Harrisburg Marathon and the end of 2012
This past weekend, I hopped on a train to Harrisburg to achieve my marathon goal for 2012. I felt good, considering that this was a whirl-wind and impromptu race thanks to the cancellation of the New York City Marathon the previous weekend. I had rested my legs, studied the new course, and carb-loaded. I felt calm and focused, and I went to Harrisburg with the mental focus of an athlete. All of my training had led up to a 3:06-3:10 (based on recent races and plugging numbers), and so I went into the race prepared to work hard.
As I had mentioned in my previous post, I have been relatively healthy and injury-free this past year. Sure, there have been aches and pains – especially in my left ankle, but nothing I couldn’t power through or manage. You learn to run through discomfort, and minor twinges, otherwise many of us would run far less than we do.
Race morning came, and I woke up ready to run. I topped off my carb supply, threw on my team attire, and went over my hydration plan. I was focused. Chris and I met the runners from JackRabbit in the hotel lobby, and we walked over toward the starting line together. The weather was cool and sunny, perfect marathon weather in my book.
Being a small race of about 2200 runners, I started up near the front. I waved to Chris, the gun was fired and off we went. I held myself back during the first mile, and told myself to relax. Almost immediately, I realized this course was not going to be as “fast and flat” as advertised. I told myself to relax into the hills and to take it a step at a time. While it was mostly flat, there were steep and short ramps and over-passes. There were also trail sections, which cause runners to work harder and activate stabilizer muscles in the ankles and legs. Besides a few popular spots on the course, the course was quiet and lonely.
As I passed Chris at mile 6 and 7.5, I was on track down to the second of my goal: 3:09:38, 7:14 minute miles. I felt great and strong. Then, around the 12 mile mark, injury struck. I felt as though a knife was stabbing me in the left ankle with every step. Soon I realized, as the pain became worse and worse, that there was no way I was going to be able to achieve my PR. Plus, the “flat and fast course” was now steep and rolling hills, aggravating my ankle – especially on the down-hills.
A million thoughts ran through my head as I limped along: Should I stop and DNF? I REFUSE to DNF! I can’t pace Chris in Philly next weekend. Maybe I am not meant to run. How can I coach if I can’t walk? This isn’t even going to be a BQ! I am weak…
The further I went, the more apparent it became that I was in for a long morning. The mile markers passed slowly, and the pain became worse with every mile. The second section of trail/gravel brought tears to my eyes as I tried to navigate through the unstable terrain. The ground beside the trail was lumpy and uneven, and no better than the trail.
The VERY steep mile 18-20 section made me want to sit down and cry. A medic was stationed on the course between two of the steep hills, and I stopped and asked him for ice. While he was very nice, he didn’t have any ice on him. I was livid. SERIOUSLY?!? I hobbled on, and asked the next medic I saw, about a mile further. Guess what, no ice there either.
At this point I was passed the 22 mile mark, and had 4 LONG miles ahead of me. As tears streamed down my face, and I tried to do anything to distract myself, I chipped away at the miles. I’d limp/run for as long as I could, and then limp/walk, over and over again. When I got to the last climb, up the ramp to the Walnut Street Bridge, I told myself to finish strong – whatever that meant.
During my first marathon, two years before, I had run with my ipod. I rarely use music in training, let alone racing these days, but I opted to use music for the Harrisburg Marathon since I knew it was going to be quiet on the course. In my first marathon, Eminem’s “I’m not Afraid” was the song that blasted through my ears as I closed in on the finish line and crushed my goal by over seven minutes and snagged a BQ. Well, as I came to the end of the Harrisburg Marathon, Eminem’s “I’m not Afraid” blasted through my ipod – completely by chance. I had already been in tears due to physical pain, but now my eyes swelled due to emotion.
I crossed the bridge and the finish line “running” as best I could. The photos show just how bad my gate and limp were, even as I tried to really run. Chris was at the finish line (thankfully he didn’t leave!), and I almost collapsed into him. I couldn’t hold my weight on that ankle for another step. I finished in an agonizing 3:43:23. My slowest and most painful marathon, but I finished. Yes, I finished 33 minutes slower than my goal, but I somehow found a way to finish.
The medic at the finish line examined and taped my ankle, cautioning me to handle this injury with care and to take it seriously. My posterior tibial tendon seems to be the culprit. Today I have an appointment with a sports medicine doctor, and am hoping for some answers and a clear direction for the future.
I could barely walk on Monday, and have been able to put some weight on the ankle on Tuesday and today, though I have spent my time resting and avoiding putting any additional strain on my ankle.
This is certainly not the way I saw the Harrisburg Marathon, or the end of 2012 to go for me, but these things are never planned. I can only hope that my future will be bright, and that I can hopefully still go after a great PR in Boston – though April is only a short 23 weeks away.