Committing to a Marathon (or not)

5 years ago

I realized it's been a while since I last wrote about running. But for a while there I wasn't really running so I guess that explains it.

Now I'm running again and I'm excited about it. I'm feeling stronger this time.

I feel like I've had a lot of high hopes for "this time" over the last few years. Here's the quick version of my running history.

I started doing the jogging/walking thing in college but never considered myself a runner. I picked up the jogging/walking again with our dog in 2005. We went out almost every day but since I walked about half the time so I didn't really consider it running.

In October of 2007 a good friend and co-worker suggested we run a 5k. I agreed but was a little nervous since I'd never run that far in my life without walking.

This is turning into the not so short version. Sorry...

Anyhow, we did the 5k and I ran the whole distance. Our time wasn't bad. It was like the light bulb went on. I realized I could run. I wasn't very fast but I could finish. I didn't mind being in the middle of the pack. I ran a couple more 5k races over the winter. My friend and I ran a 10k. We started a marathon training schedule and did our long runs together every Friday morning. We ran a series of trail races over the summer (5 miles, 7miles, 10.5miles, 13miles). I discovered I LOVED trail running. After the last race of that series I decided I could call myself a runner. I ran another half marathon. 

I was running 5 days a week. I was averaging about 40 miles a week. I was running part or all the way to work several times a week.

I was thoroughly addicted to running.

Then, about two month before the marathon, I got sick. I didn't run for almost three weeks. It turned out I had walking-pneumonia. The medication made me feel better right away and I jumped back into my training schedule. I did a few gentle runs my first week back and felt fine. I decided to go ahead with the long run I had scheduled. That turned out to be a bad idea.

I did the long run and felt fine. The next day I did a short recover run and felt fine. Three days later I went out to do an easy three miles and had a horrible pain in my knee.

I went to a physical therapist and found out my IT-band was the problem. I was diagnosed with IT-band friction syndrome. The physical therapist gave me some exercises and told me to reduce my mileage. She said it might still hurt a little but I wasn't actually doing any damage to my leg.

It took me a long time to figure out she was wrong. I did every single thing she said to do and it didn't get any better. I didn't run the marathon. I walked the half-marathon and it hurt a lot. Several months later I still wasn't running. Walking hurt. My knee was swollen and bruised looking. My leg was sore all the time.

I finally got referred to an acupuncturist and had a breakthrough. According to the acupuncturist I shouldn't have kept running/walking. It was an overuse injury and I needed to rest. My IT-band had been rubbing against my bone (hence the IT-band friction syndrome) so badly that the bone had sliced into my IT-band repeatedly and caused scar tissue to build up.

The acupuncture was amazing (he put needles in the scar tissue and then sent little electric shocks through it to break it down) and got me to a place where I could walk without pain most of the time...but every time I tried running again the pain would come back. I tried every couple of months. Eventually we got pregnant and I stopped trying to run.

After L. was born, and I felt well enough, I tried to start running again, and again, and again. The pain in my knee always came back. It was really discouraging.

Then I read, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. I won't get into all the details of the book (it's a great book) but it introduced me to the idea of barefoot running. I was intrigued. I tried going barefoot on the treadmill a few times and my knee didn't hurt. Switching from a heel strike to a toe strike seemed to make all the difference.

But when I'm honest with myself I don't really want to run around barefoot. I'm a little to germaphobic and there are way to many mesquite thorns in our neighborhood.

In June I got a pair of Vibram FiveFingers and that seemed to be the answer.

However, even though my knee wasn't hurting I was still having a hard time getting into a routine. I couldn't maintain an early morning running schedule, we were traveling, etc., etc. It was always something. I would run a few weeks and then miss a few weeks. I kept starting over at the beginning because I was afraid to do too much too soon.

When we got back from our last trip I realized what the problem was.

I was bored. I didn't want to run a minute/walk a minute.

I wanted to run.

I needed to get past my fear of getting hurt again.

Today I completed my second week of the program. I ran seven miles today. I took it easy and walked a minute after every mile.

While I was running I started thinking about actually running a marathon. I'm doing the marathon schedule so I have a plan--a goal for every week. I want to get back to where I was before and I know this schedule will get me there.

Still, until today I hadn't really thought about actually running a marathon. After my run I got online and looked for races. If I stick to the 18-week plan I'm on I'll be ready at the end of February.

There is a race on March 3.

I could do it. I want to do it.

But I'm scared to commit. What if I sign-up and get hurt again? A marathon is a big financial commitment (in my opinion) and I don't want to waste the money. I could wait a few weeks and see how my training is going. But what if I wait and the race fills up?

It's a silly thing but it feels like a huge decision. It shouldn't be.

I think I'm actually worried about the various things that could prevent me from running the race. It feels so good to be running again. I'm afraid every minute that I'm going to lose it again. I'm afraid I'm going to wake up one day with a swollen knee and not be able to run. I don't want to start over again.

I have to stop worrying about things that haven't happened yet.

I just need to relax and enjoy my next run.

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