What if this race was never the goal

Hi there! Sorry to leave you hanging with my last post. I needed some time to process things and honestly just haven’t been at my computer much with a bunch of events at Janji. But here I am, one week before race day, not able to race. Let’s back up a bit…

Any newcomers, I’ve been training since June for the Philadelphia Marathon. This would be my 9th marathon and I’ve had an incredible season training for that 3:30 goal I’ve been chasing for years. Honestly, I was confident I could run it even faster. I was averaging between 50-60 miles consistently, ran my last 20 milers at a 7:45 average pace, and I felt pure excitement about race day. I’ve had other seasons when I resented training and couldn’t wait for the race to be over, but this wasn’t one of them. I felt myself getting faster and faster every week, and I cherished the miles spent with Georgia, Kelsey and my track crew.

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I peaked at 62 miles two weeks ago and I had never felt stronger. I had a few tough workouts left but started to come down in volume as I began my taper. I ran a solid track workout and on my cool down home, I went from “oh, my foot feels weird” to “oh, I can’t walk” over the span of 5 minutes. This wasn’t a pulled muscle. It felt different, something deeper and a bit nauseating. I walked home and immediately started rehabbing it with ice, Epsom salt, anti-inflammatories and rest.

Two days later, I knew something wasn’t right. I saw a doctor who said that while he hoped he was wrong, he had a feeling it might be a stress fracture but encouraged me to get a MRI. Fast forward a few days and a second doctor echoed that sentiment. The next day I had the (expensive) MRI, and my doctor said the results showed a “metatarsal bone stress injury” – not a fracture, yet, but a reaction that could become fractured if I kept running. He said racing on it would not go well and could cause serious damage.

I begged both doctors for explanations. I explained that I increased mileage safely, I ate well, I took care of my body and I felt amazing until that one day. The first doctor who knows me more personally suggested that emotional stress takes a toll on us physically more than we realize. He also said that if I haven’t been able to sleep well, I was never able to recover fully from hard workouts. He suggested that when I’m able to get sleep and stress in order, I could be amazed by what I’m able to do.

So, that brings us to today, when I haven’t run in two weeks and can’t do anything physical until I have a checkup at the end of the month. I’m likely looking at another four weeks before I can run again. Well past race day.

When I first heard that I probably had a stress fracture, I biked back to Janji an absolute wreck and sobbed to John for a solid hour. The next few days weren’t pretty either. I was in a big self-pitying mood and a total mess in the mornings when I didn’t know what to do with myself. Running is a huge part of my identity and it’s how I fell in love with Boston. It’s why Boston feels like home, and it’s how I connect with so many of my friends.

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I couldn’t process the reality of missing race day – something I had worked so hard for over the last few months. I admittedly thought about the marathon as a chance to “prove something.” Prove that I’m fast, strong, and could turn an otherwise rough summer into fuel for achieving this goal I’ve chased for years. Running was my constant this summer. It was the one part of my day that I knew would bring me joy, and it was the place I channeled so much energy as I tried to make sense of the new norm. So not being able to race just simply didn’t make sense.

I had dinner with my wonderful friend, Britto, the day I found out I probably wouldn’t be racing, and I complained that it wasn’t fair to be stripped of an opportunity to put all my work to use. I explained this mindset that race day was my chance to turn something negative into a positive. She listened, sympathized, and then dropped her usual pearls of wisdom. I’m paraphrasing but she said something along the lines of this: “You’ve said that running saved you this summer. It brought you closer to Georgia and Kelsey and was your constant to get through so much crap. What if that was the goal? Not a time or race, but rather to get you to where you are now.”

That perspective immediately resonated and the more I think about it, the more peace I’m able to find. The fact I don’t get to race doesn’t take away any of my growth as a runner and person the last few months. Lauren Fleshman summed it up perfectly in her training journal:

The main reason for setting goals isn’t to achieve them. It’s like plugging a destination into a navigation system; it helps you identify a trajectory for moving through the world. Your goal puts you on a certain path to interact with certain types of people and to set up your life in a certain kind of way.

Running served me in exactly the way I needed it to – it got me on this path – and there will come another time to race when I can truly give it everything I have from a more grounded place. So I’m trying to take this injury as an opportunity to reset, reflect and heal. I’m sleeping more and doing a bit of core work and mobility exercises when I wake up but otherwise resting. I’m reflecting on my training – what I could have done differently and what I’d like to incorporate moving forward (like strength training). And I’m healing – physically and emotionally. I’m listening to my body, opting to take it easy whenever possible, and using the time to think about how far I’ve come.

I was driving to Ricki’s house on Friday night for her birthday dinner with our group of friends and for whatever reason thought about a night years ago before I moved to LA. The night before I left Boston, a handful of my closest girlfriends came over for dinner. We didn’t do anything special, but I was thinking about the fact that each of them stood by me through so many highs and lows since then. Cross country moves, job changes, marathon heartbreaks, real heartbreak – and they never rushed me to “be myself” again.

But here I am feeling like myself, albeit in a boot, and I’m so damn happy to be back. If I got injured months ago, I would be in a much darker place. I needed running then. I don’t need it now. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still shooting daggers at every person who runs by me in this picture perfect weather, but I know I’ll be running soon enough. In the meantime, I have a job I love, I’m otherwise healthy, and I have my people. That’s all that really matters.

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So, 1,000+ words later, let’s summarize: I’m ok. I’m bummed, but I know that this could be so much worse. And I know that I’ll come back stronger. If my body was able to handle 60 miles a week on terrible sleep and emotional rollercoasters, I can’t wait to see what I can do when I’m healed, mentally and physically, from day one. Until then, I’ll be accepting Netflix recommendations. Thanks :)

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