Video: A Determined Julie Foucher Competes in a Walking Boot After Achilles Tendon Injury
Julie Foucher, a former gymnast turned fitness instructor from California, had her right Achilles tendon ruptured during the first day of competition at the 2014 National Physique Committee Championships in Portland, Oregon. She was competing in the women’s half marathon division when she fell while running down a hill.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” says Foucher. “It felt like I was going to fall flat on my face.”
Foucher didn’t have time to think too much about it. Her goal was to finish the race and get back on course.
She did not make it home. Instead, she suffered a torn Achilles tendon and needed surgery to repair the damage. Since then, she has been training hard to return to competition as soon as possible.
The injury happened just before the start of the championships. Foucher was already well into her second lap when she slipped and tumbled down a steep hill.
“I went up so fast, I didn’t even see where I was going,” says Foucher. “When I landed, my foot hit something hard and then everything went black.”
In the moment, I was like ‘What do I do now?’
Foucher’s injury is known as a “pop and drop.” Most commonly, the Achilles tendon is at its weakest when planting the heel. This means that a sudden movement or added pressure can cause the tendon to rip or separate from the bone and result in severe pain or complete loss of feeling.
For the most part, this type of injury is sudden and caused by a great amount of force. But this was different. The hill could have caused her foot to twist a certain way, also putting more stress on the tendon.
“When I finally stopped myself, it really hurt. My ankle was throbbing and my toes felt numb,” says Foucher. “But I thought I could finish the race.”
Foucher’s goal of competing in the championships pushed her to get up and move. With some help, she hobbled over to a walking stick and hopped the mile or so back to her hotel where she got a cab to the emergency room.
“The pain was pretty intense,” says Foucher. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get back in time for the race.”
Luckily, an X-ray found no fractures in the ankle and the doctor gave her a walking boot and some crutches to get around.
Even with the boot, she was determined to finish the race.
“I felt weird just sitting in a chair while everyone else was out there running,” says Foucher. “So I took it off and tried to walk around the hotel in it.”
The boot immediately put some pressure on her ankle, but she wanted to start walking more and more until she could get back out on the course. She also started taking anti-inflammatory medication to alleviate some of her pain.
“I’m not really sure if that was a good idea since I didn’t really ask anyone,” says Foucher. “But my goal was to race.”
Her plan was to go out slowly and just run until she started feeling pain. Her confidence wasn’t exactly high, and she figured that if she could cross the finish line then it would all be worth it.
“I made sure to tape my ankle really well before the race, too,” says Foucher. “I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t cause me any problems.”
Her plan was to run the first lap slow and then see how she felt after that. She ended up passing many people in the beginning, but then the rest of her race was a lot slower. In fact, she could hardly walk after the race was over and it took hours before she could put any weight on her foot.
“I think all of that walking helped my tendon heal,” says Foucher. “I haven’t had any pain since then.”
As an athlete, injuries are always a scary topic. The risk of doing damage is always there. It’s a constant battle between pushing yourself and knowing when you should take a step back.
“If I could go back I would have gotten treatment right away,” says Foucher. “It was pretty painful, but it wasn’t unbearable. I should have iced and elevated it right away. But, you live and learn.”
Now that the championships are over, Foucher is focusing on getting better and she hopes to be back to a hundred percent by next season.
“I learned that even though you are really sore or tired, you can always dig a little deeper,” says Foucher. “It’s important to know your limits, but you should always try to push them.”
Foucher is looking forward to continuing her education and taking in all the experiences she can. She is excited to be a part of a great team and looks forward to building more friendships.
“Boise State has been a great experience so far and I’m glad I made the decision to come here,” says Foucher. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
Sources & references used in this article: