You run long enough, and it’s bound to happen – a DNF and a running injury. I just didn’t think it would happen in Central Park during a 10K this morning, and I didn’t think the injury would include my face.
The Healthy Kidney 10K started out well enough – the day was beautiful and warmer than expected (already in the mid 60s at the 9 am start), and I was finally on the downhill of my cold that started last week. I felt pretty good considering I ran 26 miles 6 days ago, and was able to run the first three miles at about a 10:35 pace (fast for me at this point). Everything was going well! I came up the final Harlem Hill, passed the 5K mark, and was enjoying the flat stretch near the 102nd Street Transverse heading towards the reservoir. But then, BAM! My foot got caught in a little pothole, and I went down HARD. Harder than hard. I hit my face, hands, and then the rest of my body. Hard enough to rip my CW-X tights. Hard enough to make me wonder if I broke my cell phone around my waist. Hard enough to make me worried I broke the bones in my face. And apparently hard enough to give me a concussion. But I’m getting ahead of myself. (Blame my recent concussion.)
Right after I went down, there were plenty of kind runners who stopped to make sure nobody ran over me and to make sure I was ok. I kept saying I was ok, and eventually I rolled over, got up, and limped to the side because I didn’t want to cause a(nother) accident. My friend Ben was actually there, too! He was running by and came upon my prostrate figure and recognized my Discover Bank Delaware Marathon hat (which, by the way, I got blood on – it was the first time I wore it, too)!
Props to the on-point race volunteer who immediately radioed for an ambulance the second I fell, saying “runner down,” which sounds very dramatic, but was effective. I was sitting on the grass next to the course when the medics arrived (probably not more than 1 or 2 minutes after my fall – it was really fast). I assured them I was ok, until I suddenly wasn’t – my vision started to go dark. That’s when I really started to worry. I’m too youngish to die!
Originally I thought I would walk the rest of the race – I clearly had no idea how bad my fall was. But when the world started to go dim, they offered to transport me to the med tent, and I accepted – I didn’t want to pass out 30 seconds after they left and cause a huge hassle. So, onto the stretcher and into the ambulance I went! It was… embarrassing. And it felt almost like I was playing out a scenario for class, except I was actually injured. The ambulance was a small “van” ambulance, so it was cozy inside, but still familiar. I feel like I’ve jinxed myself by becoming an EMT – just as I’ve started working on an ambulance, for the first time in my life I find myself as a patient in the back of one.
After a leisurely ride down the west side of the park, my vision had cleared up and I was feeling beat up but better. They delivered me to the med tent where Dr. Stu (the head NYRR doctor who I knew from training sessions, but who of course didn’t know me) checked me out. He pushed on the bones all over my face and determined nothing was broken (thank god). He said I had started blacking out probably because I had a mild concussion. And as I sat there icing my face, I finally noticed how much my ankle was hurting. I got an ice wrap for that, too, and after sitting there for more than enough time to make sure I probably wasn’t going to die from an aneurism or whatever scary fake medical thing I was worried about, finally made my way out of the park with my friend Ben, who had found me at the finish.
I painfully, slowly limped out of the park, still thinking my ankle was just bruised or something, but I did take a cab for the 5 blocks home. Only after a quick shower did I realize just how bad my ankle was – it was stiff, painful, and looked like there was a lemon implanted underneath my skin. As a first-time ankle sprainer, this really freaked me out. I thought maybe something had ruptured and there was blood pooling under my skin or something – there’s also a small bruise and cut on the side of my foot, probably from the jagged edge of the pothole (and I suspect there’s a tear in my shoe, too). So, I immediately emailed Ben and started googling “sprained ankle.”
After icing it and wrapping it, I still wasn’t satisfied with my self-treatment options, and since it hurt so much that walking was incredibly difficult, I decided to go to a nearby urgent care center to get an aircast (as recommended by Ben). After a surprisingly long wait, the doctor there checked me out, pushed on the bones around my foot and ankle, thankfully determined without an X-ray that there were no broken bones, and diagnosed me with a sprained ankle. He put me in an aircast, gave me instructions to take naproxen (aka Aleve) and to only ice 3 times a day, and sent me off with some crutches. The crutches help a lot, but I quickly learned that walking with crutches is about 80 times more difficult than just walking, and I feel like I got a full day’s workout by crutching the two blocks home.
Now I’m sitting on my couch with my leg propped up, feeling some sweet relief from the painkiller (although it still hurts, it doesn’t hurt like a mofo anymore), and feeling both angry at and sad for myself. I know “these things happen” but it was a stupid mistake to step into that pothole – I should have been looking down more than up. And now I can’t work my EMT shift tomorrow, nor can I run the Brooklyn Half Marathon next weekend, not to mention that I can’t walk or run for several days (plus the pain, plus the current inconvenience, plus the lifetime threat of re-injury and arthritis (“In a 10-year follow-up of patients suffering ankle sprains, 72 percent showed signs of arthritis in the ankle joint.”). Ugh! (And yes, the more I read online about this, the more freaked out I’m getting.)
The funny thing is that my face feels (and looks) bruised but it’s definitely not the most painful or lasting injury I sustained in my fall – it reminds me of the “distracting injury” thing we learned about at EMT camp. Of course, hitting your face is more life-threatening than spraining your ankle, so it didn’t distract in that way, but it certainly made me ignore my ankle for a long time. (“But not anymore, b*tch!” said my ankle just now.)
But before I start feeling too sorry for myself, I do want to send out a big internet “thank you” to all the runners and medical people who helped me today. It was seriously nice of Ben to stick with me for so long, both at mile 3 and at the finish, and for emailing me a lot of info about sprained ankles.
So, please pray to the running gods for me that I’ll recover in a relatively rapid fashion… Till then, I’ll see you on the couch.
Have you ever sprained your ankle? Have you ever visited an urgent care? Have you ever ridden in the back of an ambulance that wasn’t for your job? Share in the comments!