Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rub Some Dirt on It

Growing up with Marines as parents, I was taught to be tough! If I fell down (at it was clear that I wasn't actually hurt) my parents would say "You're ok, just rub some dirt on it!" Because they didn't make a big deal about it, I often times would hold the water works after I fell. This sort of mentality was something I carried throughout adulthood. Being tough is something I take pride in. I will often soldier on, ignore the discomfort, suck it get the picture.

Some things however should not be ignored.

Last week I set out for my long run. I was scheduled to complete 16 miles. Due to some planned and un-planned life/family events, I was unable to get a long run in since my 10 miler 4 weeks prior. "It's ok", I thought, "I'm tough, I'll be able to do it. Once I get this 16 miles in, I will feel great!"

After about mile 6 I was much more tired than I was expecting. Looking at my Garmin, I also noticed that my heart rate was a bit higher than normal. "Hmmmm, that's odd...oh well, suck it up! Marathons don't run themselves."

Mile 9 rolled around and I was unable to run. Physically my legs refused to move in a forward motion at anything faster than a 14 min/mi pace. With every step my knees screamed in agony (think hammer on both sides of your knee cap with a vice press on the front part of your knee cap).

I've experience knee pain before, but NEVER has it been so agonizing. And, it's not like distance is new to me, I've completed 4 half marathons in the past 16 months.

Mile 11 came and I couldn't move. Even walking was pure torture. "$h!t, I have to do 5 more miles today? If this were the race, I'd have to do 15 MORE miles?!" I was in such misery that I actually called my fiancé to pick me up because I couldn't even walk the 3 miles to my car.

I have never felt more defeated in my entire life.

That Saturday I made a decision. I decided to stop ignoring the pain. The reality is that I have never run pain free. I've tried the traditional cures: ice, new shoes, old shoes, new terrain, knee brace, stretch, weight lifting, you name it.

It was a difficult, painful, tear-filled decision, but I decided to step out of the Chicago Marathon.

You hear of runners who drop dead at mile 22 of a marathon, who mess their muscles up so badly they can't walk, who die of heart attacks... Want to know how that happens? It's because so often we forget what a strain we put on our body. We ignore the fact that we're asking it to perform over and over again. We completely stop listening to what our bodies are telling us. In this runner's case, I'm going to listen.

I feel that there are some underlying problems that I may need to deal with. Mainly I need to focus on my heart (find out what my healthy and dangerous bpm are) and focus on my knees. It's not normal to sit down for 15 minutes and not be able to stand back up because you're knees stop working (especially at my age!)

I'll still be here. I'll still be exercising , but I'll be doing it because I want to.

I mentioned that I've never run pain free, well I've never run just to run either. Every single time I've ever put on my running shoes, it was a training run.

I can't wait to go out and run...




I am sad that I won't be doing the marathon, but once I finally made the decision, I felt like a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders, which assured me that I did make the right choice for me. Running shouldn't be a burden. One day, 26.2 miles will be totally doable, but that day is not now, and that's ok.


  1. Oh I am SO sorry that you are injured. That just stinks. But I am proud of you for making the right decision for RIGHT NOW and not running your marathon. Take it from someone who has run a marathon injured. It sucks. And it will only hurt you worse. It was a stupid decision I made.
    Take your time, get healthy and there will be another race. And you'll run it confident and healthy!

  2. Hang in there. I feel your pain , literally. I am still not running pain free. Every day is a bit better but listen to your body. Pulling out of the marathon was a good decision your health is way more important. Get those knees and heart checked first and worry about the running later!!

  3. That must have been a very hard decision for you, but it sounds like it was the right one to make. You sound like you have a good perspective on it and it's good that you decided to take care of yourself. I can relate to much of this because I recently dropped out of the marathon that I was going to run in Oct. due to a stress fracture...Hang in there.

  4. You are totally doing the right thing. If you have had knee pain like that for a long time, you should get it checked out :(

    I am so happy you wrote this. I had really bad knee pain during my 13-miler on Friday. It sort of faded but my knee hurt a bit that day. I am not going to run tomorrow unless I feel 100% better :)

  5. Good for you, and I'm sorry. It's not easy to make that decision, but better to fix the problem now then to completely blow out your knees and just never run. You mention that your only runs have been training runs. Are there any running groups in your area. Groups where you can just show up and run? Check out Luna Chix, they are one group that I know of that's national. Good luck, I hope you heal quickly!

  6. Jen, this made me both very sad and very happy; Sad that you had to go through such physical and mental pain but happy that you made the RIGHT decision. Having run a marathon injured and unprepared was one of the biggest mistakes that I made in my life and I am glad to know that your first marathon experience won't be tarnished with detrimental pain and suffering. Most important is your willingness to take a step back and focus on YOU and your love for running. At the end of the day that's all that matters and not only do I applaud your realization but I have also learned from it. See, I too am on the brink of not running CM. I'm on am emotional roller coaster of some sorts, but your post is helping me make sense of it all. Thank you! Hope your knees get better and enjoy falling in love with running again! xo

  7. I now the feeling. When this happens to me, I remember one of the old aages of mountaineering - getting to the top is only half of the trip. Tere's nothing wrong with making sure that you're arond to finish the journey at a later date. The race will always b there.

  8. Wow! What a great post and wise decision you made. I'm struggling with an injury right now and you've truly inspired me. I hope all is well with your heart and your knees. Happy running just to run!

    Winks & Smiles,

  9. If anyone understands how hard this decision was to make its me! Bravo to you for not running through the pain anymore, you can't put yourself at risk like that! Races are but short term goals if your long term goal is to always be able to run! Take care of yourself chica! There will always be another Chicago or 26.2 for you when the time is right! Focus on recovery now.


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