The last time freshman Hannah Bonaguidi competed in a running event, she passed out from pain in the middle of the race.
She had alignment issues with her hips and bones, and running with these problems led to a microfracture in her tibia and a tear in the ATFL ligament in her foot.
Bonaguidi was officially diagnosed with these tears and microfractures five days before the cross country Patriot League Championships in the fall. She had made an impact on the team and was on her way to earning Patriot League Rookie of the Year. She was never able to finish the season or reap the rewards for her hard work.
Instead, Bonaguidi set a date for surgery and the beginning of her recovery process.
Bonaguidi had been struggling with this injury since June 2016, before she came to Lehigh, but it became an issue in October. After her surgery in the fall, it took her six months to recover. She was on crutches for two weeks which, considering Lehigh’s campus is on a mountain, was a challenge in itself. Next, Bonaguidi wore a boot for four months and also went to physical therapy.
“The first weeks before the surgery were a big pity party,” Bonaguidi said. “I felt like I was letting myself and my entire team down and that I should have been able to help my team at PLCs and just sucked it up and ran.”
Sophomore Maura Henderson was especially disappointed when she found out Bonaguidi would be unable to compete.
“For me especially it was hard,” Henderson said. “We worked out really well together and it was amazing having someone with me for every step, every day.”
What many people don’t know is Bonaguidi was actually one of Henderson’s main competitors in the fall. Having anyone, especially a teammate, capable of pushing Henderson was rare.
“You like to think iron sharpens iron,” coach Matt Utesch said. “I know (Henderson) missed having (Bonaguidi) to train with and push her.”
Henderson said she and Bonaguidi have different approaches to the sport, which is part of the reason the two work and train so well together.
“But I think our passion for the sport drives us together and makes us very relatable,” Henderson said. “We are both very self critical as well. I think our lack of satisfaction with any performance is what pushes us to find success.”
But sometimes, such high levels of passion for a sport can turn to hate during times of frustration.
“There were times when I would think about taking the easy way out and just quitting and not having to worry about making a comeback, but I never did,” Bonaguidi said.
Even after surgery, therapy and crutches, Bonaguidi still thought the toughest aspect of her injury was not being able to run.
“What I missed most about running was being able to take an hour or so to myself each day to just enjoy doing something for me and being by myself and reaping the rewards of working hard,” Bonaguidi said. “I missed the confidence I used to have when I would compete. No matter what I knew I always had running as a confidence boost, and without it I felt really lost.”
Utesch said it is always a blessing to coach motivated and talented athletes, but it also is a huge problem when they get hurt. He acknowledged the injury aspect is the hardest part about coaching. Utesch added it is difficult for runners when they are injured, because they’re obsessed with finding something that will make them better or give them a new edge.
“The fact that they are so committed and so dedicated and have a good head on their shoulders, also makes them a little bit crazy,” Utesch said.
But Bonaguidi’s passion for running may have been the only thing that drove her through her recovery process and eventually got her cleared to compete this spring. However, she is working back into training slowly and practicing self-awareness.
“I am terrified of getting hurt again,” Bonaguidi said. “I missed (six) months out of the last year with injuries and would like for that to never happen again.”
As for right now, she has no goals for her upcoming season. Instead, she is focusing on improving her outlook on running and regaining her leg strength,
“I just want to get in a good place for summer training and XC in the fall,” Bonaguidi said. “Whatever happens along the way happens.”