In His Own Words: Will Shaughnessy

Hello running people!

In this blog I wanted to share a bit of a personal story much like a blog written by my fellow milesplit blogger Grace Iltis. Definitely worth the read if you haven't already. It is also a story of injury, and it began freshman year during outdoor track.

I'll set the scene up for you a bit. I was a very eager and excited freshman looking to prove myself and compete with the best upperclassmen runners in the state. Things were going great too; I was putting in more miles than ever, I was training consistently, and I was beginning to hit some decent times. Then one day, two weeks before the KVAC championship, I felt a dull ache in my foot after a hard track workout. Just a little inflammation I reassured myself, nothing to be concerned about.

I was naive, and thought nothing could possibly get in the way of my success that season. I embarked on an 8 mile run the next day, and when I returned the pain was much, much worse. It's fine, I thought, just throw some ice on it and it'll feel better tomorrow. As I limped through the hallway at school the next day, I realized maybe this was something to be a tad bit concerned about. I met with my doctor a couple days later, and he came to the conclusion I was likely experiencing a "stress reaction" in one of my metatarsals.

When he cautioned that this injury could become a stress fracture, I began to panic a bit. How could this happen to me? I was training smart, not overdoing it. And why now? Right as I'm beginning to see my hard work pay off?

Fast forward a week later and I'm on the starting line for the 1600m at KVAC's after a week of running with lots of pain and lots of limping around. I got out well and wasn't feeling too much pain until 900 meters into the race. I began to slow down as the pain increased and people began to pass me and slowly pull away. At 1000m all the pain and frustration hit me hard, and for the first time in my life, I stepped off the track in tears and lay down on the turf. Defeated.

After a week or two of moping and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to redirect my attention to XC season in the fall. After all, it's only a stress REACTION, I just needed to cross train for 3 or 4 weeks and then I'll be able to get right back out there no problemo. Or so I thought.

After a month or so of limping around and the pain not getting any better, I went and got an MRI to find out for sure what was going on. Surprise! Turns out I actually had a serious stress fracture, and would be out around 4-6 more weeks. Aaaaaand, we're back to sulking in the pit of despair.

I tried my best to stay positive. I cross trained A LOT, and as the days went by, I still didn't seem to be improving. But finally August came around and my doctor said I could give running a try. I was thrilled! Sure I was a little behind everyone else who had trained over the summer, but I was in decent enough shape from cross training, and come the championship season I'll be ready to go! Or so I thought.

I wanted to be certain I wouldn't reinjure the stress fracture, so my progression back to running was way overly cautious and I was super paranoid about every little increase in speed or volume. Sometimes I'd feel a tiny bit of pain and panic would overtake me. I'd shut down that run for the day and go home, I wasn't about to take any risks. After about a month of slow running and walking intervals, I tried running a full 3 miles for the first time and felt amazing. I was running 3 miles every other day with no pain, but then surprise!

I felt a completely different pain in my foot that was too bad to run through. That became a common occurrence. Pain goes away, begin running again, new pain appears, running stops. Repeat. I was able to run the last couple XC meets of the season, but all the new pains I was having eventually became too much and I was once again sidelined.

I watched as my team ran at states and was bummed I wasn't out there with them, but was ready to once again refocus myself on the next season. I began to slowly build up my mileage again to get ready for what I thought would be an injury free comeback season on the indoor oval.

One day after a nice evening run I felt some pretty substantial pain in both of my shins. I was once again left discouraged, depressed, and unmotivated. I became stuck running a very small amount of mileage where every little increase in speed or volume would cause me a fair amount of pain.

Fast forward through an indoor season filled with ice, stretches, and disappointment in my own individual performance, and my self diagnosed "shin splints" still showed no signs of going away.

My mileage was a bit more during outdoor than it was during indoor, but still not as much as I wanted it to be, and some days I still felt a lot of pain just walking around the house. I began to seek help from some professionals after around 5 or 6 months of constant pain. I saw a physical therapist who told me I needed to strengthen more and fix some running mechanics. I did that, and definitely saw some improvement, but I was still limited in how much I could run and still wasn't free of the pain. I made a long overdue appointment with an osteopath as the outdoor track season was nearing its end, and after examining my shins he surmised that I was experiencing a form of stress injury. Not again, I thought, I just couldn't deal with another stress fracture. He recommended I start taking some vitamin D supplements to increase my bone metabolism. I didn't have too high hopes for this solution but wouldn't you know it, I was finally pain free after a couple weeks! I was able to run KVAC's, states, and even New Englands completely pain free, and even though I didn't hit any of my goal times for the season(although the sub 10 wasn't bad) I was just happy to be out there competing without obsessing over every little twinge I felt in my shins.

Now that I've got some good training under my belt this XC season, I am beyond pumped to run those championship season meets and hopefully compete with some of Maine's best this XC season! Moral of the story:

  1. If you feel pain that isn't going away or is getting worse STOP RUNNING.

  2. Seek help immediately from people who know what they're talking about, make sure you know what you're dealing with and how you can treat it.

  3. Stay positive! Don't fall into the pit of despair like I did, just do what needs to be done, work hard, and it'll pay off eventually.

I hope you were able to take something away from this blog, good luck to anyone reading this who is experiencing injury, and don't give up!

Run happy,