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The Long and Winding Road Back From Injury

AJW writes about the long recovery process from a pelvic stress fracture.

By on May 27, 2022 | Leave a reply

AJW's TaproomI knew about an hour before I was supposed to finish that things weren’t right. The pain in my right hip was not the usual soreness but something deeper, a more permanent feeling. I was too stubborn to stop, but I just knew this wasn’t going to just go away.

I was 11 hours into a 12-hour race at the Red Barn Challenge in rural Pennsylvania‚ about which I previously wrote. It was a beautiful early October day in 2021, the kind of day that just makes you want to run forever. After a short break upon completing 50 miles, I got up out of my chair and could barely put weight on my right leg. I shook it off, walked a few strides, and began to limp/jog around the course. An hour later, I was finished. I’d covered 56 miles in 12 hours. I was content.

Red Barn Challenge Becky Campbell Photography- AJW and Tom Crayton v2

AJW (left) and Tom Crayton rest after the 2021 Red Barn Challenge. Photo: Becky Campbell Photography

A few days later, I could barely get out of bed. I went to work with a cane as I tried to manage the pain. I used ibuprofen — something I almost never do — to try to mask the pain. Every couple of days, I would try to run again. Some days were OK, others were horrendous. Yet, I remained in denial.

As winter set in, I kept trying to be positive. Over the holidays, I ran a bit and kept getting slower and more sore. After the new year, I resolved to do something about it.

In mid-January, I got full hip X-rays as well as metal ion tests to determine if perhaps something was awry with my surgically resurfaced hips. I sent everything to my trusted surgeon, Dr. Thomas Gross, and everything came back fine: “Well, your X-rays look perfect and your metal ion levels are completely normal. Both hips are in great shape structurally.”

As much as it was a relief to know that my implements were fine, I was still floundering with how to move on. I got a gym membership, began a sophisticated strength and mobility program, and tried to stay positive.

Finally, in early February, I went to a local sports medicine doctor and got a CT scan. After a stressful few days, he gave me a call and gave me the news: “It looks like you have a pelvic stress fracture. You need to shut things down for a while.”

At this point, I was struggling through the longest non-running period of my adult life and beginning to worry that this was it — maybe I was done with running. In a text exchange with my good friend Rob Krar, while we were making plans for his upcoming running camp in July, that all changed. After explaining to Rob my circumstance, he told me, “I had a pelvic stress fracture back in 2016. Ryan Whited at Paragon Athletics here in Flagstaff, Arizona, was a lifesaver. Want me to connect you two?”

Rob Krar on his way to winning the 2015 Western States 100

Rob Krar on his way to winning the 2015 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

A few days later, I was on the phone with Ryan, owner of Paragon Athletics. I explained, in excruciating detail, my situation and after asking me a few questions, Ryan said, “That sounds like it’s right up my alley.”

A few days later, we had our first Zoom session and Ryan gave me three exercises to start with — exercises that were intense, challenging, and have completely altered my outlook on my recovery. Now, a week into Ryan’s program, I have hope for the first time in months.

I have not, as of yet, tried to go back to running, but I am feeling remarkably better — not just physically but mentally and emotionally, as well. Slowly, the feeling of hopelessness has been lifted and after months of feeling like a victim, I feel like I can take constructive action and make progress. It’s a lesson that not only applies to my recovery but also to my entire life. That feels quite good.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Wallace brewing logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Wallace Brewing Company in Wallace, Idaho. 1910 Black Lager is a unique take on this rare variety. Light and smooth with shades of roasted chocolate, 1910 is an eminently drinkable beer with a rich, deep flavor and a super-smooth finish.

Call for Comments

  • Have you had any major or persistent injuries?
  • What was your road to recovery like, both physically and mentally?
California trail at sunrise

A long and winding trail. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Andy Jones-Wilkins

finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.