Setbacks and an Attitude Shift

October 25, 2023

Yesterday I attempted a speed workouts (3 x 3 mi @ marathon pace – not an easy one, but the type I usually LOVE). I had some trepidations about my knee which was doing some weird locking and painful things BUT figured I would know within a few steps if I should stop.

I made it through half the workout, running through mild pain in my leg and significant pain still in my back (torn muscle there has not made much progress) and then I tripped on a sidewalk crack and flew through the air at marathon pace, landing hard on my right hand and then my right side. I also had some impact on my knee. (Side note: I don’t know if I would still have fallen if I were injury-free, but I believe I probably would have been able to stop myself or prevent the kind of impact on a ‘normal’ day).

I cursed, got up slowly, and realized I still had to run home. I sent a text to my running group ladies and miraculously one of them got in her car, FOUND me because she knows where I like to do faster workouts, and drove me home (!). I was only ~1.5 mi from home but the ride was VERY much appreciated in that context.

(Running friends are really awesome.)

I then realized my hand was really hurting from where it stopped my fall. I was (luckily) able to curbside one of our peds orthos and he X-rayed it right there in his office (right near mine – I was at work by that time). No fracture which is awesome~ I’ve certainly given my bone density a good test this past week!

BUT it does still hurt quite a bit so now I have:

  • wrist/hand brace with limited use of R hand (I’m left-handed but man – we use both hands a lot!)
  • healing wound on hip (getting better but still open in parts; still getting Josh to do daily professional dressing changes)
  • bruised thigh/leg (my PCP was pretty shocked at the appearance 8 days out from the injury)
  • weird knee pain that seems like it might be more than just the bruising (but hard to know. My PCP ordered an MRI to rule out torn medial meniscus. Hopefully not but if it is, I will still be able to recover one way or another.)
  • back pain that makes any twisting or bending over very painful

AND SO, I am waving my white flag. I am going to be okay, I know it. But I am not currently okay. I need to rest and investigate these injuries and move on from caring about any fixed recovery timeline. I was REALLY mopey yesterday (and in pain). I sat around and hurt and felt bad for myself.

But truthfully, it could have been so much worse. And in the long run, things will be okay. That is the most important part. My race does not matter — it really doesn’t. Even if I were a pro runner, it still wouldn’t matter because it’s just one race, and guess what? I am FARRRR from a pro runner. I love running as a hobby, fitness tool, mental health therapy — but I’m not ready to move my body in that way (or really any significant exercise-type way) right now. THAT IS OKAY.

So, I have decided that instead of obsessively focusing on running and ‘normal’, I will use some of that intensity to embrace rest. I can lean into hobbies I CAN do, like reading and journaling. I can care for my body in the ways it needs right now – heating pads and gentle stretching and PT once I’m ready for that. Healthy food. Protein to promote healing of muscle tissue! Good sleep.

The book I am reading had a whole section this morning about choosing your reaction to your circumstances and the timing was just perfect. Yesterday my reaction was panic, anger, self-pity, helplessness. Today I can honestly say I am feeling much less defeated and more grateful.

Grateful that the kids are okay.

Grateful that my livelihood does NOT depend on marathon finishing times!

Grateful that I did not injure my head (and that I smashed into my RIGHT hand yesterday and not LEFT – would be sad not to be able to handwrite!!)

Grateful that I have insurance and resources to seek out medical care when needed

So, there you have it. I tried to rush my recovery but I guess it was a lesson I needed to learn.


  • Reply Mars October 25, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    I have to say I was completely shocked when I saw that you were running with your injuries, especially after seeing the pic of your leg. I admire your determination, however; hopefully, this was your cue that your body needs to rest and heal right now instead of pushing through training. I’m sure you will heal and there will be plenty of time for running once you are 100%!! Take care.

  • Reply Omdg October 25, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    Yeah you were being foolish. I totally get why, and might have done the same thing! It’s ok, give it a few weeks and I’m sure you’ll feel better soon.

  • Reply Jenn N October 25, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    Oh man, I’m sorry! Definitely feels like a sign from the universe to truly take a break (even though that must be SO frustrating when training was going so well!!)…I kind of felt similarly when we got Covid (again, sigh)…like okay FINE I will lie around and do nothing even though I have so much I want to do!

