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The tough choices of running: what would you do?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

You're gliding along, it's the perfect day. Puffy white clouds fill the endless blue sky, a light breeze ruffles your hair as it guides you forward. Your shoes fly over the gravel path as your arms pump at your side. There are no other runners, and your legs feel like they could go on forever. Suddenly about six miles down the road your bliss vanishes. You start limping, favoring one side. Next thing you know, you crumple to the ground. When you finally regain your strength you find yourself walking (i.e. hobbling) to a place to call for help or back to your house.

Some of the scariest moments in a runner's life are the ones that involve injury. I am here facing it. In January I took up marathon training. My first full shebang of running. The event that separates the men from the boys. [Okay, well maybe not all that, but still a pretty crazy thing for an asthmatic in less than perfect shape to do]. I wanted that 26.2 embedded in my memory for ever. Even if I never did another one. I wanted to do it once. And I wanted it to be my hometown marathon, no matter how much people said this one sucked.

I trudged and suffered through the worst Buffalo winter in a while. Long runs, every Saturday without fail. My sweat was freezing to my face in icicles I couldn't even get off my hat. I blasted my way through many a hip flexor complaint and through several pairs of shoes. My knees took a beating, as did my lungs, and I entered race month (May) with an unparalleled optimism. I was finally going to do it. Unfortunately waiting on the heels of the Grand Island Half (a simple training run), was a knee injury that brought me down. For almost two weeks now I have been working with a massage therapist and really trying to bring myself up to form. I feel stiff and clumsy. Like the last 5 months never happened. All my training appears gone.

So I sit with the decision. I emailed the race director and it is possible for me to drop to the half marathon. But here are some hard truths:
-I would miss my goal race.
-I would have to train for another 5 months for a fall marathon.
-My training would interfere with other races I planned for this year (including a 30K in august).
-I will probably never run the Buffalo marathon.
-I could injury myself all over again if I decided to do it.

I ran the Stella B Foundation 5K today with excellent form and very little pain. My time only a little slower than regular training time. It even felt good. I have 2 more sessions with my therapist before I race. I could very well be fully recovered by race day. The hard decision is if I should stick it out for the full or drop to a half and repeat the process all over again. The only thing that really concerns me is the course time limit. If I get out there and end up having to walk the last bunch of miles because of knee trouble, I'm screwed. There is a 6 hour course limit. Coming across under that was no concern until now. My real fear is coming up on that finish line and it is gone. Poof! No official time. No medal. No remembering that I suffered 26.2 to be a hometown champ.

Faced with injury and all the troubles I admit I am at a loss of what to do. The thought of starting all over again makes me angry and depressed. As well as this injury. What would you do if you had to choose?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • IONA72
    Injury is awful, it made me so miserable, but consider the possibility of making it worse, the possibility that you may not be running again for a long time. The bigger problem though, is in the mind. Once you get that sorted you can do almost anything. Good luck on whatever you decide.
    3724 days ago
  • BRIAN36
    I am not offering advice, just food for thought. Last year, I injured myself running a half-marathon race I did as a training run two weeks before my full. I did a total of 8 miles the next two weeks to rest the injury. I considered backing out of the marathon, then decided I probably would never run another if I didn't do this one. I went ahead and ran the marathon regardless of the consequences.

    The consequences ended up being an mri and meniscal tear scare which I thought was going to require surgery. Luckily not torn, but took 4 weeks of physical therapy before I could even WALK a mile and 6 weeks before I ran again.

    Very tough decision you are facing.
    3725 days ago
  • BOBBYD31
    i dropped from a 30k to a HM in march the move from pittsburgh marathon today and was going to come to buffalo at the end of the month but it was in my best interest to drop all. there are other races out there, i know this and so do you.

    here is the blog i wrote about my decision, i think you need to read it.

    good luck with your decision, i know it was hard.
    3725 days ago
    I would have a long talk with your PT, and take his advice at 80% and your feelings at 20%. There's nothing worse than having a significant, side-lining injury.

    I had a hip injury two years ago that put me out for over a year because I forced it for a goal race. I didn't listen to a doctor and I didn't listen to my body. There will be other races, but you will not get another body in this lifetime. Treat it well!
    3725 days ago
    I dropped from the Pittsburgh full to the half due to injury. The race was today and I am so glad I didn't push to run 26.2.

    There will be other races. I am seriously considering the Niagara Falls marathon at the end of October now for my first full. Would that be an option for you?
    3725 days ago
    Missing a goal race is very hard to deal with. We bind up a lot of our self-image in running, and invest hours and hours of dedication.

    Think about your long-terms goals for running. This was to be the year of the marathon, but nothing says it can't be next year. If you pull back to the half, run the rest of the year as planned, you'll have a much solider base to build from next spring to tackle the Marathon next year. And it gives you time to figure out what cross-training you need to support your body in the marathon quest.

    The advice to listen to the therapist is also very good. Listen with an open mind... Would a slow hard painful marathon now be more satisfying than a solider performance next year? Is the risk of injury worth it? A bad set-back could mess up your summer running plans, so that is something to also consider.

    Only you can weigh the factors and decide. Your running buddies will be cheering for you whichever option you choose.
    3725 days ago
    I really hear you! After years of therapy due to knee injury, I began running last year.
    I am slow, steady, determined and listen to my body's needs.
    Last month I planned to run my first 10 km race but got sidelined in my training due to illness (my mother & son).
    My decision was to run the 5 km instead.
    This month I ran my first 8 km race in my hometown- I feel so proud.
    Take it easy, there are other races, you will achieve your goals.
    I too, plan to run a marathon one day, but I am not aiming for long-term knee injuries doing it.
    Listen to your therapist. S/he is strongly aligned with your goal & qualified to assess.
    emoticon emoticon
    3725 days ago
  • CKC76701
    That is a tough call. I know how it is to have a goal in mind and feel like you HAVE to achieve it. But I also know that is is ONLY a race. There are other races and you only have two knees.
    3725 days ago
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