“I’ll sure be glad when all of this is over”. My mom said to me as I was preparing to head out on my longest training run. I asked her what she meant. She replied, “It seems as though you haven’t enjoyed any of this. You’ve complained about the whole process”. It was quite a sucker punch. I was 6 weeks out from running my first full marathon. On that day, I was scheduled to run 22 miles.
Out-running my 40th
I decided three years ago to run a full marathon before my 40th birthday. I’ve always been a recreational runner and the idea of a running a marathon is pretty awesome to me. I’ve always admired marathoners. They are “celebrities” in my world. They set goals, push themselves through difficult situations and succeed. I hold myself to the same standards in that I like to push my physical boundaries and see just how much I can do by myself. Why not try a marathon?
I signed up for the Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon in August of 2015. I started training in January of 2016. I found a training plan that agreed with my work schedule and home/family schedule. It consisted of running 3 days a week, cross training 2 days a week, and a long run on the weekend. Right away I was dealing with shin splints, tight hamstrings, and painful arches. I tried not to get discouraged and worried that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for this. Dr. Swick, Dr. Barnick, and Dr. McElheran provided insight, encouragement, and physical therapy to my muscles and tissues that were growing and changing. They also kept my alignment in check. Dr. Swick taught me exercises to strengthen my hips so my knees would hold up.
In the early months, the days were short, so it was dark and cold. I had to wear many layers including a headlamp, gloves and reflective gear. Many times it was raining. It was hard initially to incorporate the running schedule into my own schedule but I knew the importance of training. It can make or break the whole experience. I called on a friend that has run many marathons to ask random questions. Her advice: “Watch out for potholes, and don’t get run over! Don’t worry about all the other stuff.”
I got stronger, the days got longer, and I settled into my new schedule. I made sure my cross training consisted of things I could do at home in order to minimize time away from home. My long runs were hard because my husband works Saturdays. I chose to hire a babysitter in order to avoid interrupting Sundays. It was so much time away from my kids. When I got home, they were full of energy and I was pooped! They wanted to go and make something of the day, and so did I, but my endurance wasn’t there yet. It came around eventually but it took about 6 weeks.
Race week came. I had an incredible sense of peace early in the week but as the week progressed my nerves increased. I couldn’t help but worry that I wasn’t ready. I suppose this means I’m normal. The night before I was so nervous I got sick. I was supposed to be carb loading and hydrating and instead I was doing the opposite! I was so scared I’d be sick and not be able to go. I had trained for 6 months and put hundreds of dollars into this. Could it really come down to the night before? The next morning, I woke up feeling much better. I was energized, excited, eager, and relieved!
Moment of Truth
My approach was to take it slow and conservative. I had never done this before; I had no idea what was to come. Every run for me had been different throughout training and I didn’t want to go out like I knew everything. I had 4+ hours of running ahead of me and I didn’t want to make a mistake early on. I chose to walk at the water stations as a way to “reset” and remind myself to enjoy the process. I did just that and had a great experience! I took in a lot of scenery, had loads of racecourse entertainment, and a lot of time to appreciate my hard work and the people that helped me get there! I had no joint pain, no complaints, and I finished relatively fresh and very proud. Frankly, I was quietly expecting some sort of discomfort, but none!! I was thrilled! I’m so thankful to the awesome doctors I work for. They helped me so much. So many runners, including myself, just want to go out the front door and run, but we must strengthen the whole body. Strong surrounding structures equal comfortable, rewarding running!
I would recommend a full marathon to anyone contemplating it however, training is absolutely vital! Surround yourself with supportive, knowledgeable people that are willing to listen to all the ups and downs of training. Allow yourself to be imperfect, it will result in an amazing, perfect experience!
In conclusion, complaining will happen. Will you love all of the training? No. Will you have moments of pride and accomplishment? Of course! I experienced all of the above. I was frustrated out there, hot, cold, tired, hungry, lonely, bored, happy, excited, proud, scared, etc. Accomplishing amazing things isn’t easy. To some people, it will seem as if, “all you’ve done is complain”.
Oops, I did it again! – Update 12-1-16
After my first marathon, I found myself in the best shape of my life. I wanted to maintain that level of fitness and I enjoyed having a goal to drive my love for running. I knew the Seattle Marathon was in November and I wanted to participate. I was optimistic that I could do well and have a good experience considering I had been training for the last six months and was mostly ready. I signed up for it and began training again.
What have I done?
I developed IT Band syndrome immediately. This was hard to accept and I wondered if it was a message that I shouldn’t run a second marathon in one year. I had to continue training to be ready. Letting my knee rest is what it needed, but I only had 11 weeks until the marathon. I stick to my commitments regardless of how I feel, what I would rather do, or should do! Dr. Barnick taped my knee every week in order to help get me through the long runs. Even with those efforts, I could only run a couple miles before my knee became very painful while running. I was getting very stressed worrying about the idea of running 26 miles on a “bum” knee. In desperation, I searched “how to resolve IT band syndrome” on the internet. I read about a study where the subjects kept their knee immobilized for three days while icing regularly. The study had a 99% success rate in resolving IT band syndrome. I figured I had nothing to lose by keeping my knee straight for 3 days and icing proactively. After the 3 days, I cautiously went for a run. No pain!!! I could hardly believe it! Throughout the rest of my training, I would keep my knee straight for a day after every long run. I continued to ice my knee every night regardless of how it felt.
Here I go again!
Race day came. I was calm and confident. I knew what to expect with the distance and time out there running. My knee had not bothered me in more than two weeks. It was colder this time so my main concern was to stay warm. I averaged a faster time per mile, didn’t experience any knee pain the whole time and ended up finishing 17 minutes under my time in June! I had a great time but I realize that completing two marathons in one year was a lot to ask of my body. I was bound to get some push back, and I did! I’m so glad I can now say, “I ran Seattle.” This will not be my last marathon. I would like to run a “destination” marathon. Perhaps somewhere warm!