A very unoriginal title but I do that purposely in the hopes that someone searching on google for more information will come across this blog.
I won't bore you with all of the details because if you really want to know everything, I have about four or five blog posts that detail my experience with this dreaded running affliction. So here's the long and short of it.
For the past two years my running performance and corresponding pain was spiraling downward. I had a dull ached and tightness that just did not allow me to run fast. Over time, my race performances got worse and worse. I had numerous poor performances in road marathons like Houston in 2012, Boston 2013 and Little Rock 2013 and equally poor performances in trail ultras. The final nail in the coffin came last May at the Jemez 50 Miler when I limped in the 50K and could barely walk, much less run. I was not long after that, that I could no longer run at all.
I searched high and low to find out what type of injury I had. For years I thought I had sciatica or piriformis syndrome. One doctor (unfamiliar with running injuries) was sure it was my back and this was just referral pain so he gave me a steroid injection. As if. After another doctor who listened very well did a piriformis injection and that ultimately failed as well, I then began to look at what else it could be. After some more research on the internet, I came across HHT - High Hamstring Tendinopathy - my symptoms fit it exactly.
The only options for HHT is rest in the hopes that the tendon will recover, or PRP which costs $1500 for the bilateral injection. I chose to wait for three or four months to see if there would be any improvement. So from July through November I did not run hardly at all. I played tennis to maintain my sanity but otherwise grew pudgy and for the first time in 16 years, I started to get ''out of shape".
In late November and early December, I thought enough time might have passed that I could run again and so I slowly tried to run but to no avail. Nothing had really changed. Maybe slight improvement, but there was still no way I could ever compete again.
So on December 12th, I finally had the PRP injection done and coughed up the $1500. I was already out of pocket well over a thousand dollars for various costs like MRI and doctors visits and injections and the insurance is just a joke. They only partially covered the things that did not work, and they did not cover at all the PRP which did work!!
So after the injection I had about 7 weeks where I did absolutely nothing except Rubik's Cube and Netflix. What a sad hard time. Luckily I also had to organize my 50K trail race, the Ouachita Switchbacks and that helped entertain me during this trying time.
Finally in early February, I slowly began to run again. I could tell there was some change but not a lot. I did do the White Rock 25K at a very slow pace and although this was encouraging, I still struggled considerably and for a time, I did not think the PRP worked.
But slowly over the following weeks, I began to run 15, 20 and then 30 mile weeks. And each week, the HHT got a little better. I really noticed it in my daily life. I could bend over and pick something up without pain, I could drive in the car for long periods without pain, I had much greater flexibility and just felt so much better. So even if the running did not get better, this in and of itself was worth the money.
BUT THE RUNNING DID GET BETTER! I started to feel well enough to run fast. At first it was limited effort like a single 7 minute mile. Then I ran a 5K a couple of weeks ago. I ran 20:35 which is about 3 minutes off my best, but more importantly, I did not really have any pain or discomfort.
Then this past week was just a major breakthrough! I've been on Spring Break and since we returned from a skiing trip, I've run 7 miles twice a day and I've run it at a good solid training pace without any discomfort. Today I did a ten mile hard and hilly forest road run and it was just like old times!
I have a half marathon next week that will really test things but I expect I should be able to run without much trouble - or at least I hope! Naturally I am much slower and I will not be running any where near as fast as I used to but I am beginning to think that with careful training, stretching, rest and monitoring of the formal injury, that I might just yet have a second act in competitive running.
So if you are like I was and searching for some cure, some hope, some answer to your HHT, I sympathize with you. I did the same thing. There is a lot of conflicting information out there and that makes it even more difficult. But my advice would be to have the PRP done. It really worked for me. Don't expect an instant cure. It will take months and months to get better. It's been four months since the injection and only now do I feel like I am a runner again - able to run without pain and carefree and really enjoying it for the first time in two or three years. So for me, that is a cure even if I am never really competitive again.