a hope and a future

Well I am just ecstatic at some great news I heard the other day!!

And it is in regards to running.

Know I realize that that running may not be something everyone will equate the words ‘ecstatic’ and ‘great news’ with, but I do. So I have been trying to tell anyone who will listen to me about my feelings of good fortune!

Because in case you don’t know this about me, I love running!!! I write about it often and I love the analogies I can find between running and my faith. But I have had some rough times over the past couple of years dealing with injuries. And even at this moment, my running has had to be put on hold because of problems I am having with my right foot.

And in an attempt to make this post quicker to get through (should you only want to know why I am so happy), I have set it up so you can choose just how much you want to read : ) If you want to reduce your intake of my running history, then skip the text in italics below and pick up reading again after the 2nd set of asterisks. Or if you want to bring yourself up to speed with everything, running woes and goals, you can read it all.

I really started getting into running a couple months after Dee and Gracie were born (in 2005) and I became quite addicted. Three years later, I ran my 1st marathon (a very positive experience for me!) But with all the extra mileage I had been accumulating, I started having really bad knee issues. An orthopedic told me that I had Iliotibial band syndrome (aka ITB) and that I would have to take months off from running and do physical therapy before I would recover. It was unpleasant news and it really sucked the months that I was off. But I was still determined to run another marathon and try to reach my goal of getting my time under 4 hours.

However, the 2nd marathon I tried to run just didn’t work out for me. Not having enough months to really develop a solid weekly mileage after my ITB recovery time and with the race day having extremely warm temperatures (for November) and crazy humidity (two of my kryptonits you might say), I had an VERY negative experience.

The time I ended up with was awful, but it didn’t keep me knocked down. I was more motivated than ever to get back on my feet and really push for a faster time in a future race. I really wanted to educate myself on becoming faster and I was willing to do whatever it would take to get there.

I worked with my brother-in-law a lot on training programs I should follow. I looked to him for advice because with some tweaks in his own training, in a year’s time he was able to shave more than an hour off of his average marathon times! So at his advice (which is extremely wise!), I began to up my mileage and I started adding interval/speed training to my regime. I was gaining a whole new joy about running. I even came across these crazy new Vibram Five Fingers shoes that I researched for a month before trying them out because I really was convinced they would help me become a better runner.

But that joy was short lived. Last April, parts of my body were not up to all the change in intensity with running and I had to go back to an orthopedic to see why I had so much shooting pain in my right foot. Fortunately, it was not a stress fracture. But there was some serious stress going on in my metatarsal area and I had to take 10 weeks off from running.

This was not great news for me because in the middle of August, I was going to run a half marathon in Colorado. And then in October, there was another half marathon I was going to run in New Braunfels. I still tried to keep a positive attitude about it and I honored that recovery time. But when my 10 weeks off was over, I was ready to hit the training hard.

Foolish choice, Jo!

One would think I would have learned about easing back into running and the stress that can occur to the body leading to injury (I know that now). But I didn’t think that way. I thought no pain means I am good to go.

I trained hard for 5 weeks for the Georgetown to Idaho Springs (GTIS) half-marathon in August. Yet it turns out, my result was the slowest half I had run yet! Granted, the altitude was above 8000ft and it was a hilly course and it was after a week of hiking with family and friends in the mountains… But those were not valid excuses in my mind. I had been doing great things with my training. New and effective things. I should have been faster!

I thought surely the next half marathon I was signed up for would be better. I would be able to piggy back on my GTIS training and that would mean there would be almost 4 months total of training time for the Chosen Marathon in October. I was ready to get my mileage way up to more than 40 a week so I would be ready.


I had to say good bye to those hopes because right after I got back from Colorado, I started having a funny feeling that something was not right in my foot. I went to another doctor to get it checked out. I was told I could run on it, but I had to reduce my mileage big time. And if I did start to feel pain, I had to stop altogether.

Like a good patient, I followed that advice and only ran once a week to train for the October half. But my time goal suffered because of the lack in running. The race result gave me my first 2 hour half marathon. That was so sad for me because it was almost 10 minutes slower than the first one I had run 3 years ago, back when I didn’t have training knowledge and a fancy running watch.

I knew I really needed time off from running, again, so that my foot could fully recover. I vowed to really take it slow and ease back into training. So it was too bad for me that a week later (this is early November), I had foot pain once again.

I was finally fortunate to find an incredible doctor at Austin Foot and Ankle, a doctor that wants his patients to meet their sports-related goals and get there injury free.

To my appointment I brought in my whole running history starting with last November (thanks to dailymile for all the logging capability) and I showed the doctor details of the timing with my increase in training last February and my stress reaction issues that followed. I talked about how I seemed to be getting slower and slower with my paces even though I was training harder, and I discussed the goals I wanted of eventually getting my weekly milage up above 40 miles (maybe even 50 & 60), and of someday having a Boston Marathon Qualifying time.

With x-rays, and stance examination, and foot structure/appearance, he analyzed everything with regards to my feet and my running. He was able to explain that my feet (without proper support) are not suited for running. Apparently I have hammered toes (think deformed fingers that point downward, like claws), crazy high arches, and zero fat padding on my fore foot; all of which are a sure combination for injuries! So even if I had never tried out the Vibrams (which I only wore 3 times and with short miles), injuries to my foot would have happened sooner or later. Just by increasing my weekly milage and introducing speed intervals and striders into my training, my feet were not cut out to not take the extra impact, and would eventually fail me (which they did; but I still think the Vibrams sped up that process!)

The main solution will be orthotics for my shoes when I run. But also I have a long time of slowly easing back into running, once I get them. While I wait, I am only allowed to swim and do a stationary bike (which really means only the bike because swimming is out for me in the winter).

And even though he suggested it will be a year before I can even begin to think about training for a marathon, I am still crazy ecstatic with this news.

It is giving me a sure hope and a future with regards to my running!

For the first time ever, I feel that I have gone to a knowledgeable medical source that will develop a plan for me to safely arrive at my running goals. I can be patient in this slow recovery because I know what can await for me on the horizon!

And fortunately, my recent time in the hospital easily allowed us to meet this year’s insurance deductible, so my $400 orthotics will be covered 100%!

*ps, if you made it through this post, you are a champ! And I truly appreciate you reading it all :-)

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5 Responses to a hope and a future

  1. Signe says:

    I am really happy for you, Jo, this is great news. I’m also happy for me, because your experience has given me hope that there is something that can be done about my foot pain too! Thanks for sharing this info.

    • jvanvleet says:

      Thanks, Signe! I so hope you don’t have as messed up feet as I do! But if you do, it would be great for you to get them checked out from someone who knows runner’s feet and appreciates their goals You are on such a role with your running and getting so fast! I’d hate for you to have long set backs, too.

  2. asuh says:

    I am pretty sure that I have non-running feet as well- I have super long skinny toes and my feet are so narrow. Halim always makes fun of me. Maybe this is what is standing in between me and a Boston qualifying time too! (or maybe it’s that I haven’t really run in three years . . .) :)

  3. Amber says:

    Awesome news Jo! I’m excited for you! I know what it is like to love to run and to miss it so much when you can’t!

  4. leah says:

    Matt’s WHOLE family wears orthotics, including him! He swears by them. Glad you can will get to run again. :)

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