From runner to triathlete; from injury to strength

October 26th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

By Chelsey Jones

“You will never run again”. “You should probably find a different sport”. “Have you thought about swimming?” Were the words I heard from numerous doctors 4 years ago. I had suffered from chronic tendonitis for 2 years up to that point and although I had been able to train through it my body had officially hit it’s breaking point. I had come to a place where I thought I was no longer going to be able to run.

Up to this point I had had many great moments as a runner. Races won, P.R.’s, pacing people to Boston qualifiers, qualifying for Boston myself, having great conversations with my friends on long runs, but oddly enough my most memorable moment as a runner was not when I was running.

It was in 2015, the day before the Grand Rapids Marathon. It was a perfect fall day. The temperature was in the 50’s, leaves at their peak color, sun shining, and I was injured -not able to run at all. Feeling extremely sorry for myself, I took off on a long bike ride. I was angry, discouraged, feeling defeated, and just very bitter. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. At this point I had been dealing with chronic tendonis in my Achilles for 2+ years and no one could seem to find an answer. I had seen multiple doctors, tried all the new and upcoming remedies/procedures, and still it wasn’t better. It just wasn’t fair.

As I was riding all I could of think of was poor me, why me, how is this fair? Heading down Kal-Haven I saw a man biking, and as I took a second look I realized that he only had one leg. Hmm. Suddenly I didn’t feel quite as sorry for myself. I still was a very healthy person, and was even able to be out biking. I kept riding and pondering things, until I came across a sign in front of a church that read “How much do you trust me?”. I’m not sure if it was fate, just good timing, or a greater power, but all of these events happening made me have an “a-ha” moment. I suddenly realized that although what I was going through was frustrating, and I didn’t understand it, everything happens for a reason. Even though I couldn’t see the big picture, everything was going to work out the way it was meant to be. I realized challenges are opportunities to build strength and character, if I choose to face them head on. In the midst of my struggles, I was learning some very important lessons. A few weeks later, I met with a surgeon in Chicago who promised me I would run again, healthy, strong, and pain free.

  After a somewhat invasive surgery where they removed 3cm of bone from the back of my heel I began the long journey to recovery. Determined and motivated to gain back all of my fitness and become a stronger athlete than what I was prior to my injury, I began cross-training. Biking, swimming, strength, and core were my main focuses. Slowly, I began getting better at each one and before I knew it I was back running again, and pain free.The day before my first triathlon, I decided to give triathlon a try. Never having swam in open water before and riding a bike that I found in my friends garage, I went off-excited and eager to just be participating in some type of event. With zero expectations I began my journey into triathlons. Each distance and discipline a new hurdle to overcome. I have been very fortunate to not only grow stronger as an athlete, but also as an individual. Setting new goals, reaching these, sharing my knowledge with others, and building amazing relationships along the way. Sometimes the things we most fear in life lead us to the greatest blessings.

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