“Injuries suck mate. Don’t make it worse.” Thanks doc, but if ONLY I had heeded this fair warning. What I initially thought was just shin splints would later turn into full blown stress fractures. And why? Because I’m a hard-headed, over determined fool that didn’t listen to my body or my doctor. All those pats on the back, beer toasts and comments on “how tough” I must be were not worth sitting in a cast, NOT racing, for weeks.
So let’s go over how not to make an injury worse by thinking you’re a badass.
Rule #1 – Know the difference between “injury pain” and more common”training pain”. Under most circumstance it isn’t worth it to train or compete when you know it will make an existing injury “hurt”. That’s your body telling you something. Listen. Continuing what you are doing is putting your goals and possibly your health in jeopardy. No, you are not being a badass, you’re being a dumb ass.
Rule #2 – Forget the Money. No one likes to pay to enter a race and then NOT race, but if you’re inured, even in the slightest, kiss it goodbye. You aren’t likely to post a record time and you may land yourself in the doctor’s office with additional bills.
Rule #3 – There will be another race. I’ve literally heard people say “I’ve training too hard for this not to compete”. Really? You think maybe you trained TOO hard and that’s why you’re broken down right now. And again, do you really think you’re going to be happy with your performance whilst injured?
Rule #4 – You’re not proving anything. “Pushing through the pain” of an injury doesn’t make you better and it doesn’t prove anything. It takes a much stronger person to back away from their goals and give their body time to heal.
So are there any times it is acceptable to compete regardless of injury?
I suppose that will differ from person to person. There are those rare, once in a lifetime occasions where I can understand racing with an injury. Examples would be anything from racing with a dying relative or for a cause where someone is terminally ill. Perhaps there is a race in your hometown or it will be your only chance to ever participate in a major marathon. Maybe you only intend on training for, and competing in ONE race. In any of those situations I think pushing on would be the right choice… just know that there will be consequences.
In the end, the reasoning for racing injured should be one of deep personal meaning that goes beyond proving something or trying to appear “tough”.