The Injury Bug Strikes


An internal picture of Allen's knee.

An internal picture of Allen's knee.

In 2004, I ran my first marathon, and while my time (3:50) was not quite what I had hoped, it bordered on respectable for a 38-year-old. And I learned a lot. Like, for example, when the starting gun fires, do not take off like you’re running a 5K because you will really, REALLY, regret this later in the race. I also learned that I wanted my next marathon to be flat, very flat, uber-flat, Kate Moss flat.   I wanted a marathon that was so flat you could stand on the starting line and see the entire course. 

 After taking a week or so off to recover, once I could walk down stairs again with almost no pain, I gradually resumed running. I was excited to get back on the road because now I felt like I knew how to run a more intelligent race. With some better training (namely, more mileage and a more scientific approach), it wouldn’t take a lot to get my fitness level to where it needed to be. After the right season of training, all I needed was  the right race under the right conditions, then I’d be headed to Boston.

 My friend and training partner Todd and I researched marathons and decided on the Marine Corps Marathon in DC. It was about a year out which gave us plenty of time to properly train. And the course was allegedly very flat and very fast, and the DC weather was typically perfect that time of year. I registered and sent in my $100 entry fee.

 So we ran.   That summer, just as Todd and I were seriously beginning to gear up the mileage, I made a critical rookie mistake. My brother-in-law Craig invited me to play in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. I knew this was not a particularly wise move with a marathon mere months away so I told him that I couldn’t play. But then someone from Craig’s team failed to show. He pleaded with me to play, and the truth be told, I love basketball and secretly wanted to. So I did. And we played well, winning game after game and making it all the way to the finals.

 Then it happened. Leaping (and I use the term lightly because at 39, the spring in my legs were long since gone) for a rebound, I landed on someone else’s foot and badly twisted my ankle. It took all my willpower to refrain from screaming obscenities (it was a church tournament, otherwise I would have screamed things that would have made sailors blush). The ankle swelled badly as I hobbled around just enough to finish the game, which, of course, we lost.

 As serious a setback as this was, I didn’t relenquish hope yet. My ankle was pretty badly sprained, but not severely so. The marathon was still a few months away – with some luck, I could heal, rehab the ankle, and resume running before I lost much cardio fitness.

 The next week, I iced the ankle extensively. It seemed to heal well, and quickly. Within two weeks, I was running again. It appeared that I had dodged a bullet.

 But over the next couple of months, it soon became apparent that something was wrong. I would run, seemingly without incident, but the following day, my right knee would hurt. I iced it a great deal, but the pain persisted. I cut back on my mileage and yet the next-day-knee-pain remained. I took time off but the pain did not. I quit speed work, but the pain, like that loud obnoxious guy at every party, kept hanging around.

 I tried to ignore it. Mere weeks before the scheduled marathon date, I ran the Cannonball Run Half Marathon in Greensboro and felt okay.  But the next day, like Poe’s raven, the pain alighted upon my knee, “perched, and sat, and nothing more.”  I broke down and went to see my doctor who guessed that I had a torn meniscus and then sent me to an orthopedic doctor specializing in sport-related injuries. After x-rays and an MRI, my doctor’s original diagnosis was confirmed – I had a tear in the meniscus of my right knee that required surgery to repair.

 Qualifying for Boston would have to wait. Todd, our friend Dean, and another friend/co-worker/marathoner, Steve, all went to DC and ran the Marine Corps marathon. I stayed at home and followed their progress on the web. Todd picked up my packet for me. Until recently, when I finally donated it to Goodwill, I called the Marine Corps T-shirt my ‘$100 t-shirt’.

 I had the surgery. I went to physical therapy once a week for a couple of  months. I went through the motions, followed the therapists’ orders, and did the exercises, but the knee, although repaired, bothered me enough that I no longer ran on it. And while I managed to limp through a 5k about a year later, my time stank (24:05, my slowest 5K ever) and pain persisted in the knee. It would be years before I would race again…



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “The Injury Bug Strikes”

  1. aaron linz Says:


    Saw your comments on Theoden’s blog. Saw your link and headed over to your blog. Old NC State guy. Nice! I think you were before Devorak’s time even right? Owner of Charlotte Running Store. We would love to have someone like you in our running club, Charlotte Running Club ( We are growing rapidly and continue to bring on more sponsors. Our true official launch race is the Greekfest 5k but we will have a lot of us out at the 4 miler. I am easy to find. Bright red shorts, tatoo of a monkey on my right shoulder and bald!

    We have including myself at least 10-15 runners who just started cranking up our marathon preparation for fall. Several are running Marine Corps and OBX. We have a 10-15 mile run up at Davidson Sunday am if you are interested. We are trying to grow the group for all ages and abilities so that we have enough groups for various skills to run with. Happy running and good luck Saturday am.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: