Tag Archives: broken toe

San Francisco Half Marathon – Race Report

After sixteen months of not racing due to injury, I ran the 2014 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon in Golden Gate Park — my fourteenth half marathon in my 13th state.

After checking the long-range and short-range forecast several times, it appeared that the weather would be cool and cloudy for the race.  So I was surprised when I awoke on race morning to find it raining steadily.  The temperature was about 45 degrees and it was windy — conditions that were predicted to last for the duration of the race.   I reconsidered my choice of clothing several times and finally opted for running shorts, a long-sleeved tech shirt, light tech jacket and a heavy fleece.  The fleece was primarily to keep me warm at the start though I couldn’t afford to leave it on the side of the road, since it was the only coat I had brought for my week in California. And I cursed myself for my last-minute decision to leave my hat at home and that fact that I had no headband for my ears.

I made my way downtown from my hotel and secured a spot in the parking garage under Golden Gate Park.  Reaching the outside entrance to the garage, I realized how cold it was and waited with a number of runners inside the garage until closer to race time, hoping the rain would let up a bit.  Finally we could wait no longer, and made our way to the start, used the port-a-johns, and then I huddled with some other runners in a small park structure while I waited for a friend who was running the 5K to arrive.

20140202_072615Starting time came quickly and we were off.  I had decided that I was going to do 1:00/0:30 walk/run intervals at the outset to see how I felt.  We started off in the park and then miles 2 and 3 were around a city square with a little bit of an uphill. During this time, I removed my heavy jacket and had to run the rest of the way with it tied around my waist. Because of the rain, I decided not to use Runkeeper on my cell phone so I didn’t know my splits, but they had volunteers calling out the time elapsed as we went by.

Miles 3-7 went well.  There were some nice downhill stretches that I ran and I was aware of a small group of runners that seemed to be going the same pace as I was.  We’d pass one another, but never get too far ahead, and then switch things up again. At mile 7, we emerged onto the “Great Road” (Route 1), which I had heard some of the runners talking about in the garage.  As soon as we turned left onto Route 1, there was a strong headwind, with driving, cold rain coming right at us. I didn’t know the course well, but saw that this was an out and back and saw mile 12 on the opposite side, so knew that I was in for at least a couple miles of difficult running.  It was three miles out and three miles back on Great Highway.   This was the most difficult part of the course, but also the most beautiful stretch, with sand dunes and the Pacific Ocean on one side.

By the turnaround near Mile 10, I was really feeling tired and thought I was starting to get blisters. I stopped, took off my shoes, checked my feet and then re-tied them tighter to minimize slippage. Retracing our steps on the Great Road, I could still see other runners struggling into the wind, though the rain had lessened to a drizzle.  I was feeling good and running faster than most at this point (might have been the tailwind), so I was consciously picking off one or two runners at a time and passing them. At Mile 13 we turned back into the park for a short uphill stretch to the finish.  They called out the name of the woman ahead of me — one of the runners I had been with the whole way.   I was surprised to find that she was from Watertown, Mass. and said hello in the finish area.  She must have started ahead of me because the final standings have her finishing after me.

The finish was well-organized and staffed with mylar blankets, water, T-shirts and snacks.  I made my way to the exit and was surprised to discover that it was about a half mile walk to the shuttle busses.  I heard a lot of cold, wet, tired people grumbling on the way to the bus — which took us four or five miles back to the parking garage and start area.

My only other issue with this race was at the parking garage.  It took me at least 45 minutes to exit the garage due to traffic.  And then the parking attendant tried to charge me an additional couple of bucks because I had exceeded the 15 minutes allotted between the time I fed the pay machine and the exit.  I stopped for my first ever meal at In and Out Burger on the way home.  It wasn’t the traditional post-run pancakes, but it WAS good!

Overall a well-organized, executed and solid race, with good support and a net downhill – and a great race for someone that wants to run in San Francisco without monster hills.  One GREAT thing about this race is that bibs are mailed in advance so no need to arrive a day early and attend an expo to get them.

My time didn’t matter for this one, it was all about finishing and seeing how my foot would feel.  It was fine and I was only a little bit sore the next day — typical post-race soreness.  So I’m thrilled to be back to racing and already planning out the coming year’s adventures!


Should I Run with a Broken Toe?

In the past few months I have been astonished by the number of people who have found my blog while searching on some variation of the question “can/should I run with a broken toe?”  They’ve  flipped through various posts on my blog and then…. what?   I’m guessing that they’ve gone out and run.  Because runners, we’re a predictable bunch…

So I’m dedicating this blog to providing an answer to the question above. Here in one convenient place.  With all kinds of caveats: I am not a doctor.  I have no special training, other than my running coach certification.  I speak only from experience.  And even then your injury may be different from mine.

