“I just wish I could go back and tell myself a year ago how great I’m feeling a year later … to have that kind of foresight that it’s going to get a lot better. I’m going to look back on this one day and think, wow, I won’t even be able to believe that I was there at one point. I’m going to be feeling so much better, so much healthier, and so much stronger.” 

Heading into 2020, elite runner Vanessa Fraser of the Bowerman Track Club had her sights set on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. She’s fast enough at the 5,000 meters—her personal best outdoors is 15:07.58—that she’s long been considered a contender for making the Tokyo team.


But as the big date neared, some minor pain she’d been feeling in her Achilles tendons since 2017 was worsening. Time off didn’t heal them; neither did any of the other remedies she tried, from oral anti-inflammatories to shockwave therapy to a medication patch system called iontophoresis.


Just when the pain became nearly unbearable, the pandemic changed everything. Vanessa took the opportunity to have bilateral surgery to repair Haglund’s deformities, bony bumps on her heels that were damaging her Achilles tendons. A year to the day after she left the surgical center in two walking boots, she toed the line again at her comeback race, Sound Running’s Track Meet, on May 15.


In this week’s episode, she walks us through everything that came between—from revising expectations to overcoming yet another setback to maintaining her fitness through deep water running—and why she’s even more excited about her big dreams for the future.


A huge thank you to our sponsors for this episode: Fluid Running and ProStretch. Fluid Runningmakes it possible to maintain your peak physical fitness even when you’re injured through the power of deep water running. And ProStretch offers uniquely designed products to stretch and massage muscles easier and more effectively than conventional methods. Listen for special discount codes in the episode!


In this episode, we discuss:

  • How injuries are viewed in pro running (8:11)
  • Her early start in Girls on the Run (11:03)
  • The earliest signs of her Haglund’s deformities, and how they progressed to the point that surgery was the best option (12:27)
  • How she decided exactly which procedure to have, and found a surgeon she felt confident in (22:16)
  • The way she navigated changing timelines, and why she’s actually glad she didn’t fully absorb how long her comeback would take (28:51)
  • How deep water running—and specifically, the Fluid Running system—aided in her recovery (34:04)
  • How her teammates and coaches—including Shalane Flanagan, who had a few notable injuries and recoveries as a pro runner herself—supported her (37:36)
  • What it felt like to come back to running after her first real break, and how she developed another injury during that time—but had the tools to cope (43:19)
  • Her advice to other injured athletes (53:13)


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DISCLAIMER: This content is for educational & informational use only and & does not constitute medical advice. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have heard in an episode of this podcast. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with a qualified medical professional for proper evaluation & treatment. Guests who speak on this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions, and The Injured Athletes Club podcast hosts nor any company providing financial support endorses or opposes any particular treatment option discussed in the episodes of this podcast and are not responsible for any actions or inactions of listeners based on the information presented. The use of any information provided is solely at your own risk.

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