Running with Ruth

Stories that Inspire & Motivate...Not for New Runners Only! By Ruth Gursky


Down, But Not Out


Article 1:
Down, But Not Out:
Coaching Myself Through Another (Non–Running-Related) Injury!

One of the most consistently frustrating things about life is that sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense! For instance, at the end of February, I spent 2 very special weeks in Israel, checking out the sights as part of a jam–packed group tour followed by a shopping and fun spree with my sister and her family. As luck would have it, however, my flight home was on the “TB Express,” where I was imprisoned in an airless cabin with a bunch of sniffling, sneezing and coughing passengers! I started sneezing in the cab ride home, developed a fever before I had time to unpack and was soon bedridden with a combination of bronchitis, sinusitis, laryngitis and yes, even conjunctivitis (pink eye)! Oozing from every orifice…not a pretty sight! And when this demon cold was finally exorcised, I felt alive and ready to conquer the world!

April 18, 2005: an early spring hit NYC – a beautiful, 80 degree day, perfect for a walk in the neighborhood. God, however, had other plans in mind, for on that day, the toe of my right sneaker wedged into a crack in the sidewalk about a ½ mile from my home…and down I went…in a fall which I’ve been told measured 4.0 on the Richter Scale! As a result, I broke my elbow in 2 places, fractured my wrist and jaw and injured my shoulder and knee!

In less than a minute, my life was changed.

Now, as a spiritual person, I believe there’s a reason that things happen. But why, after just experiencing the highs of Sabbath in Jerusalem and the lows of a cold from hell, did I deserve this?! Alas, a rhetorical question…but the road to the answer, I believe, lies in what I do from this point on.

Sidelined – – again! And a month before the spring marathon training program is set to begin. Sheesh! Could my timing be any worse?

So, what to do? Crying elicited some much welcome sympathy from family and friends for the first couple of days, but left me drained and headachy. Plan B, then, was to arrange for 2 veteran runners to share my coaching responsibilities. OK, so I’ve taken care of everyone else, now what about me!

Do I accept the lemons that life put in my path or go for the lemonade?

As a “glass is ½ full type of person,” I clearly opted for the lemonade and decided to become my own coach.

With my knee surgeon’s blessing (she’s a runner, too), I started a course of physical therapy for my right knee about a week after my fall; a month later, I got the go–ahead from my hand surgeon to begin therapy for my right arm.

Physical therapy (or PT, a/k/a “Pain and Torture!”), for the uninitiated, is a course of treatment whereby trained professionals poke, prod and manipulate your damaged and highly sensitive body parts, hoping to cajole them into doing that which they’re no longer capable of doing because of an accident (in my case) or some other trauma. But if you’re willing to put in the hard and excruciatingly painful work required, then slowly, over time, your injured body parts should grow stronger and develop the range of motion and flexibility they once had...and this is my much hoped–for outcome.

PT helped me 20 years ago when I injured my knee (again, non–running-related) and underwent two knee operations. At that time, after months of blood, sweat and tears in PT, I decided I didn’t want to be a “couch potato” anymore and developed a game plan to create a new “me.” My PT and medical care ended when I was told that I had achieved “maximum benefits.” I then began working out with professional trainers and coaches and slowly, over several years, I built up my strength, endurance and aerobic capacity. I then began testing myself physically (and mentally) by competing in duathlons, sprint triathlons and road races, taking up rock climbing and becoming scuba certified. And in the spring of 1999, I took the boldest step of my life: I enrolled in the Galloway Marathon Training Program, trained for and completed the first of 5 marathons, 20+ half marathons and scores of shorter races.

And now, armed with the knowledge learned from experience – and with a leap of faith that will get me to enter a fall 1/2 marathon as my goal race! And I’m confident that even though I’m 20 years older, by following a rigorous PT regimen and returning to the gym (with my doctors’ OK), I can…and will…coach myself back to the fitness level I was at before this accident (or die trying)!

So, you may consider me down (for now), but don’t count me out! The ”Running with Ruth” columns shall continue – with more stories about my running and racing experiences accompanied by new and fabulous finish line photos!