I ran my first marathon on November 19, 2017, and thought that day would be the beginning of a new stage in my running career. As simplistic and naïve as it sounds, I think that I had convinced myself once I earned the title “marathoner”, I’d be a real runner — I’d have the official proof that I could be fitter, faster, and stronger than I ever believed, and I’d be ready to run harder and longer as well.
It’s true that I’ve improved since I started running seriously, and I’m incredibly proud of running that marathon. Even though I missed my A goal of a 3:45 finish, my final time of 3:53:52 felt appropriate when I took an honest look at my fitness and training: I really am proud of my time and happy with it for a “debut”, even though I knew as soon as I’d finished that I’d set my sights on faster times as soon as I could get back on the racecourse. But that excitement and drive, and the accomplishment of completing a marathon didn’t magically make me into a new running machine. I’d been pushing my body to the limit for months, training through long workdays and an international business trip, followed by a whirlwind vacation that was more adventure than rest. With 26.2 tough miles to cap it all off, my body needed to rest and recover.
I didn’t give it a chance, tried to race a 5k just three days after the marathon, and jumped right back into training after that. A few six mile runs didn’t feel like a big deal after months of double digit workouts, but soon enough my body began to complain, and loudly. I’ve battled chronic knee issues for as long as I can remember, but the sharp pain that started to crop up earlier and earlier into my runs soon had me sidelined entirely. Not how I imagined progressing after such a major achievement and ego boost! I found it hard to stomach that after a full marathon, mile two of an easy run could be so painful I literally wouldn’t be able to bend my knee and run a step further.
I’d had had a few scary calf pains before the marathon and was already in touch with my doctor, so I was able to start seeing a physical therapist quickly (if reluctantly!). With a speedy diagnosis of IT band syndrome, and an overwhelming number of exercises to strengthen my weak glutes and one lazy quad muscle, I had my work cut out for me. Not being allowed to run for weeks on end was devastating at first: after dedicating tens of hours each week to running I had no idea how to keep busy, thought I’d lose all the fitness I’d gained over the past year, and feared I’d never make a comeback at all. After moping and panicking, I poured my pent-up energy into cross-training, from spin classes to barre and weight lifting. I have resolved to build up my strength and resilience —instead trying to sneak in a few miles that will do more harm than good— and adopt a big-picture perspective on my overall health.
Which brings me to Miles and Words: as running became more and more of a fixture in my life, and I started running in all sorts of unexpected and fun places —and running in unexpected directions— I realized I wanted to do more than keep those experiences to myself. Now that I’m not spending so many hours a day pounding the pavement, I plan to spend some time reflecting here instead, and stay focused and intentional about what I’m doing in the fitness world and elsewhere.
As far as running goes, I’m almost cleared to get back out there. I’m still having small aches and pains, but I’ve run short distances a few times in the past week and didn’t have the same intense pains that I was experiencing in my post-marathon weeks. Sadly my physical therapist thinks the “dreadmill” is the best place to start working running back into my routine — but I’m optimistic I’ll be back out on the roads shortly. And that’s good news, as I’m going to be running the NYRR Popular Brooklyn Half in May, and a small destination race in Lège-Cap Ferret, France, just outside Bordeaux, in April!
I’m treating the Brooklyn Half as my goal race and LCF as a training run for two reasons. First, I think it will be too soon for me to set any aggressive goals: at best I’ll have a solid month of training, so I will need to be careful not to injure myself by quickly ramping up to that distance. Finishing injury-free is my biggest concern, both for general health and fitness reasons and because I know I have a bigger race just a month after. But of course, I also know that I won’t be physically prepared to race the LCF half all out, because I’ll have spent the days before touring Bordeaux and subsisting on wine, cheese, and French guidebook phrases! While I love the idea of traveling to an A race, that’s not the case here, so I don’t want to undermine the rest of my vacation for the sake of what’s effectively a fun training run.
More words soon, and hopefully more miles too!