Tomorrow I strap up my laces and set out to run 26.2 miles of Washington DC’s streets. As excited as I am that the day is almost here, the road has been anything but smooth. But then again when does anything go the way we plan it to?a
It all started back in October. I was running 40-50 mile weeks just for fun, and a few blogger friends brought up this thing called The National Marathon. I had considered doing a marathon for a while, and with this one being just 3 days before a milestone birthday of mine it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I jumped at the chance.
But then on November 16th after lunch I stood up to a sharp pain in my right leg. I figured these things happen and that I could walk it off. Two days later I ran 6 miles before having to call it quits. That Saturday I ran again and when I was done even walking hurt. I had stupidly and unknowingly caused a stress fracture in my leg.
For the next month I didn’t see a doctor; what can I say? I’m stubborn. I quit running, took up what exercises I could do like yoga and the elliptical, and strength trained. When I finally did see the doctor, my leg had healed somewhat and I was prescribed a few more weeks of rest. The marathon wasn’t even on my mind for these 6 weeks; any amount of running would have been fine.
I had my first run post-injury on December 31st, and I ran a sore and uncomfortable 2.5 miles before calling it quits. It wasn’t a comeback; I was huffing and puffing. But it was running. I decided maybe I could shoot for the marathon with the twelve weeks I had left. Granted, no one would tell you 12 weeks is enough to train for a marathon, especially after so long a break from running, so I was mostly on my own for a training plan.
4 weeks after I started running I hit double digit long runs. 3 weeks after that I ran my best long run—a well-paced 18-miler in 30mph winds. But I noticed as my long runs got longer that my running during the week suffered. Since I really had no running base this time around, there was no consistency between runs and I turned my focus on making sure the long runs went well(Note: I was really breaking just about every “rule” that there is about building mileage at this point). I also bought compression sleeves for my knees and shins to distribute the pressure during runs to prevent any new injuries from flaring up.
And then there was the 20-miler, the long run which is supposed to mark the pinnacle of your training and prepare you for the big day. Mine went awful. I didn’t plan enough water; I brought food but had no idea when to eat it; the course I chose was flat but unfamiliar. I ended up having to stop and walk more times than felt comfortable and finished far from goal pace. I wanted to quit more so then than ever. The run taught me a lot about what to do on race day but only because I did it all wrong the first time around. Most of all, I realized I was out of shape to be running a marathon and things would have to change before the race.
In the time since that day I’ve been trying to do things right. I’ve had a few good runs which give me hope my legs won’t fall apart somewhere along the way. Most significantly I’ve changed my diet; no one tells you when you go from running 50 mile weeks to not at all you can’t eat what you want anymore, and from November to February for a variety of reasons I gained a spare tire which wasn’t helping me run any faster. I’ve packed my things, made my playlist and now I’m ready to go. All I’m waiting for is the starting gun.
Of course I’m nervous that 12 weeks wasn’t enough. And I’m nervous that my weekly mileage never got over 26 miles in all that time of running and now I have to run it all at once. But I’m counting on the magic of the day and all the things I’ve learned to push me through. And if I don’t make it all the way(but I will) I’ll be more satisfied having tried and failed than if I had never tried at all.