  • Reply Ali October 25, 2023 at 1:52 pm

    I’m so sorry. This isn’t quite the same, but I tried to run too early after having one of my kids…I feel flat on my face and still have a scar on my nose to show for it. I know it is just so frustrating to have trained so hard and be stuck.

    For your back, you may want to look into assisted stretching. My husband has chronic back issues and this has been life changing for him (he goes to a place called Stretch Lab). It has really been a huge help.

    • Reply Grateful Kae October 25, 2023 at 2:38 pm

      Assisted stretching?? What is this? I have chronic back issues too and chiropractor did not seem to fix it… would be interested to learn about this!

      • Reply Ali October 25, 2023 at 3:45 pm

        Stretch Lab is a chain and I believe there is another similar chain as well. He goes for a weekly appointment where basically someone helps him to get into really deep stretches he couldn’t do himself. He also does a LOT of stretching at home moving through positions they have helped him learn. It has really been a huge help. (He has serious disc issues, has already had one back surgery, tons of chiro treatment, rounds and rounds of PT, etc)—this hasn’t solved everything but has been better than anything else he’s tried. Each weekly session is around the cost of a PT visit or personal training session and well worth it. It has also helped his mobility a huge amount—like he’s no longer grimacing tying his shoes for example.

        Hope that helps!!

      • Reply Ali October 25, 2023 at 3:50 pm

        Tried to reply but not seeing it , so sorry if this is a duplicate!! It has been a HUGE help for my husband. He basically goes to an hour session once a week where someone works with him to get into super deep stretches it would be impossible to do on his own. He also has been stretching a LOT on his own (like 30 min/ day). It hasn’t solved everything but has helped him more than back surgery, chiro, rounds and rounds of PT, etc. I think it’s around $70-80ish/session and worth every penny for the relief it has given him. It has also improved his mobility a huge amount. (It has been such a huge difference my elderly FIL also started doing it just for mobility and is a fan).

        Stretch Lab is the chain around here he goes to and he definitely has his preference on who he goes to, so they all have slightly different techniques, etc. I think there are some other chains that do the same thing or close to it.

        Good luck!!

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 25, 2023 at 4:09 pm

          Serious question – does it hurt a lot?

          • Ali October 25, 2023 at 9:44 pm

            He says—it never hurts, but at the beginning didn’t feel great )similar to how a hard workout doesn’t feel great in the moment). As soon as it was done though , he felt a million times better than before. After the first few months, it now feels good as you are doing it. Share what you think if you try it!!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 25, 2023 at 2:55 pm

      Ooh we have multiple StretchLab locations nearby- good to know it helped! I don’t think I’m even ready for that backwise but will keep in mind!

  • Reply Milly October 25, 2023 at 1:53 pm

    Yep, tough love time. Like another commenter, I was SHOCKED you kept running. You pushed it and made bad choices. Now, the consequences are here and want to be paid. I’m sorry this all happened, but I hope you can maintain what you learned as you get the itch to get back into things. When you feel like you are ready, I say add two weeks and THEN maybe you really are 🙂 Hugs.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 25, 2023 at 2:01 pm

      Honestly I just truly didn’t know. I figured – it’s bruising, it’s just on the outside. Obviously I was wrong. Yes going to be much more cautious from here on out!

  • Reply Elisabeth October 25, 2023 at 2:53 pm

    Oh Sarah. First, I’m so, so sorry this happened. It sounds and looks so painful. And both things are traumatic mentally – obviously the car incident, but also falling hard! I had a nasty fall on a wooded trail a few years ago (tripped on a tree root while running) and cracked my glasses and scraped up my hand – so waaayyyy less than what you’ve experienced lately – and I was really surprised how much it shook me up mentally.

    I totally get why you wanted to keep running and I feel like you’re a very cautious and measured person. Are things worse because of your previous injury – maybe/probably – but I think you took a calculated risk and had some bad luck. Please don’t beat yourself up over running. You got “back on the horse” and happened to have another accident. You know about what my sister has been through and I honestly thought she was crazy to keep training – but looking back I 100% see she needed to work through it.

