Everyone who’s done it has a story of the first time with a marathon. Some reach their goal of time, some reach their goal of finishing, some unfortunately don’t. Some come fully prepared, some come less prepared. This is a story of the latter (despite efforts).
Why Running When Nothing Is Chasing You?
Growing up, I spent most of my life on a baseball field. Running is a part of it, but not for hours on end. When I stopped playing due to some back injuries, I needed to find something to do. Photography was fun, but didn’t give me the competition aspect (now I take picture while I run – win/win). So I ran. I had a 3 mile-ish loop that I could do from Greensboro College to UNCG with a nice A/C break with water at halfway at the UNCG basketball gym. I never timed myself, no records. Did it for the love of the game as they say. Sometimes I’d run 3 days a week, sometimes none. I pretty much kept this aimless wandering of exercise up until starting DPT school at Elon in 2011. Put 40 healthy individuals in a building all day – they’re gonna exercise at lunch time! A few of us struck up a good friendship, and we started running. I blame Evan/John for the addiction that ensued. Garmin satellite watch – purchased. Tar Heel 10 miler race entry – check. Eventually cycling and triathlons ensued, but this is not that story.
And So It Began
The Tar Heel 10 miler is a great event, Chapel Hill in spring, lots of hype and excitement to spare. I ran well and enjoyed it (despite Laurel Hill – locals know). Within 2 weeks, I had signed up (and paid – a key part later) for a half marathon in Sept and a full marathon in November, the day before my birthday. Not knowing much better, I got a generic training plan online – one that progressed distance but did not provide me with any pace or effort guidelines. I did well through the half marathon in September with no real trouble, good pace, and felt hopeful for the marathon. A few weeks later, I noticed that in the middle to ends of long runs that I was having some pain on the outside of my left knee/thigh. Like most people, I though resting would take care of it so I took a few days off. I then did a medium run (6-7 miles) and the pain came back but sooner. At the time I had just gotten started into PT school so I knew enough to pick out what it might be but didn’t know enough to treat myself. I talked to a few staff members at school who were PTs but without being an actual patient, we tried to treat with mostly home stretching and exercise. While this can be effect as a part of any treatment strategy, it is not a replacement for the important hands on in clinic work that I now do on a daily basis. I would most likely would have benefited from trigger point dry needling to help reduce myofascial trigger points that were most likely the cause of my pain, deep tissue laser for healing, and hip strengthening exercises to improve biomechanics (how I ran) to prevent the problem from returning. Unfortunately, I have 6 more years of knowledge and clinic skills now than I did at the time, so that is not what happened. This did:
I did some light stretching, rested for a week or two, and took some pain medication. I tried to return to running and guess what: pain was still there, just a mile or two further into the run. Thus began my “uh oh” moment (that lasted about 1.5 months). I had worked hard to get where I was. I am not one that will quit something if there is any chance I can get it done. I also had paid for this thing. I was NOT about to skip something I had paid for unless I literally could not walk (that comes 3 years later). I still couldn’t run though. I decided to completely shut down from running for 3 weeks. I biked, swam, and walked almost every day for cardio but didn’t run. Finally, one week before the marathon, I went for a few short 3-4 miles with very mild pain complaints but still knowing that it probably would come back the longer I went. I talked to the wife, and then ignored her and my own common sense – I was going to run the event, despite pain and not running longer than 16-17 miles.
I Chose To Do This, and Actually Paid Money For It!
Date: 11.19.2011. Location: Showplace, Downtown High Point, NC. I knew going in the pain would return at some point. I decided I would run as fast and long as I could, then adjust when the pain started. I went about 14-15 miles before the pain started and boy did it start. The idea of walking/running off and on was gone. I was just walking for the rest of it, with pain for every step. At somewhere around 20-22 miles, I went to a porta john just to sit and have a brief watery eye moment (those allergies you know). A few moments later I decided that I would keep going. A mere 5 hours after starting, I made the last turn in downtown High Point, summoned all I had left, and “jogged” across the finish line. I had never really felt what a wave of emotion felt like until that moment. Ask my wife today and she will tell you that this is one of the few times she would say I cried. Maybe not so much cried as a manly, snot-filled breakdown (common colds, you know) – but just for a minute mind you.
To this day, this was one of my finest, hardest, “I’m in a glass case of emotion” 5 hours in my life. I view it like a scar. It caused me pain and suffering in the moment, but now it serves as a lesson learned, an achievement met, and a lifelong passion fed. As Mater pointed out in Cars 2, learn to value your dents. Every one of them bears the beauty of grace and redemption. That experience helped shape me as a runner, as well as person – I would hope to say for the better. As most, for the next week or two I spoke repeatedly about never ever doing something like that again (it lasted for about a year – I signed up for the 2nd marathon for Nov 2013).
Coming Soon: Training Month 1 Reflection