Actually, I ran a MARATHON. Yup. That happened.
I’d been keeping an eye on my injury and decided that Thursday, May 9th was THE DAY. I laced up my Newtons, threw on my favorite Lululemon running shorts, and headed to the Saucon Rail Trail. No watch, just an app on my phone to tell me how far I’d run and “Awolnation Radio” playing on Pandora. I was only going for two easy miles to check in with the healing process. The first few strides felt strange and foreign. My legs felt stiff, like they’d forgotten what they were supposed to do. By the time I completed the first mile, I’d found my stride and didn’t want to stop. Fine, another half mile and I swear I’ll turn around. When I hit 1.5 miles, I so badly wanted to keep going. I listened to the little nagging voice of reason in my head and turned around. Three miles was enough for the day. It felt exhilarating, but also like I was breaking the law. Or, like little kid sneaking candy or cookies when my mom wasn’t looking. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be out running.
I monitored my leg over the next two days to see how it would react to the stress of running with my full body weight. I had no pain during the run, or during yoga that night. It still felt normal when I got home and sat down to relax. When I woke up the next morning, I opened my eyes and was afraid to step out of bed and put weight on it for fear I’d be back at square one. I hopped out of bed and felt nothing. Whew.
When last Saturday morning rolled around, I couldn’t help but head to the Bethlehem towpath to try a few more miles. Five, to be exact. I was averaging a good pace and things felt normal and wonderful. I still had that feeling like I was doing something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing. It was humid with a little rain and wind, but I didn’t care. It was perfect.
I tried again last Sunday, meaning back to back days of running. If I’m planning to run any of my spring marathons, I need to know my body can handle the stress. 7 miles on the towpath. I was definitely fatigued, but it didn’t hurt – not before, during, after, or even the next day. I sucked it up and used the anti-gravity treadmill last Monday but I increased the weight to 70% for the first 6 miles, bumped it up to 75% for the 7th mile and gradually increased it to 80% over the last mile. Last Tuesday afternoon I headed to the Saucon Trail to try a double digit run with some pavement and hills. I ran on the trail but included a 4 mile loop that hits some nasty hills on the surrounding paved roads. 10 miles, decent pace, and I wasn’t even sore the next day.
After work on Thursday, we hopped in the car and drove up to Lake Babcock, located on the border of upstate New York and southern Vermont. Originally, the trip was planned so I could run the Shires of Vermont Marathon on Sunday, May 19th. I still was unsure whether I’d be lining up at the start on Sunday morning. After a comfortable five miler around the lake on Friday and a steady three miler on Saturday, I made my decision. I would run the race. If I had to stop, I would stop.
I wasn’t nervous at the start of the race because I already made the decision that it was okay to stop and I wasn’t going to let myself get injured. If that was the way things were meant to happen, I was at peace with it. I was happy to just have the courage just to show up at the starting line and try. The race began and I was comfortably hanging around an 8:30-9 minute pace, which was faster than I expected to run. Around mile 10, my stomach took a turn for the worse. Those of you who run with me know that I sometime struggle with GI tract issues while running and have an incredibly sensitive stomach. I stopped for the bathroom around mile 10 and ran into my friend, Mike. We ended up sticking together through the remainder of the race.
While it was one of my slowest finishes to date, it was truly a wonderful day. I had the opportunity to run and catch up with an old friend for a good part of the day. Somewhere between miles 16-17 my stomach improved and I was able to motivate the surrounding runners. My legs felt fresh, but I knew I wasn’t cleared by my doctor to run this race and I was fortunate enough to be participating. Instead of racing, I spent the remainder of the marathon motivating and inspiring my friend and the new friends I was making along the way. The course was one of the most scenic and beautiful that I’ve been lucky to experience, and I really had the opportunity to take in every single step of it. We finished in 4:48:41. About an hour and 15 minutes longer than it took me to run Boston about a month ago. I didn’t care.
After the race, I was tired – but not really sore. I took a nap, ate a nice meal and hung out with my family. The next morning, I did a full yoga practice and felt surprisingly normal. No soreness, no stiffness but best of all – no leg pain, strange sensations or twinges. If I would have pushed too hard on Sunday, I easily could have re-injured myself. The sheer amount of hills on the course could have been too much impact if I didn’t just kick back and relax. I just started running again last week, so pushing myself to run too hard would have resulted in feeling like total crap during and after the race.
I finished and I’m already on to the next one. My current goal is to build up my base so I can add the intensity back in and keep steadily knocking states off of my list. The Buffalo Marathon is this Sunday, and I’m going to do it. I’m going to be pacing a friend again, and this is a much flatter course. I’m anticipating a moderately paced day full of lots of fun, and I can’t wait. Stay tuned for a proper course review for the Shires of Vermont Marathon!