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.


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.


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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About Jana

Welcome! My name is Jana, and I'm a 20-something girl building a life fueled by good food, an even better sweat, and all things outdoors. I started this blog as a way for me to share my love for health and fitness. Follow along as I figure out what balance means to me these days through a little (sometimes a lot) of trial and error.


  1. I am so, so sorry about the stress fracture but I love your perspective on all of this. Britto is full of inspiration :) you’ll get through it and you’ll come back even stronger. Hang in there!

  2. I’ve been there… stress fractures in my foot and stuck in a boot right before a big event. It’s not fun and I empathize with you.

    But I really wanted to thank you for this post, it’s a great way to look at things. I’ve been feeling kind of down about my running this year because I had to drop back from the marathon I was training for to the half and then the rest of the year has just been kind of a mess due to health problems. But if I take a cue from this and look at it as if the scaled back running has been part of my journey to learn about what’s wrong and how to take better care of myself… maybe someday I’ll be stronger than ever!

    • I’m sorry you’re going through this as well Jill and you’re very welcome about sharing this! I have to reread it a bit to remind myself this is the healthier way to approach it because I’m still having some low moments for sure!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I just got diagnosed with a stress fracture/reaction as well. I was misdiagnosed several weeks ago but happy to know what it is now. Good reminder to keep things in perspective! I have not been sleeping well, had subpar nutrition, and was overtraining for several years but about 5 months ago I changed all of that. Unfortunately the injury lagged behind the changes I made, but I’m hopeful that in a year or two I’ll be healthier all around and less prone to injury and I hope you will be too!

    • Chelsie – I’m sorry to hear you have a stress fracture! No fun. I hear you on the different variables catching up – I’ve been feeling great recently but after months of insomnia, my body just couldn’t handle recovery. I know we will both come back stronger!

  4. ugh i am so so sorry. i have had similar experiences because of my ankle, where i feel so good until all of a sudden i dont. youll get better and get out there for some race soon but i get it. it truly sucks. xo

    • Thank you, Nicole! It’s so weird how quickly things can change but also an (unwelcome) reminder to appreciate every run.

  5. I’m sorry to hear about your injury. But I really admire how you are handling it: “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.” YES!!! I love this attitude and if you keep it up, your journey will continue to be an enjoyable and empowering one. :-)

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m having to reread my post to remind myself that this is the right mindset when I’m feeling a bit down! Know everything happens for a reason though and when I do BQ it’s going to be even sweeter :)

  6. GIRL WE SHOULD TALK. Luckily after Chicago Marathon where I had a fabulous race, I got a 4th metatarsal bone stress fracture. The MRI said reaction and then I ran on it a couple more times and my Dr. thinks its a fracture. Anyways I was supposed to run Philly too-initially as a backup for Chicago but really a race that I REALLY wanted to run and have fun with. Interesting because I’ve been struggling with the same feelings. My mileage peaked lower than yours, I was racing faster and strong and had a really strong marathon. However I know I have REALLY been skimping on sleep thanks to school and work plus my cortisol levels are out of control. Yikes, good to hear that maybe that’s what did it and not some weird running thing I’m doing with my gait despite it sucking hard. You are looking at this in an awesome way. I kind of see this as my body forcing me to rest, sleep more, and take a break.

    • Lauren! I’m glad you were able to race well at Chicago and didn’t have to deal with the injury until afterwards but still crappy nonetheless! It’s such a balance pushing yourself to see improvements but not going too hard. I felt like I had everything in check but dealt with insomnia the last 6 months and clearly body couldn’t keep up with recovery. Always more to learn!

  7. Jana, I’ve been following your training/progress for a few months now (I am also a Boston runner (and know one of your NP pals) and am running Philly) and am SO SO SO sorry to hear about your injury. Your mental fortitude is incredibly inspiring and I know you will heal both mentally and physically and come back stronger than ever.

  8. This is my first time reading your blog and I have to say, you have amazing perspective for someone so young and running so well!! This post is a gift to every runner who has found themselves in this situation, as there are SO many!! I’m sure you will get that 3:30 (if not better) but I hope you realize you have achieved so much more than a time goal with all you have learned though this process.
    Good luck!!!

  9. So sorry about your injury, but love your attitude! Good luck with your recovery!


  1. […] ) What if the race was never the goal – I loved this post from Jana. I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon it since it was […]

  2. […] the other piece, I left off with such a positive outlook on this injury and I’d be lying if I said I feel that way every day. I’ve tried to find a new […]

  3. […] 1st: Stress reaction on my 3rd metatarsal (top of the foot near my toes). You can read all about it here but in summary, I was tapering for the Philadelphia Marathon, feeling great, and had just finished […]