Ever since my Ragnar Relay, I’ve been dealing with some IT Band issues. While I understand this is a common injury, it absolutely scares the pants off me. I began running (very casually) right after I graduated high school. I was a pretty seasonal athlete – winters in Syracuse weren’t super conducive to running, but did the occasional 5k, 10k, Tough Mudder, and just generally tried to find running friends to join on the track.
After my junior year of college, I decided to start finally utilizing my outrageously expensive college tuition and went to the pool. My first day, I wore a bikini, didn’t have goggles or a swim cap, and just kind of flailed my arms and legs around from one side of the pool to the other. I suited up appropriately after a few days of neck pain, when one day I was approached by a guy in the lane next to me about joining the Syracuse University Triathlon Club. To make a long story short, I joined and suffered through two triathlons – one olympic and one sprint, before realizing I hated biking more than I hate broccoli. I ended up befriending the captain, Laura Beachy, who is one of the most amazing, hilarious, and wonderful human beings I’ve ever encountered. She and I became running partners and set out to run the Pittsburgh marathon.
Beachy and I trained together and kept each other accountable, no matter if we were hungover and it was 10 degrees outside. After about a month and a half of training, I started to develop IT Band issues. She ended up also injuring herself, so neither of us actually ran the Pittsburgh Marathon, but she was much more fortunate in overcoming her injury and went on to run the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run not too long after that. If you want an entertaining recap by a hilarious woman, I suggest you check out her Runners World article.
My IT Band issues continued for quite some time. I ended up cutting back on running much more than I’d have liked to, and went to a (horrible) physical therapy place that shall remain nameless. They basically told me to stretch and try taking time off of running, which I did for months. Then I moved to Boston for grad school and was aching to get out and explore this amazing new city with nothing but my two feet… And Google Maps, because let’s be real, Boston is confusing as hell to navigate. I tried running again with no luck, so I started to go to the Boston University Physical Therapy clinic, and haven’t been able to shake them since.
At BUPT my therapist recommended I focus on foam rolling, stretching, and strengthening exercises. He wasn’t sure if it would be enough, but didn’t want to refer me to a surgeon until we had exhausted all options. After months of PT, playing around with adjusting my stride, getting new shoes, and countless other tactics, we decided to see if a surgeon had any opinions on the matter. I saw Dr. Nicoletta at BU Sports Medicine and he realized right away that my kneecap was crooked, and I needed a lateral release. This basically consisted of him cutting through some tissue to allow my kneecap to straighten and release the tension on the outside of my knee. I got the surgery in late October of 2013, not a month before the Philadelphia Marathon, which Matt and I had signed up for together as both of our first marathons. Obviously, I didn’t run it, and I wouldn’t finish my first marathon until about a year and a half later.
The recovery went super well – I was extremely diligent about my physical therapy appointments and home exercises, and was anxious to start distance training. It was especially difficult to watch Matt, a fairly new runner, become completely immersed in the sport I loved but was seemingly unfit to do. Watching him fall in love with distance running only made me focus more energy into my recovery so that I could join him and enjoy not only my favorite sport, but doing that sport with my favorite guy! It was a long few months of recovery, but in April I finally ran my first post-surgery race, the B.A.A. 5k. It was slow, and not completely pain free, but damn did it feel good to finally be out there again.
After that, training took off and I completed my first half marathon in December 2014, and my first marathon in May of 2015. Everything has felt great up until the Ragnar Relay a few weeks ago, and now my IT Band is irritated again. So, you can imagine why I’m absolutely terrified that this could turn into a bigger issue. For now I will ice, stretch, foam roll, cut back on my mileage, and focus on yoga. I’ve got the Marine Corps Marathon coming up in October, and my last training plan was ruined by a bout of tendinitis/bad shin splint that landed me in a boot for the month leading up to my race, so I’m going to be much more conservative with pushing myself and my body. I need to learn to listen closely to my body and learn my limits. It’s hard living with a running robot, but I have to recognize I am but a silly, injury-prone human being.
If you’ve struggled with any IT Band issues, I’d love to hear about your recovery. You never know, maybe your trick could help a gimp like me get back on the road to my next marathon!