Preface: This is, in a nutshell, my broken hip story, start to “finish”. I get tons of clicks on the blog from folks googling hip pinning and recovery and recovery times and etc. Read this if you want my whole story about how long it took me to get back running. (Yes, googler, this means you! Feel free to comment or email me via the links on the page if you’d like more info or just to talk about your injury)
Not every day is a good day, there are days when it gives me a fit. I have “phantom pains” frequently. I don’t really know how to explain them, other than to say they are infrequent and not severe, and if they do hurt badly it doesn’t last long. Most days are uneventful, I get up go running and then go to work. I still do my old factory work job, no problems there, but I do notice it a little more quickly when steel toe boots need to be replaced. I seem to get more pains when they’ve gotten worn down.
I think my original problem was a stress fracture that was a result of bad bad form running (more like sprinting) on a downhill. I just pounded it out, and I really truly believe that’s where my problem started, even though I didn’t experience any pain for a week or more afterwards. I’m not yet as fast as I was before I broke my hip, but I also haven’t pushed the envelope as hard as before either. Even now on a steep downhill I will catch myself not opening up my stride, I fight the hill. I won’t let myself break loose anymore.
As of this post, it’s been 4 years since the surgery; and I’m doing great! I’ve ran 2 half marathons this year (2015) and have a full marathon coming up in May of 2015.
This was written as an entry for an award for the Martinsville 1/2 Marathon in 2011, and is formatted as such. I wasn’t writing this for an essay or for a blog post, it was an email to the race director personally. He had been after me to tell my story since he first heard about it. I kept postponing it, I didn’t think I deserved an award for being a fool running a race. At any rate, I submitted it, and won. Go figure.
Click around some here on the blog to read more about the recovery and training and current schedules for running and racing.
Here’s my story–
Back last October, I caught the distance bug. I ran my first half marathon. It was the Cannonball Run Race in Greensboro NC. I had a pretty good race, I finished 78th out of 418 runners with a time of 1hour 45 minutes. I decided that for my next half (which would have been my hometown half, here in Danville VA) I would train harder and do better. I got up to running a 13 mile long run every week between the Cannonball Run and the Danville Half. Then 3 days before the race I felt a small twinge of pain in my right hip after a pretty hard 4 mile run to shake the nervousness about the upcoming race on Saturday. I shook it off as an improperly stretched muscle, and went ahead with the race.
Saturday morning started off like any other race day. Up at the crack of dawn, can’t eat like I know I should, general race jitters. I warm up, no pain. The gun goes off–I took off in the lead pack. I was in 5th place when the pain set back in. It was before I hit the first mile marker. I kept on trucking it, promising myself a couple weeks rest after this race. Just finish this race strong. (I was gunning for a sub 1:35 time). By the third mile, my smile was gone, but the hip pain wasn’t strong enough to slow me down.
Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 I stopped for the first time, on the race course, and did a hip abductor stretch. Confident it’s a muscle cramp, I get up and keep going. Up until this point, I was well on my way to reaching my goal time. But it was all downhill for my race from that point. I slowed from 7 minute miles to 10 minute miles. I came limping/walking/hopping through the 6 mile water stop. It was in a big parking lot. I remember 3 or 4 people on the sideline encouraging me to throw in the towel. I can remember one guy above the rest saying “A DNF today is better than 6 months of no racing because you finished”. I wanted to finish. I was 36 minutes into the race at the 5 mile point. I told myself, even walking, I can beat the 3 hour course time limit. I kept reminding myself of the Chilean miner who had just finished the NYC marathon like a week before, with a messed up knee. I told myself that if he can run a few miles a day in a mine for 3 months and still run a marathon, my gosh I can finish this half no matter what.
Up the only major hill in the Danville course I went. Man let me tell ya, that hill is ROUGH. On the way up, one of the course volunteers on a bicycle stopped me and asked if I was ok. I said yes, it’s just a muscle crap in my hip. He offered first aid. I took an ice pack and kept going. A mile later, I see him again. This time, I was in substantially more pain. I’m not running anymore, more of a hop/walk trying to make progress. My last mile lap time was 16 minutes and some change. This time I took an advil and another ice pack. I’m confident again that I can finish now that I’ve taken something to help ease the pain. I try to run. Just like the last few times I stopped and started again, it hurts worse to start back up. I trot maybe 100 yards. I’m finally contemplating quitting. But then I saw the 8 mile marker. I can go that far! I know I can! I run. it’s painful to a degree I haven’t experienced before. I stop to stretch.
By this time, most of the racers have passed me by, and most of what’s left are the “I’m going to finish this darn thing no matter what” crowd. –that’s an awesome crowd to be in, by the way. They’re friendly, non-competitive, very talkative, and encouraging. A familiar voice calls my name, it’s a friend I met at an earlier race. She asks am I ok. I say no. She offered me water while another lady beside her helped me off the ground. The lady with her promptly threw her arm around me and said–“My race doesn’t matter. I’ll finish with you”
And we walked. I used her for a crutch. I made it less than a tenth of a mile past that 8 mile marker. I collapsed on the ground. I was fortunate enough not to have to stay there long, a Danville city police officer happened to be coming down the road at about that time. They flagged him down for me, helped me hobble into his patrol car, and he gave me a ride back to the start of the race.
At the start/finish line, the crowd I should have finished with was just arriving. Two guys carried me to a massage table, per my request, to try to massage out this awful awful muscle cramp. 20 minutes later, I’m still no better.
That’s when my wife decided it was time to go the doctor. I was extremely reluctant, but she insisted. We went to Primecare where the doctor did an x-ray and decided it was a broken hip. I argue with him and tell him he’s nuts. He sends me to the ER to have an MRI done of the leg to be certain, and while I’m still waiting for results from that, they start admitting me to the ER for surgery. I still didn’t have a clue what was going on.
They operated that night, putting 3 pins in my hip. When asking the doctor about returning to work and running, he said 4-6 weeks before working, and 6+ months before running again. Well turns out he was wrong on both. It took 8 weeks of crutches, then a cane, then walking on my own before I could get back to work. But when I finally got there, I was still hurting some. I do factory work, so I had to be on my feet for 8 hours 6 days a week on concrete. I was really tough those first few days or a week.
Then the last week of January, 3 months after surgery, he said he wanted me to start running. Slow, short distances, but to start. 3 miles, 3 times a week for the first two weeks was all I was allowed. That left me with 6 weeks to get back into shape for the Martinsville half.
I searched the internet, and found an 8 week training plan that I thought I could pull off to get ready. It’s has me running 3 times a week, two short and a long run. This week is my longest week; the schedule has me down for two 5 mile runs and a 10 miler on Sunday. Being one to push my luck a little, I did 7 yesterday, and will race a 5k tomorrow, then run somewhere between 10-12 miles Sunday depending on how I feel. I actually plan to come to Martinsville to try and get a sneak peak of the course on Sunday.
Pitiful I am not. Sympathy isn’t what I want. Don’t feel sorry for me, please. Even on crutches and a cane, I did as much as humanly possible alone. It was a challenge then. Running seems easy in comparison. It comes a little more naturally.
But that’s my story. On day 133 after breaking my hip, I will return to running the race distance that broke me. This time, I will beat it.
“You will run. You will finish. It will be good” –Running Mantra