Gingerly stepping off the treadmill, Renee Metivier looked around the room, her eyes glimmering with joy, “Shoot, I should have kicked earlier,” she laughs, slightly annoyed. “Should I hop back on and go for the 100k record too?”
The last eight years have been anything but easy for Metivier. In 2012, she suffered a potentially career-altering Achilles tear, forcing her to take a step back from racing. Then again, at the end of 2016, nearing the end of her recovery, Metivier suffered another career-ending injury, shattering her ankle on an icy trail near her home. The combinations of these two injuries set her back from being a 2:27 marathoner to barely being able to leave her house.
As a pro-runner, it was the perfect storm: back-to-back career-ending injuries at the tail end of her career. Thinking back on the injuries, Metivier recalls, “Multiple coaches told me — you had a good run, it might be time to retire.” Most athletes nearing the end of their thirties would have decided to throw in the towel, yet Metivier persisted, explaining, “I knew the best was yet to come. Regardless of the future my only goal was to be better that day than I was the day before.” Drawing inspiration from the large Phoenix tattoo on her side, Metivier has combined unwavering optimism with a persistent commitment to personal growth to slowly crawl her way back to peak form.
Metivier thought her comeback moment would come during the Olympic Trials marathon this past February, and yet she was once again forced to be patient, dropping out halfway through the race. It wasn’t until earlier this month on June 6 that Metivier finally got her Phoenix rising moment.
During a virtual treadmill race hosted by the training group ChaSki, Metivier smashed three separate treadmill world records, capturing the half-marathon (1:19:29), marathon (2:41:11) and the 50k (3:11:38) world records. This feat solidified her return to competitive running. “It’s huge,” she exclaimed after the race. “Being 38 and coming back from multiple surgeries. A lot of people gave up on me. Yet it shows that we are capable of more than we often think we are.”
The Comeback Formula
Sitting down with Metivier after her trifecta of treadmill world records we learned of her strategies and tips for recovering well and staying motivated despite continual setbacks.
1. Don’t rush it
Quite a few of us know what its like to jump back into training too early after an injury and delayed the healing. Throughout her comeback, Metivier knew the dangers of ego. On her return to racing at the Honolulu Marathon last December, Metivier wrote “NO EGO” on both arms, as a constant reminder to stay on pace and not get carried away in racing. Thinking back on the race she commented, “There will always be steps forward and steps back. It’s super important to remember that it takes time to rebuild.” Without a doubt, patience is one of the greatest gifts and hardest lessons of recovery. Metivier’s slogan of NO EGO is a fantastic mantra during all injuries, reminding us to surrender to our body’s healing timeline.
2. Stay positive
“Every single one of my injuries should have been career-ending,” Metivier openly admits. “It took time and perseverance to fight my way back.” Talking to Metivier, you discover quickly that she is fiercely optimistic; yet throughout her journey she has had constant doubts. Her strategy for staying positive was to focus on the moment and to be present on that day of healing. Thinking back to that time Metivier recalls, “Knowing I was focusing on recovery really helped; it was my focus on recovery, not racing, that helped keep me positive.”
3. Focus on the little things
Regardless of the severity of the injury, there are always small tasks and exercises that will help speed recovery. Metivier advises, “Even if it’s as small as working on getting more sleep or getting your glutes to fire better there is always something to work on.” Often throughout recovery, we are so focused on the one action or movement that we can’t do that we miss the work and strength conditioning needed to strengthen the rest of our bodies. As the owner of Recharge Sport, a recovery, fitness, and health clinic, Metivier understood the importance of continual small work. The question she focused on throughout recovery was “what can I do today that will aid my recovery?” Answering this question each day drove her return to form.
4. Listen to the voices that matter the most
When hearing Renee’s story I was struck by her perseverance and her ability to push through doubts and fear on the long road back to health. “There have always been doubts, and there will always be doubts,” she confided. Thinking for a second, she continued, “But the people who matter the most always believed in me, and that was more important.”
Hold firm to the voices of belief and ignore the voices — quite often our own — that foster seeds of doubt. Healing takes time and it is vital to listen to those around us who keep us motivated and push us to be better.
Metivier’s treadmill world record trifecta is only the start of her comeback. Seeing how she dominated these record attempts goes to show that she still has something to prove. Her tread mill world records might have been her Phoenix rising moment, but Metivier acknowledges, “This was not my last hurrah; now I’m just curious, what else can I do?”