runner_stumble

This is a guest post from Jamie Corey.

Whenever I tell people I’ve been running for nearly 20 years, they’re baffled. If you’re only 26 years old, does that mean you’ve been running your entire life?

Pretty much.

It started when I was in first grade. A teacher at my elementary school created a running club, which met for practice every day after school. I told my parents for months that I wanted to join—and badly. My brother and sister were playing baseball then, which requires some running, but it’s not the main point of the sport. They probably saw me following my siblings or even branching out to a sport like karate, but running for a six-year-old hadn’t crossed their minds. Eventually, however, I wore them down and they said yes. So at the age of six, my running career started.

I trained for six weeks before my first race: a cross-country invitational three hours away from home. My dad was tasked with driving me to the race, which at the time seemed like was on the other side of the country (it was a state away).

After several hours of driving, we finally arrived at the meet. When we got there, there were hundreds of other kids of all ages dressed up in uniform.

My age group, the “Pee Wee Division,” was the first group to race. The nerves in my stomach started to flare up as I headed to the start line—the same anxiety I’ve felt for the past 20 years at the start of every race.

The gun went off.

The other kids and I bolted across a wide-open field of grass. My teammates, who had already been training for months before I joined, took off ahead of me. I tried to catch up.

But I didn’t get very far.

Within the first 60 seconds of the race, I plummeted forward onto the grass as I tripped over my shoelaces. The ones I had forgotten to tie.

I burst into tears. I was only six years old at the time—no one had taught me to get back up after a fall like that and I didn’t know what else to do.

My dad rushed over to come get me, but by the time I calmed down and got up, all the other kids were too far away from me. The race was over for me.

Once everyone else had crossed the finish line, I watched all of my teammates get metals and trophies. I held the medal I had received for “trying” in the palm of my hand while watching my teammates take home trophies the size of my legs. Even at six years old, I felt I hadn’t even earned the medal for participating.

We got back in the car and drove the three hours back home. After my tumble, the entire trip seemed a waste of time. I was disappointed in myself and ready to throw in the towel for baseball. Or even karate.

Yet the next day, those sports weren’t on my mind. Instead, I was compelled to run again.

It’s All About How We Get Back Up

Two decades later, I’m still running—despite the dozens of other falls that I’ve collected since.

I tripped over a tree roots during my first run with my high school teammates. I almost landed in a river headfirst during another high school run but was saved by a fence line. I fell on a bee during a warm-up in front of the entire high school. When I looked up, the entire cross-country team hovered over me.

My most recent tumble involved concrete, blood and a few lasting bruises within the first mile of a run. It was a bump. It was a blow. Then I got back up and completed the last 15 miles. If we don’t get back up, how are we ever supposed to reach the finish line?

All seasoned runners have their own collection of falling stories. We’ve all gotten back up though.

“I was training for the ’92 Olympic trials marathon, walking on eggshells while logging big weekly miles and hoping not to cross the line into injury. [I was] eating right, too, which meant regular forays into the fruit and vegetable section of the grocery store. So, of course, while there, I stepped on a grape, slipped and fell on my butt. Before I hit the ground I thought how dumb it would be if a grape knocked me out of the trials.”

-Jim Hage, the only men’s back-to-back Marine Corps Marathon champion, three-time Olympic trials qualifier and a DC legend.

 

Wardian post fall. Credit Jennifer Wardian
Wardian post fall. Credit Jennifer Wardian

“I had a nasty fall when training—I broke my tooth, cut open my face, got 15 stitches in my nose and around my eye. It was the day after finishing second at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2011. It was also the day after Halloween so I was lucky that I fell right by Georgetown Hospital. After almost blacking out, I got up and thought I could keep going with my training run but quickly realized that I was bleeding so badly that I need to visit the hospital. So I ran to the ER and my wife Jennifer and son Grant came and helped with the stitches. The next day, I had to go to the dentist to get a fake tooth.”

Michael Wardian, professional ultrarunner and three-time Olympic marathon trials qualifier.

 

“I trip and fall a lot (A LOT) so they’ve all started to blur together for me. On the bright side, however, I’ve developed cat-like reflexes – I am now known for taking a tumble, then immediately bouncing back up to yell ‘I’M OKAY, Y’ALL’ … even while bleeding profusely from the kneecaps and elbows.”

Susan Lacke, Ironman athlete and columnist at Triathlete, Competitor, and Women’s Running.

 

“During a cross country race in torrential rain, I took a sharp turn on a steep downhill and my legs just flew out from underneath me. My right hip hit the ground and skidded through a gravel patch, leaving an awesome scar. I got up and finished the race (2nd!) and couldn’t believe that was actually my 3rd fall during the race.”

Jason Fitzgerald, USAT-certified coach, 2:39 marathoner, and author of Strength Running.

 

The exception, of course, is Bart Yasso.

“I have to be honest in 37 years of running I never had a memorable fall. I’ve always run on trails and always had this vision of going down hard on a solo run in the middle of nowhere, never happened.”

Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, inventor of “Yasso 800s” and two-time marathon champion.

Now it’s your turn.  Tell us about your most memorable fall.  And how you got back up.

