The Silver Lining - By Miranda DiBiasio

Oct. 24, 2017

By Miranda DiBiasio

Stress Fracture.

Two words that every runner never wants to hear. These were two words that I feared more than anything when it came to running. Two words that I had worked so hard to prevent myself from hearing, and had been lucky to never hear in my ten years of competitive running.

It was nearly three months ago when I heard these dreaded two words from my doctor. It was the August before my senior year of college when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my fifth metatarsal bone on my right foot, a common overuse injury seen in competitive long distance runners.

Hearing these two words brought on so many emotions, feelings, and changes. I felt anger, shed tears, blamed myself, mulled over what I did wrong, had regrets, and experienced an incredible amount of anxiety about what was to come.

I was going into my last year of college. My last cross country season. My last opportunity to prove to myself and others what I was capable of. My last chance to achieve all of the lofty goals I had set for myself. I was coming off a solid outdoor track season, defending my Atlantic 10 Champion status in the 10K, improving my 5K time, and just missing the NCAA East Regional Qualification by two seconds. This season developed a fire in me to achieve my goals and run to my full potential in the upcoming season.

I had a goal. I had a plan. And a stress fracture certainly was not included.

As I soon found out, I would be off running for at least five weeks, with minimal cross training to start. As any athlete knows, being injured can be one of the toughest battles to face. What was I going to do without participating in the activity that I loved? How was I going to cope? How would I stay in good physical shape with such minimal training? How would this impact my emotional and mental health? Most importantly, how would I lead my team without actually running with them? How was I going to stay positive, upbeat, and resilient, when I felt anything but that?



I know what you're thinking: It's just a minor injury, a small set-back. After all, things could be much worse. But this was my first real injury, and it had a major impact on me. For me, this injury was tougher than any mile repeat, hill, or tempo workout I have ever done.

The first month was incredibly difficult. I was not able to do any form of exercise for the first two weeks and was only allowed to swim for the next two weeks. My spirits were low, my thoughts were negative, and I did not have the right attitude. I felt sorry for myself, and worried about how out of shape I was going to get. I worried about how this injury would affect my performance once I was back, and if I was ever going to be able to perform as well as I had before. I knew this was not the way I should be thinking, but it was hard not to let my emotions and thoughts get the best of me.

The turning point in my injury came as I was swimming an arduous three-mile workout during the fourth week of my recovery. I was about 30 minutes into my swim, feeling tired and defeated. My head was filled with negative thoughts, wondering why this had happened to me, why I couldn't just feel better already, and all the great running I was missing out on. All I was thinking about was how much I wished I could just be back out there running. I wanted so badly to give up. To stop going. To let my mind get the best of me. But then I began to think, why would I ever give up? If I gave up now, I would certainly never achieve my goals. I would let myself down if I gave up. I would never see what I was truly capable of achieving. I thought to myself that the worst of this all was behind me. In that moment I realized that I needed to make a change. I needed to shift my perspective if I wanted to recover and succeed. Immediately I was reminded of one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard from a professor of mine: "Attitude determines your altitude." I thought about how my negative attitude would not get me anywhere. I then made a pact to myself that I was going to change the way I was thinking. I was going to hold myself to a higher standard and keep my thoughts positive. I would no longer waste my time dwelling on what I should have done, or what I couldn't do.

This change of perspective did more for me than I could have ever imagined. I began to feel better during my workouts, more energized, and more enthusiastic about my return to running. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and started seeing the silver linings. By redshirting the fall cross country season, I would be afforded the opportunity to compete again in the fall of 2018. I would now apply to graduate school, and continue to further my education in the field that I love. Redshirting the season would allow me to take my recovery slow, and do things the right way so I would be less likely to reinjure myself. I could use this time to focus on areas of weakness or imbalance that I did not have the time to address before. Once I get back into racing, my legs will be fresh and my body will be stronger. There were so many positives to gain from this experience that I had never considered before because I was too busy dwelling on the negatives.

A good friend of mine told me that you never really understand your full potential as a runner until you've been injured. This seems counterintuitive, but as I thought about it more it began to make sense. Before now, I had always taken running for granted. After all, I was always healthy, and never understood what it would be like to have to sit out for an extended amount of time. As I took this step back from running, I began to realize how truly grateful I am for this sport and all that it has given me. I am grateful for all of the amazing people I have in my life who helped me through this experience: My family, friends, coaches, teammates, and everyone within my athletic department. Without them, I would not have even had any success to begin with, let alone the ability to come back from injury and be where I am today. I am thankful for the friendships I have made through this sport and the people I have met. I am grateful for the opportunities that running has given me, the challenges it has presented me, and the confidence it has given me. This injury reminded me how especially grateful I am for my body, my health, strength, and ability to heal.

Experiencing an athletic injury is certainly not fun, but for me this injury served as a great learning experience, an opportunity to grow as an athlete, and a reminder to be grateful for everything running has done for me. I learned to find the silver linings in a tough situation, and focus on the positive, rather than dwelling on the negatives. Although I never wish this had happened, I am glad it did. This injury has showed me how strong I am, both physically and mentally. It has proven to me that I am more resilient, tougher, and more dedicated than I ever thought. I believe that I have grown so much as an athlete from this experience, and that it has only made me stronger. I am beyond excited to get back to doing what I love every day, and I know that from now on I will be sure to enjoy every single second.