Barrie runner pulls out of world championships in London due to stress fracture in her right foot

By Gene Pereira, Special to Postmedia Network

Rachel Hannah crosses the line in first place in the women's division in the half-marathon event at the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon in this file photo from Sunday, May 28. Hannah was forced due withdraw from the world championships due to a stress fracture in her foot. GAVIN YOUNG/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Rachel Hannah crosses the line in first place in the women's division in the half-marathon event at the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon in this file photo from Sunday, May 28. Hannah was forced due withdraw from the world championships due to a stress fracture in her foot. GAVIN YOUNG/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

It’s not a decision any athlete wants to face on the eve of a major competition.

Yet, Rachel Hannah knew pulling out of the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, England was the right thing to do.

Training with her Canadian teammates in Guadalajara, Spain, the Barrie native was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right foot 12 days before the world track and field championships were set to begin earlier this month.

Despite the disappointment, the decision to not compete in the women’s marathon was an easy one admits Hannah.

Thanks, in large part, to the help and positive support she received from the Athletics Canada staff and her national teammates.

“It was actually pretty straight forward just because I had the MRI that confirmed it and I had all the staff and expertise right there with me,” said the 30-year-old, who instead of taking a flight to London with her national teammates decided to board a plane back to Canada. “I actually think it made the whole process a lot easier.

“It was, of course, hard being so close to being there (worlds) and racing. And just feeling good.”

Canadian national team doctor Paddy McCluskey told Hannah she had a choice. She could race if she wanted to, but there would be a “very high chance” of getting a full fracture that would take much more time to heal and could also require surgery.

Risking further damage wasn’t something the Barrie runner wanted to do.

“It’s a lot more serious,” said Hannah, who lives in Guelph with her boyfriend and coach, Dave Korell. “Whereas a stress fracture, you can heal anywhere from two to six weeks.

“(The Doctor) thinks in my case it will be about a month, so I decided to not risk it and drop out of the race because it wasn’t worth it.”

Hannah first noticed the injury when she felt something when she was doing one of her longer training runs in Spain.

“I never had pain in that area before and it just started hurting at the top of my (right) foot after my run,” she explained. “I didn’t really think much of it that evening.”

She woke up the next morning and not only was it sore, but her foot had swelled up some. A couple of days later it was quite sore and Canadian physiotherapist Brenda Scott-Thomas, the head of the support team there, decided that it was best McCluskey look at the injury.

“We’re lucky that we have a team doctor that travels with us,” Hannah said.

McCluskey recognized right away that she had a stress fracture in her fourth Metatarsal.

“I didn’t realize how serious it was until she pressed on it,” Hannah said. “I kind of knew it was more serious than just the pain in the area. I think as an athlete you can kind of push through things and not really think much of it.

“It was good that I got it looked at right away.”

With time running short before worlds, McCluskey suggested they go to a hospital in Spain right away to take an MRI to confirm it. They got the images the next day.

“It was very disappointing to hear, but I was happy that I caught it right away and didn’t race on it,” Hannah said.

While top athletes like Hannah put so much time and work into getting ready for these big world competitions, disappointment like this is something they have to be prepared for.

“Injuries do happen,” said Hannah, who earlier this year competed in her first Boston Marathon, finishing first among Canadian women and 23rd overall with a time of 2:41:22. “If you’re constantly pushing yourself, working hard and trying to improve, there’s almost sort of a red line you’re walking on between getting better or injuring yourself.

“With the marathon (training), there’s just so much volume that you risk it more so. The doctor said that you could race on this if it was 1,500 metres, but by the end of a marathon it’s probably going to be fully fractured. I think I made the right decision.”

The plan now is to make sure the swelling goes down and she heals the injury properly.

“I’m just trying not to walk a lot,” Hannah said.

She also been going in the pool and can still do weights to stay active.

With the goal of getting back to full health, Hannah plans to learn from this and is going to adjust her training. That means dropping the volume of her running for a while when she returns.

“We’re going to actually target some shorter races this fall, so no more marathons in the near future,” said the 2015 Pan Am Games bronze medalist. “Work on speed development and just reduce the volume.

The plan is to compete in more cross country competitions so she can make an impact. She is thinking of entering the 2017 Athletics Ontario Cross Country Championships being held in Bracebridge on Nov. 12.

With her first Boston Marathon under her belt and all the volume and experience she has accumulated over the years, Hannah believes she’s only beginning to hit her stride as a runner now.

While she’s always used to being on the run, she’s going to need to take things easy for the next bit to get her foot back to full health.

“I know. I know,” Hannah said before laughing out loud. “It’s kind of a nice change of pace, because I think that’s what injuries force you to do. Kind of slow down, get more rest and just heal properly because the body does need to rest.

“So yeah, just enjoying the rest of the summer and visit my family a bit more.”

Hannah would have loved to taken that flight London and compete with her Canadian National teammates. It’s disappointing, but she remains as determined as she’s ever been.

“You can’t let injuries get the best of you,” she said. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to work through it.” 

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