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From Shin Splints to Surgery



I am kind of in shock that I'm writing this post, but also, there's so much relief, joy, and healing behind it all. This has been such a long, long journey but God has been in the midst of every single twist and turn, and I'm oh so grateful.


Let me start at the beginning.


At the beginning of freshman year, I was so excited for my first ever high school cross country season. I was running with great people and great coaches. I actually had potential - I wasn't the fastest, but I worked hard and was improving massively.


And then, a month into the season, at the end of a race (maybe the third race, at this point), my calves were super duper tight and no matter how much I tried to stretch, they would not release. The pain eventually subsided that night, thank goodness. But a few days later, we were helping out at the middle school cross country meet, and as I was trying to get a little workout in, I started having terrible pain in my shins. I ended up in tears (which eventually became very common) and my coach diagnosed me with shin splints.


That night began months and months of searching for things to fix my shin pain. We got new shoes, insoles, shin sleeves, I started icing regularly and developed a fifteen minute stretching routine. I started rolling out and taking epsom salt baths, and eventually, cut back on my training.


But no matter what we tried, the shin pain would not go away.


As track season rolled around, my coaches and I anticipated this season to be full of PRs and minimal pain, but that was not the case. I couldn't run at all without pain, and after every race, I would lay on the field crying because it hurt so bad. Again, my training was reduced and I tried a million new things to at least reduce the pain.


So after track ended, my disappointment started to rise. I wasn't running as fast as I knew I could, as far as I knew my body could take me if I wasn't in so much pain all the time. I entered summer conditioning ready to heal and dominate, but if you haven't figured out the theme yet - that didn't quite happen. The shin pain didn't disappear during summer training, and it definitely decided to stick around for the cross country season, back and worse than before. I still managed to run varsity, but I was at least two minutes slower every single race than I was freshman season. I found myself unable to complete most of the workouts, and my coaches graciously created a modified training schedule for me to follow.


This cross country season was so defeating - I so desperately wanted to prove that my brain was stronger than my body, that I could run without pain, that I deserved my spot on varsity. Despite the prayers and many, many attempts at fixing it, the healing didn't come.


So post-season, I went to an orthopedic doctor for the first time, to try and find some answers. Immediately, at the first appointment, he told me that shin splints weren't the cause of my pain - which is what we thought it was this whole time. I had some concerns that it was a stress fracture, but he said it wasn't that either.


He thought I had exercise induced compartment syndrome.


Which is a fancy way of saying that I had pressure building up in my shins, and instead of my legs regulating it like they should, the pressure would just keep building and building to cause all this pain.


And, the only way to fix it is surgery.


Talk about shocker. That's the last thing any runner wants to hear.


I went back in to do some tests, to double check that this syndrome is actually what I have, and it most definitely was a correct diagnosis. (Before I ran, the pressure in my shins was at a 23. After I ran, it was at an 82. It's supposed to stay the same before and after your run. Not to mention that 50 is a high pressure, so my legs definitely went above and beyond.)


Honestly, at this point, I was just so relieved to find an answer, to find a solution to fix my pain. At this point, we actually have hope that I can run track with minimal to no pain. And that is such a blessing.


As I'm retelling my story, I'm blown away by all the good that has come from this painful situation. I have incredible coaches, who I've built amazing relationships with. I have an incredible team, who has supported me and cheered me on every step of the way, who have become my people, my community. I have an incredible, incredible family who has never missed a race, and occasionally carried me after the finish line.


I'm so thankful for what God has taught me through the pain, both physical and mental.


I've learned that my identity does not come from what I do, how well I can perform, or whether or not I live up to the "standards" I put on myself. I've learned that it's okay to rest, that it's okay not to be the best at everything. I've learned how to communicate my needs and take care of my body, even if sometimes that means making sacrifices. I've learned how to push my body past what I think I can, and strengthen my mind in the process. I've learned how to cheer on and support my teammates at their best when I'm at my worst. I've learned how to put my team above myself.


And all of this is a journey. None of these lessons are complete, and some of them I'll probably have to keep learning for the rest of my life. But even in the pain, I can so clearly see that God was working in massive ways, and I'm so grateful. And I want to remind you that even in your pain, whether that be physical, mental, or emotional, God is still working in your life too, and He's creating a beautiful masterpiece through what seems like only broken pieces.

 

The surgery went well, and I'm so grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses who made the entire process as low-stress as possible. My mom and nana were right by my side the whole time, and the rest of my family has been so supportive and helpful as I heal. As I'm writing this, I'm walking with crutches and trying to manage my pain, but I know that God is writing a beautiful story of healing and recovery right now. I truly feel so thankful.


How have you seen God working in your life, or the lives of someone you love, to bring healing and redemption? I'd love to hear it in the comments below!



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