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Will my running injury keep me from the finish line?

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I didn't want to write this column. I was really hoping to avoid the "Amberly gets injured" series highlight. But, here we are. Seven weeks in, and I'm a hobbling fool. Up until this week, I experienced what other people call a "good hurt" (an objectionable, oxymoronic phrase if you ask me). Like a sneak peek into old age, I grunt when I bend and climb stairs in slow motion.

Admittedly, I strangely enjoyed the kind of validating soreness. (Plus, complaining to anyone who'd listen about my tight quads seemed like such a runner thing to do.)

Then feeling like a pro, I tested out a smarter gait I'd read about - shorter stride, a mid-foot strike and a conscious effort to kick up my heels with each step. With my new "shut up and run" attitude, I was in a serious zone 50 minutes in. I noticed a little tingle in my right foot but decided to push it. I was sweaty, feeling good and wanted to clock that full hour. Five minutes later, an elastic band snapped under my toe.

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The angry ball of pain - about the size of my fist - is still there with every step. I walk with an unintentional swagger. I stretched it out, took a few days off, then ran a hilly, challenging 5K race. I crossed the finish line - a personal best - limping. It's been six days, and I haven't exercised since.

I needed to get better - and fast. Unwilling to waste the last seven weeks of progress - I needed a professional's opinion. "What's wrong with the elliptical or bike?" asks Jason Piekarz. Athletic therapist to the elites, Mr. Piekarz heads the medical tent at the waterfront marathon each year in Toronto.

"Your body breaks down without cross-training," he scolds. In one 45-minute session at Mr. Piekarz's Centre for Sport & Recreation Medicine in Toronto, he iced, stretched, massaged and sent electric currents through my foot, bringing instant relief.

"Do you seriously think you can run five times a week and not get hurt?" Passing me a comically large medical textbook, he shows me what I have: sesamoiditis, a swelling of the two tiny bones under the ball of my foot, "characterized by disabling pain, often in runners." I smiled; the diagnosis felt like an initiation into the club.

He says the combination of tight calves, weak arches and a complete gait change is the culprit. But I knew it was more than that, after a trip to Christine Feldstead's "Yoga for Runners" class in Toronto's west end. "Runners have very specific strong muscles - but there are many weak and imbalanced areas," Ms. Feldstead says.

After my sixth chaturanga (an elegant push-up followed by downward dog), I was well-acquainted with my body's shortcomings. A contortion called "pigeon pose" had me making audible noises. On my back, legs crossed, foot in the air, Ms. Feldstead pulls my ankle with a rope. "That should feel beautiful - in a sick way."

I leave the class feeling lengthened, sore and still searching for my yogic bliss.

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Even with the treatment and the advice, I'm still shaken. I'm on the mend, but my foot still throbs with every step. How realistic is this race - and is it worth the damage to my body?

Follow my training progress here, and pick your training program here.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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