    All that said I’m REALLY glad you plan to rest for a bit. Perspective is great, but it tends to come in waves. It’s okay to feel all the feelings and thanks for sharing your story. Sending well wishes <3

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 25, 2023 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you <3 <3

  • Reply Sophie October 25, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    Oh Sarah I’m sorry to hear that happened! I’ve had similar lessons before, not with injury but with illness- trying to get back into everything too quickly and getting sick AGAIN. There is something relieving though isn’t there about finally saying OK, OK- I get it body- I’ll listen to you! I’m taking it EASY!
    Hope your path to rest and recovery is a smooth one from here on in!

  • Reply Daria October 25, 2023 at 3:54 pm

    Sarah, I am not surprised that you were pushing yourself. I am a long-time listener to your podcast listener and blog reader and if there is anyone who can do it, it’s Sarah. But, like you said, you are embracing rest and healing and you have the resources. Get well soon!

  • Reply Sarah October 25, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    I totally relate to your inclination to keep on training. Once during marathon training I tripped and did a face plant on concrete. I chipped my tooth and got a fat lip but after I iced my lip at a Starbucks for 10 minutes, I ran 9 more kilometers! I blame it on the concussion I sustained rather than my inability to just stop when I need to 🙂

    In all seriousness, I am glad you are okay and impressed with your new outlook. Heal well!

  • Reply Alyce October 25, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    Sometimes messages from the universe are subtle, and sometimes they come in loud and clear. Rest it is.

    • Reply Brooke October 26, 2023 at 1:34 pm

      I always love your comments and wisdom, Alyce! Just had to tell you 🙂

  • Reply Coco October 25, 2023 at 7:10 pm

    I can totally see why you kept running Sarah, because you didn’t know your injury is deeper; you need the running to feel normalcy and mind escape. I know it’s not because of the race but the benefit and containment of running by itself. I would 100% have been the same!!!
    I am glad that you took the cue and shifting quickly to embrace the rest, the hardest thing for runners to do. It might be the case that few months down the road, you understand why the universe gave you this break. It will all make sense in the long run. Enjoy the rest and come back stronger.

  • Reply Leslie Stompor October 25, 2023 at 10:58 pm

    I’m so glad to read this!! Our culture can often encourage us to “push through”, when the smartest thing to do is take a step back.
    Good for you!!

  • Reply Kersti October 26, 2023 at 12:00 am

    I intentionally decided that this fall would be about rest and taking care of neglected personal tasks. I’ve pulled back a bit at work and socially to allow myself more free time. I live in a four season climate, so I am always somewhat tired in fall when it is darker and colder. I figured I might as well embrace the season! I am reading more, sleeping more, and preparing my “nest” for winter. I’m enjoying it so much, I may do this every year! Sounds like you are trying to embrace your downtime as well. I hope, despite the circumstances, you will derive some benefit from it.

  • Reply jennystancampiano October 26, 2023 at 8:31 am

    For what it’s worth, I would have tried to run too. So I don’t think you were being stupid or crazy. Sometimes you just never know until you try it out- and now you know. This totally sucks, but I love your attitude. As much as it seems like it would be fun to be a professional runner, can you imagine how stressful it would be? An injury could mean loss of income, loss of sponsors- we’re lucky it’s just a hobby for us!
    I still think you can heal up and run your race. But if not, there are plenty of other marathons to run! For now enjoy your rest and recovery- you got this.

  • Reply Anna October 26, 2023 at 9:00 am

    I push back against the running judgment. Perhaps some don’t understand how important running is to some of us – physically and mentally. You seem to make thoughtful and considered choices. Wishing you a speedy recovery. No doubt you will return stronger than ever.

    • Reply Ashley October 26, 2023 at 3:28 pm

      No, we get it. And many of us have faced injuries and setbacks ourselves. But if running is the only thing in your toolkit, it’s gonna be a problem when life happens.

      • Reply Omdg October 27, 2023 at 7:21 am

        Want to echo what Ashley said. We definitely understand why this happened. And I also love the advice to build multiple things in your toolkit to use for a sense of normalcy and happiness. So true we may not be able to do a single activity forever!

    • Reply Milly October 27, 2023 at 5:52 pm

      Nah, we do understand. Don’t assume that those pushing back are not long distance hard core runners themselves! If anything I recognize the runner intensity more acutely than a non runner. It’s just so important to have multiple options so when life and age begin to show their faces, you are prepared. I agree Sarah will come back stronger, but hopefully not come back too quickly!

