My Three-Year Comeback
Injury sucks. After three years, two surgeries, false starts, headaches and heartaches, Drew Williams will compete in his first official race since 2017 at the Queensland 10,000m Championships on August 1. Read about what he had to overcome here.
By Drew Williams
AT SOME point just about every runner gets injured.
For some it’s a few weeks off and for others it can be months. Tendon issues are difficult, and I had retrocalcaneal bursitis on my right heel. To cut a long story short, surgery was my final option and I took it.
Recovery for this injury is generally 6-12 months. Mine was three years. The physical side Two months after my initial operation, my physio noticed I still had a lot of scarring, which was not normal. The scar tissue limited my range of movement, which prevented me from running. It was still painful. I tried everything to break up the scar tissue. Over the course of two years I made a foot block out of wood, wore a night splint to bed, got PRP injections and had shock wave therapy. No luck. I asked my physio if anyone had experienced similar scarring issues. In his career of over 20 years he had one other person who had. He put me touch with a past client who had two operations to remove scar tissue. I spoke at length with her and searched every online forum ever created that related to my injury. I found that scarring is genetic and that I may have had an infection. However, I opted for another surgery to remove scar tissue in the hope of resetting it. I saw my physio a few days later and we started manual therapy. I wore a night split to bed and sure enough, I started to get range, and the amount of scar tissue was a lot less. It was still not enough to run though. On a Youtube video I found someone who was recovering from a similar injury. They were wearing heel raises and running on a mini trampoline. I ran it by my physio and podiatrist and wore 4cm heel raises. I could run on the mini trampoline. Breakthrough. I spent three months on that mini tramp. From there I got shoes (Hokas) and created inbuilt 4cm heel raises. I started with 30 second jogs and progressed from there. I eventually got up to 15-minutes of continuous running. It took me another two months to get to that stage. The next step was to progress to "normal" training. Slowly I built up to my current level of five runs a week totalling about 60-70km. It's a long way from the 110km a week I used to run, but just being back running is a win from where I was. Here are my takeaways. 1. Do your own research. 2. Ask the physio/surgeon/podiatrist the right questions (anything and everything). 3. Pay attention to improving and figure out what’s working and what’s not. The mental side The physical battles were only half the problem though. For a good two years while I was on the sidelines I sat in a vicious cycle of negativity. My mind looped between not getting anywhere with my injury and being in pain. Like a lot of people, running gave me friendship, routine, confidence in everyday life and just made me a happier person. To get through this period I listened to podcasts, read books, researched sports or other activities to do, but I never actioned anything. I made excuses; it’s too expensive, I won’t like it or I’m just not a morning person. I just felt sorry for myself and it sent me spiralling down. After a year I came home from work, walked up the stairs, ran a hot shower fully clothed and just sat there, crying. I thought about what I liked, and that was to party. At that point not much else mattered. It's probably not the healthiest option for someone struggling, but I booked three months backpacking in Europe. I’d never partied to ‘escape’, I just find it fun. A change of environment was a great thing and I learnt a lot of myself - to accept the good and the bad about my personality. To be honest, at 29, all I cared about was being a role model in the classroom, running and partying. Somewhere towards the end I realised I was ‘down’ because I wasn’t used to change or resilient in my everyday life. I wanted change. For change to happen I needed to do something about it. Reading, talking and listening didn’t make me change. I had to get out and try things. I was in a relationship, extended my social circle, took up cycling and stand-up comedy. Changing environments and trying different things helped me find what I liked and didn’t. It took me a long time to figure out and accept my process to deal with being down. For me the root cause was the fear of change and the unknown. I would encourage anyone to be aware of when you’re in a negative rut or state. You need to figure out your process for dealing with it. Everyone has a different process. Do you sit on it and work through it yourself? Do you need to talk to someone? Do you need to change your environment and be proactive? Think about it and I'm sure it'll help whether you're dealing with a bad race or a three-year injury like I have.