At some point, most runners deal with injury. Whether it sidelines you completely from running or just requires adjustments to your routine, injury can be mentally frustrating.
As we come into the last couple weeks of training for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, meet a runner bouncing back from a debilitating injury. Ironically, the avid runner is also a nurse practitioner specializing in treating patients at UConn Health with the same injury she experienced.
Meet Jocelyn Libros
As a nurse practitioner at UConn Health's Comprehensive Spine Center, Jocelyn Libros has seen countless patients come through with injuries that sideline them from running. A four-time marathon finisher who has an active race schedule herself, Jocelyn has always been empathetic for injured runners and proud to work alongside orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Mallozzi in helping patients through spine surgery and recovery.
Jocelyn was about 12 years old when she started running with her dad, who was in the military and ran for his physical training. She ran cross country and track through school and after college began racing half marathons. She worked up to her first full marathon in 2010, training with her sister-in-law to complete 26.2 miles in Burlington, Vermont.
As mom to two boys, ages 5 and 7, Jocelyn feels half marathon training works better for her life now. She ran the UConn Health Half Marathon last June after racing the half marathon in Mystic the month before. It wasn't until after the Surftown Half Marathon and the fall running season that she started experiencing pain.
What started as mild lower back pain and pain in her legs got increasingly worse. She consulted with her colleagues and discovered she had a disc herniation. After undergoing physical therapy and injections to ease the pain, Jocelyn reached the point where she could barely walk, never mind run or exercise, and faced having spine surgery herself.
In late March, as the country began shutting down to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Isaac Moss, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and a spine surgeon at UConn Health, performed discectomy surgery on Jocelyn.
The team was absolutely incredible. Being on the patient side, the care I received was amazing and I can't thank Dr. Moss and nurse practitioner Shantay Wells enough for relieving the unbearable pain I felt.
The first two weeks post-surgery were the toughest with weight restrictions and not being able to drive, but as Jocelyn improved so did her mobility and she was able to slowly start exercise, as tolerated.
Returning to work at the end of April after three weeks of recovery, Jocelyn's day to day is very different right now. Patient care has been handled primarily through telephone visits and the clinic just opened the week of May 18; but her perspective is very different as well.
I feel like I understand my patients and what they go through so much more now having done it myself. When they describe their symptoms, I can reassure them about how they can improve and deal with their injuries.
The UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K and 5K is Jocelyn's hometown race. She competed in the half in Simsbury last year and loves the course, event set-up and how family-friendly it is for her husband and sons to cheer her on. This year's race will feel different for Jocelyn, and not just because it'll be a virtual challenge.
I used to think that if I ever couldn’t run, I wouldn’t know what I would do. But going through this experience, I realize I’m ok to take it easy, run for fun and do shorter races to get back out there.