  • Reply Elizabeth October 26, 2023 at 10:07 am

    I’m really sorry you’ve had another accident, Sarah! As others have said, the important thing now is not to second guess yourself, it’s where you decide to go from here. Taking the time you need to heal your wrist, back, and knee is great. You don’t want to take heal-able injuries and turn them into chronic issues and risk not being able to run in the long-term.

    I sympathize with how hard this is. Having to take a step back from running is MUCH harder than it seems like it should be. I severely sprained my ankle on a routine run on my normal route at the end of March, and I wasn’t able to run again until JUNE. I still don’t know what happened — there must have been an uneven part of the gravel that I just didn’t see. Missing running and really any physical exercise (I couldn’t do anything for 6 weeks) was mentally such a struggle. HOWEVER: I did it, and I was vigilant about not starting again too soon, because I knew that running before my ankle was ready could result in permanent damage, the need for surgery, etc. (For context, I love running and run 3-4 times a week anywhere from a 5K – 10 miles per run.)

    Two things can be true: this time off from running is completely necessary and what your body needs, AND this time off from running stinks and is mentally not what you needed or wanted at ALL.

    Hang in there!!

  • Reply Sarah October 26, 2023 at 1:37 pm

    Just wanted to pop in and say I totally understand why you kept running and I’m not sure why people are being harsh on you! Running is so good for the body and mind, but so is the rest you are embracing : ) Thank you for being so vulnerable in sharing!

  • Reply Erica Sparky October 26, 2023 at 2:55 pm

    Oh Sarah I’m so sorry! I can totally relate to running through minor injuries (especially when they aren’t running injuries specifically) and wanting to maintain your training based on your goal race. I’m so sorry that the weeks leading up to your event have been so tough! I got covid last year about 8 weeks out from a goal marathon and I pushed through and it really set me back. We all make these mistakes, especially upholders who are tough! You are going to be okay, but it really really sucks. I am actually coming back from a hip flexor strain that kept me off the streets for nearly two months, and I’m just thankful for every 2 mile run, but I can’t wait to do more. Please let yourself heal!

  • Reply San October 26, 2023 at 8:35 pm

    Ouch. I am sorry you got injury on top of injury. If I am honest, I would have probably tried to run too, but I am really glad that you “got the message” to prioritize rest now, if you want to recover and get back to normal quicker (even though it doesn’t feel quicker right now). Hope you’ll feel better soon!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 26, 2023 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you San ❤️ I have a feeling it might be a while (like, months not just days or even weeks) and I’m trying to come to terms with it. One day at a time!

  • Reply Lis October 27, 2023 at 11:37 am

    I am just catching up. So scary. Thankful you are okay and how you’re processing and sharing with us, because it’s such a valuable reminder for so many things. I’m glad you have wisdom to know what you can and cannot do during this time and can’t wait to see you nail that marathon! Hoping for continued good recovery.

  • Reply Svetlana Zenkin October 27, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Sarah – I’m so sorry to hear this, and I can relate. I have run through back pain, knee pain, etc. and have almost always regretted it ultimately, but I still feel like it’s by far my best mental health management tool. Journaling is maybe second, but still SO far from running. A few years ago, we bought a stationary bike – not Peloton, but a solid “regular” one for about $600 on Amazon. I think the brand is “Sunny Health”. When I can’t run, I do Peloton bike workouts with the app on this regular bike – it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but you can still get an awesome cardio workout. So that’s what I recommend exploring. It helped me get over some back injuries and knee injuries, and I’m sure it will again at some point (just please not too soon?!)

  • Reply Federica October 27, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    Get well soon!

    • Reply Kristie October 27, 2023 at 5:31 pm

      Just a message of support! I would have done the same thing if I was in your shoes. A book that helped me is Rebound by Cheadle & Kuzma. They give some good journaling prompts for working through the mental side of injury, and I also appreciate the message of hope in bouncing back stronger. Thank you for you vulnerability in sharing your story. Wishing you rest and recovery!

  • Reply Carolyn Cohen November 2, 2023 at 1:32 pm

    Dearest Sarah — I’m so sorry to hear of your injuries and pain. Rest is hard for so many of us. Even with rest, we think in terms of what it accomplishes for us or we search for a silver lining or added benefit. Sometimes we just need rest for its own sake (believe me, I’m writing this as much for me as as for you!) Good luck with it. xo

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