I thought it would be fun to share my first marathon story with ya’ll, especially as I find myself right around the corner from redemption. Hopefully. I’ve mentioned that I went into this race with an injury but have never shared the whole story. Perhaps you have found yourself struggling to find your inner marathoner. Maybe this will help encourage you.
In May of 2013 a friend of mine asked me to run the Dallas Marathon with her. It was coming up in December and I had tossed around the idea of doing a full for a long time. My husband and I had kind of always said we wanted to do our first full together at a destination race so I felt like I was cheating on him with Karyle. He was training for a half ironman in September and didn’t want to turn right around and start training for a marathon. I didn’t blame him. He gave me the go ahead and off I went, printing a training plan and writing EVERY single run down in my calendar, in pen. Bad move.
So, I started trying to build a running base. In June, as soon as the kids got out of school, we headed to Destin for vacation. I had been running a lot and hadn’t been paying any attention to how hard I was running or how far. I wasn’t being very smart in my base building phase but I felt good and was going on that. Bad move. While we were in Destin I was rushing to get a run in on the treadmill at the condo so I was running pretty fast. My knee started bothering me, but like a true idiot, I kept running thinking it would go away. It didn’t.
I spent the next several weeks trying my best to fix it. RICE was my best friend(rest, ice, compression, elevation) and I took several weeks off running. I finally broke down and went to see an orthopedic surgeon in July. He told me he thought I had what was called Plica Syndrome but I would need an MRI to be sure. Sure enough, the plica showed up. It’s basically a pesky piece of tissue that can become inflamed. Once it does, it’s hard to get rid of. It doesn’t really do anything and according to the Dr., it would be easy to remove. We tried a few more weeks of rehab and I got impatient. So, we scheduled surgery. I had surgery in August. It went fine. I had some funky reactions to all the post op medications but other than that I was back at the gym after two weeks. It was harder than I thought it would be but I managed to start running 3 weeks post surgery.
I knew the full was out so I decided to shoot for the half and my husband and I immediately started looking for spring marathons. That’s when we discovered Napa. Who wouldn’t want to run a marathon there?? The race was March 2nd which in my mind, gave me plenty of time to train. In reality, it was only 6 months after knee surgery. I thought it would be enough. I was so wrong.
I chose a marathon training plan that seemed solid. 4 days a week of running with gradual building of the long run up to 20 miles. I could do this! It was scary and intimidating as you know what. I had always considered myself sort of an average runner. Nothing special. No hidden talent deep down in there just a lot of determination and maybe a little naive stupidity. So, I started training. I did an 18 week plan. Keep in mind, I was technically rehabbing my knee for 2-3 months after surgery. I could run but my full range of motion wasn’t back until around November. That gave me 3 months with a “good” knee.
The training was brutal. I was nervous, paranoid and sick. I have chronic sinusitis so training all winter is horrible for me. We had miserable weather that year and my original Dallas Marathon got canceled due to an ice storm. I just felt nervous all the time that I wasn’t going to survive training. In fact, I allowed myself that goal first. Get through training. I had a few aches and pains along the way but I found myself in a “running the same all the time” rut. I had always incorporated speed work and different types of runs into my training plans along with strength training. I wasn’t. I hit a major wall and it was all I could do to keep running. It was a mental battle for dang sure.
So, even though it was hard, I survived until right before my 18 miler. I had done 16 and it was the best run I had done so far. I definitely peaked at 16. I was playing basketball with my son one afternoon after school and my hip really started hurting. That next Saturday I got up early to do my long run and could hardly walk to the kitchen without pain. I knew running 18 miles wasn’t in the cards that day. I got back in bed and cried like a baby. I know it sounds ridiculous but my hopes and dreams of running a marathon seemed to be slipping away.
I went to a chiropractor that week(which I’d never done) and told him my story. He said my hips were completely out of alignment and that it was probably due to my overcompensation for the knee(it was the opposite hip of my knee surgery side). So, after months of thinking I was fine, I was actually doing more harm on the other side of my body and didn’t even realize it. So frustrating!! My chiro reassured me that with a little therapy, stretching and a few massages I could probably still run. I waited two weeks and got back on track. But I never recovered mentally.
Taking two weeks off that late in training does something to you. Even though I had struggled before to get my head in the game I had still done the work. Once the hip healed I got back into my training and the week I started back I did my 18 miler. Another less than stellar decision. I’ll never forget that 18 mile run. It wasn’t terrible, but I did not feel right. My knee (on the same side as the hurting hip, but not my surgery knee..confusing yes?) started hurting bad. I kept running and pushing thinking again, it’ll go away. It wasn’t the same pain from the surgery knee so I knew it probably was just over use and the fact that I took 2 weeks off and was now running 18 miles. Ugh!! I could not catch a break. I may have cried once or twice on that run. I prayed and struggled with why I was even doing this. Why was I putting my body and mind through this agony? For a medal and a t-shirt? It became so much more than that for me, but at the time I couldn’t see that far down the road. I saw my injury and all my hard work going down the toilet.
Was this God’s way of telling me I’m not cut out for running a marathon? I didn’t want to think so. That seemed silly. But I felt so defeated. I continued training the next two weeks on a sore knee, icing and stretching. I went to my chiro and sure enough, swelling. He said it was nothing that I couldn’t run through but that I needed to be prepared for a significant period of time off after the marathon. So, to my 20 miler I went. This run was hard. It hurt but not as bad as I thought it would. But after I finished I could hardly walk. That was it. My last run before the marathon. I still had 3 weeks to go but found myself in a position where I couldn’t even run a half a mile without pain. I would try. I went out several times thinking it would pass. I may have thrown a water bottle and cried on a park bench. Maybe. It seems so ridiculous looking back. But, that’s how bad I wanted it. I could taste it. A trip and an experience with my husband that I wanted so bad. I had invested all these weeks and made all these sacrifices only to find myself at the very end with an injury. It’s what I had feared the whole time and it was becoming my reality.
I decided to run. The I decided not to run. Every day it was a different decision. Finally, I decided to surrender. I knew God had a plan and something for me to learn, even if that meant not running and supporting Rob instead. I’d still get a weekend alone away from the kids with my husband, which is pretty priceless. So, I let go. I wouldn’t run.
A few days before we were supposed to leave Rob was online looking at the race course. I came in the office and immediately started crying. It was getting ridiculous. What was even crazier is that he hadn’t run in 5 weeks. 5 weeks!!!! He had an issue with his arch that he was nursing in his foot. He wasn’t the one crying, I was. I felt like such a baby. He looked up at me and said, “Just run it babe, the worst thing that happens is you have to walk it. You can do it. I may be walking with you.” That’s all I needed. Now, I would run that marathon and walk if I had to but I would have the experience and that’s what I wanted. So, we packed up and headed to Napa in all of our glory….but not really. In all of our KT tape and patellar bands and foot braces. We were stocked with Icy Hot. I had absolutely no idea what God was going to do when I got on that plane. It’s an experience I will never forget. Stay tuned for Part 2……