Originally published in The Signal on Jan. 23, 2018.
When asked what her greatest accomplishment is, 22-year-old Dalhousie runner Michelle Reddy says it’s coming back from a near career-ending injury.
At Saturday’s Nova Scotia Indoor Championships, Reddy finished in second place in the 1500m event, just over a second behind the winner Maggie Smith. She said it wasn’t the result that she hoped for, but her coach and teammates found her performance impressive considering what she’s been through.
“I was pretty happy just to be able to come back for my last year and compete,” said Reddy.
Reddy is the captain of the Dalhousie Tigers track and field team. She has been running since elementary school and trains relentlessly. She works out six days a week, often twice a day.
Last year, Reddy suffered a broken navicular — a bone on the inside of the foot. It required surgery and took her a long time to recover. She was unable to compete for the whole season.
“Most people would quit after having to take a year off,” Reddy said. “Running is all fitness-based; it’s all endurance, so you really have to put in the hours. It’s not a skill set you can keep up without a lot of training. I spent a year not being able to run and that obviously affected my fitness.”
According to her coach, Rich Lehman, it’s a nightmare injury for a runner, especially one as accomplished as Reddy. Before her injury, she was ranked first in Canadian Interuniversity Sports in the 600m event and was a top cross-country runner.
“The retirement stats are probably high on that injury,” said Lehman, who has been coaching Michelle since she started at Dalhousie in 2013.
“What I don’t think a lot of people know about the injury … is that the navicular doesn’t heal, really, so she’s running in pain now. She’s feeling it every step she takes.”
It’s tough to tell that from watching her run. Her stride is confident, her face calm. Reddy and Smith pulled away from their competitors early in the Indoor Championship race and remained in front the rest of the time.
Reddy’s apparent ease is the result of a tough rehabilitation regimen. She did pool and bike workouts to get back in shape.
Reddy’s comeback is not only important for her, but also her teammates. She also competes on the school’s cross-country team.
“She works extremely hard and it’s something that she really enjoys,” said Melanie McKenna, a 24-year-old law student and one of Reddy’s cross-country teammates. “When you have a hard workout it’s not a negative for her; it’s a challenge.”
Reddy’s coaches and teammates can all attest to how hard she worked to come back and how integral she is to the Dalhousie team.
“I have learned more from her than she probably has from me,” Lehman said. “I’m much better at what I do because she’s here.”
To Reddy, the commitment is worth it. She has been running since elementary school and she loves the sport.
“You can really see your goals and improvements,” she said. “You can see your times.”
Reddy’s goal for this season is to finish in the top five at nationals, which will be held in Windsor, Ont., in early March. Her coach says it is a “very realistic goal.”