Marathon Mom: A Guide to Coping with the Injured Runner in Your Life

Do you love a runner? Odds are they will be injured at some point, so here is my advice on dealing with them

You were having a good day. Things were going well. Maybe you had a nice cup of coffee in your hand and were getting ready to do something you've been waiting to do all week, when bam ... everything changes.

Your runner just walked through the door and, gasp, they're injured. Not a catastrophic "we better get to the emergency room" injury. Rather something like a turned ankle, a pulled muscle, a strained Achilles.

It may be your child, your significant other, your best friend. In any case, you are in this with them because alas, you love this runner. I have been on both sides of the scenario and neither is good. Here is my advice on surviving your loved one's injury:

Step 1: Establish a perimeter. You weren't trained for this. You are not a Marine. Resist the urge to rush in saying, "Never tell me the odds." This is serious. Your runner is in a fragile state and is capable of anything. What you do these next few moments is key to full out war with your runner. Your mantra: Calm, cool, calculated. Proceed with caution. My first word of advice is to let your runner speak first. There is nothing you can say at this moment that will be right.

Step 2: Assess the situation. Establishing your runner's state of mind is key. In a perfect world your runner walked through the door and said, "I felt a twinge in my leg, so I stopped immediately. I think I will take a week off just to be safe." If you heard this, no need to read any farther. Count yourself lucky and go buy a lottery ticket. Tragedy averted. But, odds are you heard something like, "I felt a twinge in my calf, I kept running on it and it got worse. I had to walk home the last five miles, but I think it is OK." Or maybe, "I felt a pop in my leg. I can't put weight on it. A nice old lady had to drive me home, but I think I can still race on Saturday." Clearly, your runner is in the denial stage and not thinking clearly. Do not panic.

Step 3: Know your runner. This is when knowing your runner's personality is your best tool. Do they need to talk about it in every detail? Or are they the type to internalize it and not want to mention it again. Listen and proceed with caution. After they have had time to talk for a minute perhaps a good opening line would be, "Why don't you go take a shower, I'll get an ice pack ready." Sure, they may stink, but this is buying you some time ... they get clean and you both get to regroup. Rushing out to buy some pain killers or more ice packs can also buy you time, while showing you care.

Step 4: Walk on eggshells. Hopefully your runner rebounds quickly, but if not, you may be in for a long haul. It's incredibly frustrating to have your body let you down, but if they had to miss a race they had been aiming for your runner will be bound to be depressed and angry and take it out on you. Maybe the lack of endorphins or fresh air may cause them to say and do uncharacteristic things. Try and be understanding and show them you care. If things are really bad this might be a good time to tackle some projects or go anywhere — alone. If your runner is bearable, offer the little things for distraction ... movies, ice cream, a day trip to somewhere they have been wanting to go. Nothing says love like offering a massage if you have some skills. Your runner will appreciate your gestures, though probably will still be in a funk.

Step 5: Know when to seek outside help. Let's be honest, your runner is distracted, so sometimes the simple things don't occur to them. Suggest they make an appointment with their favorite massage or physical therapist once the injury is no longer acute. Sometimes injuries just take time, but being proactive might lift their spirits a little.

Step 6: Be the Voice of Reason. During this time, your runner is prone to doing stupid things. If you see them hobbling around the house and then lacing up their shoes to "test it out," gently say, "Maybe give it just ONE more day." Pray they listen.

Step 7: This too shall pass. As my dad always says when I call him in the throes of a drama, "you will get through this, one day at a time." Your runner will run again, and forget they were ever injured — or they might take up biking. Too bad you can't forget the grumpiness and edginess that you just dealt with for the last few days or weeks.

Step 8: Maintain radio silence. When your runner finally comes through the door smiling and happy, enjoy. You have lived to fight another day. If they joke that they weren't that bad during their injury, resist the urge to roll your eyes or throw yourself on the floor laughing, and just smile and say, "No, dear, it's not that bad."

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