The Mental Side of Running Injuries

As a running coach and a passionate athlete, I’ve experienced the exhilaration of reaching new milestones, the thrill of crossing finish lines, and the joy of pushing my body to its limits, but, I’ve also walked the treacherous path of injury—a journey that can be both physically and mentally grueling. I want to share through a personal recollection  the trials and tribulations of being sidelined by injuries, namely my two most common: Achilles and ITB injuries. Most importantly I want to share the mental side of running injuries – how doubt can creep in, how pain can shatter our dreams, and why having a compassionate coach is essential to overcoming these challenges.

The Darkness Descends

Injury strikes like a bolt from the blue, disrupting our carefully laid-out plans and leaving us in a state of disarray. As an athlete, there is nothing more disheartening than being confined to the sidelines, watching others conquer what you once could. The physical pain is one thing, but the mental toll can be far more insidious. Doubt takes hold, weaving its way into the fabric of our thoughts, whispering, “Will I ever run again? Can I reach my goals?”

I vividly remember the time I was sidelined by an Achilles injury in 2014 just 10 days out from the Philly Half Marathon. The frustration was suffocating, as every step I couldn’t take seemed like a step further away from my dreams. The fear of losing my identity as a runner loomed large, casting a shadow over every aspect of my life. It’s during these dark moments that the support of a coach becomes invaluable.

The Coach’s Light

A coach is not just someone who tells you what workouts to do or how to improve your technique. A great coach is a guiding light, illuminating the path ahead even when it seems engulfed in darkness. They understand the depth of your passion, having walked in your shoes as both an athlete and a mentor – they know the mental side of running injuries and how to keep perspective as you navigate these tough times.

When I turned to my coach during my injury, it was their unwavering support that lifted me up. They empathized with my frustration, validating my feelings of doubt and fear. Instead of dismissing them, they acknowledged the emotional turmoil that accompanies physical pain. Their presence gave me hope that there was a way out of the abyss—an assurance that I could reclaim my identity as a runner.

The Power of Empathy

Having experienced the dark side of running firsthand, I bring a unique perspective to my role as a coach. I understand the dreams and aspirations that drive my athletes, but I also empathize with the setbacks and obstacles they face. I know the burning desire to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement, even when your body tells you otherwise.

As a coach, I strive to be the person I needed when I was injured, and I have been there, I know the mental side of running injuries, and it’s not easy! I walk side by side with my runners, not only as a guide but as a compassionate friend. I listen to their fears, offer support in their darkest moments, and celebrate their triumphs alongside them. By having been there, I can connect with their struggles on a profound level, providing the understanding and encouragement necessary to navigate the road to recovery.

Running is more than a sport; it becomes intertwined with the very fabric of our lives. But when injuries strike, the journey can take a detour into darkness. Doubt, pain, and fear can be overwhelming, threatening to extinguish our flame. Yet, with the support of a compassionate coach, we can find our way back.

As both an athlete and a coach, I have come to realize that my role extends beyond simply training programs and race strategies. It is about being a pillar of unwavering support, a beacon of hope in the face of adversity. So, if you find yourself injured and lost, remember that there are coaches out there who understand your struggle. Seek someone who will walk alongside you, lifting you up when the road feels too long. Together, we can conquer the darkness and emerge stronger, more determined, and ready to reclaim our place on the open road, trails, tracks and startlines!

Brant Stachel is a coach with Team RunRun and a Registered Psychotherapist. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.