Through The Eyes of an Athlete: The Private Agony of an Injury

Maria Carberry

Maria Carberry competing in the two mile run.
Photo courtesy of Maria Carberry
Maria Carberry competing in the two mile run.

The county 1600 was without a doubt a work of art. Nobody took the lead the first 400 meters, we were clearly all scared. This is one of my biggest regrets as a runner, I’m not a timid runner yet I played one in the first lap of this race. Once I realized I was 4 seconds off my goal lap time I quickly sped up to match a 1:15 my second lap and then my lap times kept getting faster. The other girls were slowly drifting apart from me and I almost broke 5 minutes in the 1600. One of my biggest goals as a junior almost came true.

About 60 minutes later the 3200 came, and after that 1600 all expectations escaped me. All I wanted to do was have fun. I’ll admit it, in my heart I could feel I had a little cockiness which is something God doesn’t let me have for long; I know this because He made sure that my good friend and competitor Tasha Freed from Thomas Johnson High School was on my heels the whole time.

She matched my pace so closely that in this race I had to channel my heart, I had to channel my training, and most importantly I had to channel why I love to run. The last 300 meters showed me that I can go to -as my dad would say it- a whole “notha level”. All the cheering from the spectators receded to whispers until I heard nothing but my own voice asking myself why I love to run, why I trained so hard that past winter, and did I really want to lose a 3200 to a county competitor? The answer was, “No”. I thought about how much work I put in during the winter, running fifteen 400 meter repeats at a time with almost no recovery. I did not do that to get no results.

As I crossed the finish line I made sure I had no energy left, well, maybe just enough to pat my competitors on the back, and hug my dad. I shortly realized that I had broken 11 minutes in this surprisingly competitive 2 mile race. I was happy but not ecstatic, as my next goal was to get even lower in the 10 minute range.  After this day, the thought occurred to me that I have no limits. I had reached the next level, both physically and mentally that my dad always mentioned, and I thought he was crazy. After this day I became stronger, and I trusted myself for the knowledge I had gained over the years.

I say this many times and I will continue to say this many more: racing is a celebration of training. That county meet showed everyone how hard I had trained in the winter, but more importantly, I took from it that if I can train harder and faster, results will show. This is where I got greedy and my heart for running overshadowed the knowledge I gained over the past 12 years of enduring the sport.

After 2015 track ended, training for cross country began. What I was about to do would change my life for the next 6 months. I began training as I normally would, about 40 miles a week, which wasn’t much for me, but then I threw in more intense workouts, and before I knew it I was running 55-60 miles a week with the intensity level up to maybe 70 miles. I was taking in the miles as if I had been running that volume my whole life. I could take in eight 800 meter repeats with barely any rest, faster than I had ever imagined I could run them. I forgot my knowledge of smart training and let my love for the sport and goal to get to nationals in Oregon take over. I soon learned that training excessively, recklessly, and with heart, but not brain, comes with a price.

I started to pay the price on an average long run along the C&O canal. What I felt 3 miles into the 12 mile run became the first indication of what turned out to be a serious injury. Being the type A personality I am, I continued to run through what I assumed would go away.

The longer I ran the worse the pain got and by the time the 12 miles was over I could barely walk. I still wasn’t worried, as I did not believe that I could get a stress fracture. I don’t know why I didn’t think I could get injured, maybe it’s because it came on so suddenly, or maybe it’s because I thought I was unbreakable. Regardless of what I thought, that run ended my senior cross country season before it started.

After about a month I found out I had a pelvic stress fracture. I’ll admit it, I saw it coming. The fact that we couldn’t fix my pain after a month kind of spelled it out, but I was in denial. When the doctor looked at me and told me I had a stress fracture I didn’t hear it, instead I heard “Way to go Maria, you did this to yourself, and now you can’t run for what will seem like an eternity.” I wasn’t going to break all those course records I was expected to, I wasn’t going to be undefeated, and most importantly, I was not going to qualify for nationals in Oregon.

I am unable to share my hard work with anyone, and nobody can take over from where I left off.  In my head the hundreds of miles I ran over the summer will just go to waste and will never be celebrated. Whether it is true or not, that is what I think. It will not be celebrated. No race will show my capabilities from the summer of 2015. It will also not be credited with the reward I am almost positive I could have gotten- the fastest time on the state course in all of the Maryland classifications.

I often find myself asking questions like- what now? How can I get back when I am healthy? Will I be able to run more than I was running in the summer and not get hurt? Well, I guess we will have to find out because God put me on this Earth, he gave me a gift, and I will not sacrifice that gift because of one injury. I will also not neglect showing everyone that running can make you a better person and competitor. The smile on my face when I race is not fake, it is merely a slight imitation of the joy I am experiencing on the inside, and I am fortunate enough to be able to share it with everyone else.