Literally, my Achilles heel

My last post was at the start of my marathon running journey. It was 21 weeks ago and I was pumped up and excited to get going with my training.

Unfortunately, I failed in the number one golden rule of Marathon training: “Don’t get injured.”

In week 9 of my 16-week training plan, everything was still going fantastic. I was doing 40 to 60 km per week. I had just run the 30 km in 3:11:56 which went so well that I did a few sprints during the last kilometer. I took a day off to recover (off from running, not from using my body). I spend those two days balancing on a stepladder and painting our ceiling. In retrospect, it was not a great idea with my already tired legs. At the end of the second day, I decided to do a 5 km shakeout run. I only got to 3 km before the pain in my Achilles stopped me.

I’ll try not to bore you with the details of going back and forth trying to recover so I can still run the marathon. I read all I could find on the topic, attended a running injury presentation, and tried a multitude of things to ease the pain and get running again:

Week 1 and 2: Rest and Ice.

No running and almost no walking. I spend all my free time watching series with an ice pack under my heel. The injured heel healed, but then the other heel flared up out of nowhere.

Week 3: Hiking and walking in new shoes.

I was on holiday and since it felt a little better I went on two little runs. I had to walk the uphills and run only the flats and downhills.

Week 4 and 5: Slow running, indoor cycling, and a race

Back home I tried one or two runs with my running group. I was the slowest by far and my heel was still sore. At the end of week 5, I ran a 12 km beach and dune race with my colleagues. I felt my heel towards the last 3 kilometers but pushed on and finished in 1:11. I also did a 75-minute indoor cycling class. At this point, I was feeling pretty guilty that I continued to run and race, but I felt I couldn’t miss out on running and having beers with my coworkers.

Week 6: Walking, foam rolling, ice, and new shoes to wear in the office

I went to a presentation on running injuries and a physiotherapist said that while rest definitely heals Achilles injuries, it could lead to a weak tendon that gets injured as soon as you start running again. Instead of waiting for your Achilles to heal and risk it becoming your running Achilles heel, she recommends being active and continuing to run even when you are in mild pain. This way you encourage the Achilles to heal strong and you keep it ready to run.

This week I also iced it again every night to encourage blood flow. I bought a foam roller earlier, but haven’t really gotten into the habit of using it every day.

I feel like I’ve tried everything in the last 6 weeks. I’ve bought three new pairs of shoes, two foam rollers, and compression socks. I’ve tried rest and ice, low impact cycling and walking as well as a little running. I still experience mild discomfort to uncomfortable pain most days.

After feeling discouraged this week, I watched a few videos regarding Achilles heel injuries. The videos ranged from guys advocating diet and massage to doctors showing what a ruptured Achilles surgery looks like. Needless to say, seeing Achilles tendon surgery encouraged me to keep trying to get rid of this injury for good.

In Week 7 I’ll be adding even more things to try and get this injury behind me.

Have you ever suffered from an Achilles overuse injury? Let me know in the comments what you did to rehabilitate it.

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