My story:  Last September I fractured my middle toe by jamming it into the bed leg.  I was 95% sure it was broken at the time.  An x-ray later revealed that the toe bone closest to my foot was broken diagonally from corner to corner, more or less.  The toe swelled and part of my foot and toe turned black and blue.  I elevated and iced.  And I took ibuprofen and aspirin and ran/walked the Chicago Half Marathon on it two days later after, yes, googling for the answer  to the question “can I run with a broken toe?”  I buddy taped the toe to the one next to it for the race.  Yes, it hurt to run, but by halfway point it was fairly numb and I was able to pick up speed.  Running was actually less painful than walking.  I iced after the finish.  I did not seem any worse for the wear after the race, and so took the better part of two months off to recover.  I saw a doctor, who confirmed that it was broken.  I did some walking and ellipticizing during that time to maintain my fitness, probably too much.  And in December I started back to running gradually, but not gradually enough.  Soon a calf injury followed, and I returned to the doctor, who decided it had never fully healed and was termed a “nonunion.”  After a failed experiment with a bone stimulator, I wound up having toe surgery in March to create a fresh break and screw the bone together.  With doctor’s permission, I started running again in May while doing physical therapy and am now back to being able to run/walk 3-4 miles slowly as of the end of June.  I still have some pain when I run and some stiffness in the joint, which is likely from the screw and so the doctor is debating a second surgery to remove the screw.  So 10 months later, I am still a long way from where I was last September, but finally beginning to feel like a runner again.

So, can you run with a broken toe?  Yes, of course you can, especially if you have a high tolerance for pain.  But should you run?  I would say no.  You are better off taking 6-8 weeks off and letting the fracture heal and staying off your feet as much as possible.  I know, I know it’s only a toe!  I know, I know, you’ll lose your fitness.  You can’t possibly… Blah, blah, blah.  But you’d be surprised how important toes are for walking, balance, driving and so much more.   In my case, the doctor thinks I damaged the fractured bone ends by too much physical activity, which resulted in the nonunion.  So it seems that the less activity and motion to which your toe is subjected, the more quickly it is likely to heal.  You’ll also minimize the possibility that you’ll suffer other injuries from favoring your injured toe. In my case, I know I had significant calf pain in the injured leg from a shortened gait — even when walking.

So what DO you do when you’re injured.  I was not able to bicycle without pain, but I could use the elliptical for 30-45 minutes.  It’s a good time to do core work and upper body exercises.  And don’t forget to reduce your calorie intake, while making sure that you’re getting a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin D and calcium.  See a doctor and take his/her advice. Wear stiff soled shoes to help support your toe.

Oh yes, and did I say “see a doctor and take his/her advice….”  Do that — before you run again.

Time for Some Naked Runs

So it’s my 8th week back to running since my toe surgery on March 1st and recovery continues to be slower than I’d like (of course what I’d like is a nice 10 mile run, so it’s all relative).  Today I ran a full mile for the first time.  Which is to say that I ran/walked four miles of 00:15/00:45 intervals, so by the time I was done, I had covered four miles, and run one of them.  Even I can do that math.

I realized while I was out today that I’m spending way too much time looking at my Garmin and stressing about how slow I’m going.  I play little games with the watch, as in “Gee, Mile 1 was 14:40, wonder if I can make mile 2 14:30″… and so on.   And I realized that I’m totally in my head, not enjoying being out there, and treating these runs like an unpleasant chore rather than enjoying getting back to it.  I use my watch to track my distance, but inevitably when I look down it, it’s the damn lap pace that taunts me — reminding me how unbelievably slow I’m going.  So during my run today I decided to leave the watch at home next time and run naked (without it).  This is completely new concept for me… I’ve always had my trusty Garmin, and before that, my trusty Polar.  But here’s what I realized that helped me make the decision.

1. I know where the quarter-mile point is where I usually end my warm up and start running.  I know approximately where the 1, 1.5, and 2 mile points are from my house, where I turn around for 2, 3, and 4 mile runs.  I don’t really need my watch to tell me this and if I’m a few tenths off, does it really matter?

2. I’m working on increasing the distance that I’m running.  My next step is to switch to 00:20/00:40 intervals and then work my way through 2, 3, and 4 mile runs. It really doesn’t matter how fast I’m going.

3. Whatever my speed is right now, it’s much more about how fast I’m walking and not how fast I’m running, since I’m still walking the majority of the time that I’m out there.

Of course, I won’t be completely naked (gadget free) since I’ll still have my interval timer and my music, but I’m actually looking forward to see what it’s like to run without the Garmin and free myself from the pressures of time.

Happy running!



Five years ago I ran my first 5K in my hometown — the Stow Conservation Trust’s Run for the Woods.  It feels like a whole lifetime ago — so many things have changed for me since then. I had just completed the Couch to 5K program and remember it as a gorgeous warm spring/summer day.  I struggled with the heat, the distraction of running surrounded by other people, and with my pacing in that first race.

I completed this race again today, the first race I’ve done since last October when I limped the Hartford Half with a broken toe.  It was important to me to do because it was my 50th race and I wanted that milestone to be in my hometown and on the anniversary of my first race.