UPDATE: Bart Yasso has reached out via twitter to let us know that even he is not immune to a good tumble:

yasso

Jamie Corey is a marathoner and the writer behind the D.C. based running blog Run the District.  She’s also a columnist for RunWashington, Active Life DC, and Active.com, and happens to be fantastic at sharing embarrassing stories.  Follow those stories at more on twitter @DCRunster.

Photo Credit 1

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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9 thoughts on “Why We Get Back Up (and Stories of How Even the Best Runners Tumble)

    1. I just fell while on my slow 3.2 mile run – went down at about mile 2.8. Just a little crack in the sidewalk, but enough to make me tumble. Went down on my right forehead (ouch! 2 bumps!) knees, and hands. Stayed down a few seconds to assess the damage and a sweet woman came running to me and offered to help me up. Before I was on my feet, a Fire Truck approached, pulled over and 3 Firemen were helping me. So good to know help was there. I am fine, but a little worried about tomorrow’s run. I think I need new shoes.

  1. The 3 inch scar on my right knee takes me back to the “Lost Lake Trail” just outside of Seward, Alaska. In the mid 90s I entered the roughly 16 mile trail race and was having a good day climbing through the wooded trails for 5 miles then letting it open up above treeline aiming to set a PR close to 2 hours when I slipped on an uphill and my knee came down on a.knife like rock slicing across my knee. Fortunately I carry a bandana with me made a pressure dressing. Runners who I passed earlier asked if all was well and my response was I’ll hike to the Lake and catch a ride out by plane. Surprise the plane did not make it in that year so the only option was to hike/run. Fortunately running worked with a dose of adrenalin and I managed the next 7 miles wincing every other step but feared a slower pace would mean shock or hypothermia. Actually finished the race and caught a few folks who passed me. Got stitched up at the local hospital a dirty wound cleaned up that required antibiotics the next day as the red streak climbed up my thigh and the leg ballooned. Take home message. Every Scar has a Story and bring a bandanna on your trail runs. It just may get you to the finishline.

  2. I had my first ever fall while running on my 18-mile long run a couple weeks ago. Just before hitting 13 miles, I was stepping down from the sidewalk into the street to cross it, which required a single step on the grass (where I was at, there’s grass between the sidewalk and the curb). Unfortunately, the ground was really soft and soaked from all the winter’s snow having just melted over the previous few days. As my foot went down it sank a bit and I didn’t pull it back up enough to clear the curb. I ended up catching just enough curb to throw me at the ground headfirst. I face-planted right in the middle of the street. I yelled “f***!” pretty loudly and quickly got up before anyone could see me and started running again. I guess the fall really boosted my adrenaline because I busted out my last five miles significantly faster than the first 13.

  3. I fell down at the start of my 10 mile run. I was busy posting that on Facebook (I think) and before I knew it, I was skidding on my knees, face and hands in front of busy 6 am traffic. I bounced up like a ball as I heard a car pull up beside me, brushed some gravel nonchalantly over the blood running down my legs, plugged my earphones into my now shattered iPhone which still miraculously and graciously played music for me. I finished those 10 miles to some raised eyebrows from fellow runners and cyclists, but I did it!

  4. Oddly enough Regan (my 9 year old son) fell last night right at the town square on some loose gravel. 4 young high schoolers witnessed and thought it was fairly amusing and laughing out loud. Bloodied and scraped, Regan popped back up with determination. I figured this is one time Dad didn’t have to say anything to annoying bullies. What I learned is Regan didn’t pop up out of embarrassment, but out of PRIDE. No words were spoken, and a 2 mile easy run before soccer practice turned into ‘make my Dad puke’ 4 mile tempo run. Regan flashed me his Garmin after soccer practice, where he accumulated 3.5 additional miles during practice. Determination and pride comes when you least suspect it.

  5. I did an out-and-back 16 miler where the turn around was through 2 miles of trails. Immediately after turning around I tripped and flew down a set up “root stairs”. My phone shattered on a rock and my knee hit hard and started gushing blood. Muddy and blood soaked, I got up because there was no other choice. I like to start all runs and races with that mentality, “you will get to the finish line regardless.” I view my runs very similar to how I view my life. Everyday is a new day and you are going to be thrown curveballs, but you keep putting one foot in from of the other and enjoy the experience.

  6. My most dramatic injury was a fall! I was running on trail beside Loch Lomond in the Trossachs of Scotland, tripped over something (there are a lot of rock splits to allow water to travel into the Loch, probably one of those) and hit sharp slate rock. Thought it was fine, went to get back up and looked at my knee… and it was wrecked. Had torn open in 3 directions and displaced the kneecap!

    Had to get boated across the Loch to a road, then airlifted to hospital where I was scrubbed out (I didn’t know till then that scrubbing a would literally means with a scrubbing brush), had kneecap tweezer-ed into place and stitched up.

  7. Training for NYC marathon — today I underestimated a mud bank on a cul de sac, slid as I was turning, fell …HARD. I blacked out for a bit. Ended up with 10 stitches in my chin and a bruised up knee. Was a bit scary b/c I was so disoriented had a hard time calling for help and little passing traffic.

    I need to get back out but man, will this mess w/ mentally? LOL!!! You know, over cautious runner?

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