This week, I finally got the x-ray results of my hip. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news because my doctor said he would only call if there were a problem. Since I had my x-ray at the beginning of August and hadn’t heard from him, I assumed everything was fine. What I didn’t know was he was on holiday for a few weeks so he wouldn’t see the results until the end of August.
Deep down, I knew that my life as a runner needed to change. Last year’s MRI showed indicators of osteoarthritis but, at that time, there was nothing to worry about. My doctor told me to keep doing what I was doing: run, walk, cycle, yoga, keep moving, stay active. I listened but now, 18 months later, I have an official diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
I can’t say that I am surprised. During the spring, my left hip always cramped up when I sat too long and I needed more time to warm up when I ran. The most recent indicator that there is a problem was a stabbing twinge I felt in the joint at the top of my thigh during a tempo run. While returning from the two weeks of rest that followed, I knew that I had to slow down my pace. It was clear that my aging body could not keep up with what I expected it to do.
On Tuesday, my doctor told me that I have visible osteophytes, basically bone spurs, along the joint. That is the cause of the constant pain from sitting and the stiffness I get when I stand up or change the type of movement, such as picking up a piece of paper off the floor, changing certain positions too quickly in yoga class or moving from a walking to jogging to running gait. When I asked what I can do, he told me that I am doing all of the right things; I’m exercising, I don’t have to worry about my weight and I have regular physiotherapy. Then he said, “You’re not going to like this, but I don’t think you should be running. Swimming is easier on the joints.”
“But I have been trying some different things that seem to be easier on my body. I’m doing a lot of cyciing which is easier on the joints. And I am running on softer surfaces like the trails and am making sure that I am not running too fast. I find that a slower pace helps a lot.” He countered with “Trails have uneven surfaces so you need to be careful. You don’t want to fall.”
“I’m on flatter trails. They aren’t technical. And I am starting to transition to Hokas. A lot of my older friends who have joint or bone issues are wearing them and have found that they make a big difference.” He thought that was a good idea.
“Okay,” he said. “Just be careful. And don’t fall.” I thought back to my spill on my road bike days before my hip really started to act up, which led to the x-ray.
As I hung up the phone, I didn’t know how to react. Part of me wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I was sad. I was frustrated. I wanted to run. Instead, I pulled on my cycling gear and poured my energy into two wheels.
Even though I knew this day was coming, I am not ready to accept it. I’m prepared to slow down, to run less, to run more trails than roads, to participate in races without worrying about time and to try alternative forms of treatment, but I am not prepared to stop running. I am not ready to give up. I’ll just find different dreams to chase.