I’ve been training with a mix of running and walking — right now I’m running 15 seconds and walking 45 and have gotten up to 2 miles doing that.  I made the decision to walk this morning because I didn’t feel ready to bump up to 3 miles for the first time in a race setting and didn’t want to risk injury. I wasn’t sure how fast I’d be able to walk. Before today, my fastest walking mile was around 14:50 and my fastest 5K training time was a couple of weeks ago at 46:03.  Today I finished the race in 41:36, dropping my pace to 13:25 and my overall time significantly.  That felt great, as did the fact that I got 3rd place female walker and a trophy to go with it.

Over the next week, I’m looking forward to extending my training to three miles and looking for another 5K to run.  Slowly, slowly getting back to it.

Here’s a photo of my trophy!


Broken Toe Recovery – Week 4

The title of this blog is a bit misleading, since it has actually been 8 weeks since my toe surgery, but it’s my fourth week back to walking/running.

My efforts to run this week using 10 second running/50 second walking intervals have been more successful than last week’s overly ambitious jump into full running minutes.  Tuesday I “ran” 10/50 intervals for a total of 10 minutes, Thursday 15 minutes, and Saturday 20 minutes.  I’m also walking before and after each run so getting in 2-3 miles each session. I’ve iced my toe after each session and am feeling ok, though it is definitely sore for the rest of the day. My physical therapist recommended that I work on extending my total time before I start increasing the running intervals.

Importantly this week I also (finally!) crossed the 15 minute mile barrier that’s been dangling out there for a few weeks, doing my  first sub 15:00 “running” mile at 14:52.  I also walked a 46:03 5K, which is an average of under 15:00 for 3.1 miles, and another significant improvement from last week.  So my running and walking paces are virtually identical at the moment.

Next week my goal is to gradually extend to two miles of “running” using 10/50 intervals.  This is huge exercise in patience!

Broken Toe Recovery – Week 3

This week brought good and bad news on the “return to running” front.

Good news: I logged more miles walking than I have in the previous two weeks. I managed to get out there 6 days out of 7, and did a total of 15 miles, including my longest walk to date of four miles. My fastest mile was 15:07, also an improvement. And my 5K time dropped from 52:55 to 47:23 something since last week. I’m still walking with a slight limp but I feel like it’s becoming less noticeable and I’m hopeful for a 15 minute mile by next week.

Mixed news: Met with the doctor and had another x-ray. Learned that most of the bone has healed well, but that about 1/4 of fracture isn’t like to ever heal unless I have another and more difficult surgery. That part of my toe is still pretty painful. The doctor recommended that I work on resuming “normal” activities and see if I am able to do that. She is hopeful that I will be able to recover without surgery — as am I! So I am continuing physical therapy and am cleared to try to resume running.

Bad news: My first attempt to run since January wasn’t great. I ran 1 minute with 3 minute walking intervals for 20 minutes — so a total of 5 minutes running.  I was hopeful that this would be a precursor to starting Couch to 5K, but the toe was so painful that night that I don’t think I’m ready. So I’m going to try Jeff Galloway’s running recovery program of 10 seconds running, 50 seconds walking this week and see how that feels. This is going more slowly as I had hoped, but I’m determined to keep working at it.

No great insights this week, just a healthy dose of persistence and determination.

Broken Toe Running Recovery – Weeks 1 & 2

For some reason, one of the top search terms for this blog of late has been “running with a broken toe.” Are there that many runners out there with broken toes, trying to figure out if they should keep running through the pain?

Allow me to save you further sleuthing: Don’t do it.

Really.  Don’t.

To recap: I broke my middle right toe in September. Ran a half marathon on it two days later.  Took about 6-7 weeks to mend and started back to running. I injured my calf around the holidays and then discovered from subsequent x-rays that the toe had never healed properly (of course, a friend said “why should it heel? It’s a toe!”). The toe was re-broken surgically on March 1st and I am just beginning to resume exercising. Three weeks ago it was the elliptical. The last two weeks I started back to walking, admittedly with a slight limp, while still undergoing physical therapy.

  • Sunday:  1.25 miles @ average pace of 20:21. Ugh!
  • Wednesday:  1.5 miles @ average pace of 19:02.
  • Saturday: 2.0 miles, untimed, but slow!
  • Sunday: 3.0 miles @ average pace of 17:07
  • Tuesday: 3.5 miles @ average pace of 19:30
  • Thursday 2.5 miles @ 16:20, managed 1 mile at 15:22 (toe sore)
  • Saturday 3.0 miles @ average pace of 19:20, after 2 miles on elliptical
  • Sunday 3.1 miles @ average pace of 17:04, 52:50 5K

The plan for Week  3 is to keep walking and try to do at least three walks of three miles each and then attempt another 5K, hopefully a little faster.  I’ll see the doctor this week and am hoping to get cleared to start Couch to 5K as soon as I feel ready.

I’m trying to focus on how far I’ve come and not how far I am from where I want to be. At least I am outside again, exercising, enjoying my tunes and burning some calories.

Happy running marathoners!  And really, stay off those broken toes!