks Anxiety: Why More Mileage Will Ease Running Fears

Updated on May 5, 2020
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Shouldn't You Only Fall Hard In Love, Not On Concrete?

Face, meet concrete.
Face, meet concrete.

Running Should Feel Smooth On The Feet And On The Head

I've been running distance for several years now. I started with 3 kilometres (just shy of 2 miles) back in Grade 7, started hitting 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) when I began training karate, and started running 10 kilometres or more at a time around 5 years ago. I've attempted a full marathon, hope to try and successfully complete one in the fall of 2020 - virtually or otherwise - and have run a couple of half-marathons in addition to running Spartan a few times at the Sprint and Super levels and Warrior Dash.

I've skinned my knees and elbows from stumbling over skiffs of ice or unexpected gaps in the sidewalk and tree roots. I've slipped on the ice and pulled my groin. I've never really had an accident that shook me and left me feeling nervous about running again. The possibility of tripping on something on the surface that you're running on is very real, and you can't really escape that, but in reality, the worst that might happen when you're running is a rolled ankle or perhaps a scrape.

On April 22, 2020, I was running a 5 kilometre stretch that I've run I'd say at least a hundred times previously in pretty much every type of lighting and every type of weather. I've run this route where the roads have been wet, snow covered, and a little icy. I've never had an issue until that night, when the loop on one of my shoelaces was quite a bit larger than I'd probably realized and slid under my foot while I was running.

I hit the ground so violently that I thought I was going to be sick from the pain that went through my chest. I knew right away that I'd hit my head badly, simply because I could feel the blood dripping from my temple. Mercifully, I didn't have any pain there; it was similar to the pain you might feel after scraping a knee, but no pounding headache that I'd have thought would have very much been a part of an accident like this. A man was almost instantly in front of me, asking if I needed help, and then I was surrounded by six men, doing various things to help me and getting me connected with the medical help I needed. A conversation with my husband and kids later, then a drive to the hospital for stitches and I was home in about two hours.

I couldn't do much in the way of exercise for a couple of days. That in itself was brutal, as I rely on exercise to keep my stress and mental health on an even keel. I did try running four days later, on the Saturday, but it was too much on the ribs, which were mercifully not broken but incredibly tender.

Now, two weeks after the accident, I've managed to go running a few times but I've noticed I've got a new running partner: fear.

Thankfully, this is not a paralyzing fear that leaves me locked on the couch, searching for reasons why I can't or shouldn't run, but one that leaves a cold chill around my heart at times and makes me feel incredibly watchful every time my foot hits my running route. I've never had that during a run. Ever. I've always run without question and without fear - even after times where I've stumbled and skinned various body parts.

This time, though, I smacked my head and have a pretty wicked scar to show for it, the result of six stitches being used to hold that part of my forehead together. I was incredibly lucky; I could have been badly concussed as the result of this fall, but I wasn't. I could have dislocated my shoulder, according to my chiropractor, but I didn't.

That doesn't stop the anxiety from coming if I'm running on my own. I realize that my rhythm is slightly off, no doubt the result of my body readjusting its alignment following the accident, and that, in turn results in my feeling like my legs are a bit heavier than they should be. I sometimes still have to be cautious about how hard I push myself, as if I've pushed myself the day before and my ribs are bugging me, breathing from the effort of running can be painful as well.

However, when I'm running on my own now, there is that anxiety, and I know I have to keep pushing through that and getting more mileage under my belt in order to overcome that fear. It's just, in this moment, it sucks that something that so often brings me peace is something that is causing me disquiet.

It won't always be that way; I just have to learn to make peace with it.


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