My husband provided the inspiration for this post, after I told him I wanted to get a master's in Kinesiology or Exercise Science. He can't bear the thought of me delaying a real job in order to get yet another degree, and so he suggested I write a book, or an article for Runner's World, and call it "How to Almost Run a Marathon."
You see, I've now trained for and failed to start (nevermind finish) 3 marathons. And how many have I actually run? Zero. Zip. Zilch.
I never wanted to run a marathon. I didn't even like running. But my little brother had to go and run the Disney Marathon, and if he could do it then so could I. My first failure occurred back in 2007, when I developed a femoral neck stress fracture just weeks before my wedding while training for the Marine Corps Marathon. I had had a great triathlon season and recently completed my first half-ironman. I took a couple weeks of relative rest and then began to build on my huge base to train for my first marathon. It was a fantastic idea in theory, but my bones couldn't keep up with my heart (or my brain or my brain for that matter). It was simply too much too soon. The irony? It was at this time that I fell completely head-over-heels in love with running.
After 2 weeks on bed rest and 8 weeks on crutches (including a 10-day honeymoon in the south of France), I was ready to get back in the game. The Marine Corps Marathon came and went without me and I began to slowly and methodically rebuild my body. I did a lot of cycling and a fair amount of strength training during this time, but couldn't get motivated to run consistently on the 2 minutes on, 1 minute off plan that my physical therapist had recommended.
Fast forward to 2011. I was finally running regularly again and had even gotten back into a few sprint distance triathlons. The marathon started calling. At this time I had graduated medical school and relocated to Kalamazoo, Michigan - home of the Kalamazoo Marathon. Perfect! A marathon right in my own back yard would allow me to train right on the course. I signed up on the very day that registration opened. I was diligent in my training. Even on a busy intern's schedule, I missed very few workouts. I ran the 5 miles home from the hospital at night, and sometimes in the morning after being up all night on overnight call. My Saturday morning long runs became my ritual, starting before dawn on a converted rail trail, leaving me alone with my thoughts to await the peaceful sunrise. I was in love with running again.
Then one Saturday morning in early December, I was resting after a gloriously chilly morning run when I felt that all too familiar ache in my hip, that deep discomfort that can't quite be classified as pain, yet never goes away. I wasted little time getting in to see a sports medicine specialist in the area, and even purchased a pair of fancy new crutches in anticipation of another stress fracture. The doc echoed my concern and promptly ordered an MRI and NWB (non-weight bearing). And so I spent my short winter vacation in a somewhat secluded cabin near Lake Michigan reading lots and lots of books, while my husband was out riding his bike through the vineyards and along the shore.
Lucky for me, the MRI showed no evidence of stress reaction and I was cleared to start training again. The marathon was still months away, but by this time I had lost enough training time to feel that I could not safely train for the entire distance without significant risk for injury. I reluctantly downgraded my registration to the half-marathon, which I'm pleased to say I not only started, but also finished in what was a fantastic confidence-building event!
As soon as I had changed my registration to the half, I started looking for another marathon. It was early in the season and I still had plenty of time to run the full 26.2. I had become fascinated with trail running and ultra marathons, and decided to take my first 26.2 to the trails by registering for a local trail marathon. I thought this was a perfect solution - decrease my risk of injury by training and racing on softer surfaces. My husband and I even spent a long weekend up camping near the trailhead a couple months before the race so I could log a long run on the course. I loved it and couldn't wait to run it again on race day! I had never had so much fun running.
Surprise, surprise. That marathon also came and went, without me. And while it was a physician who told me prior to the race that I would have to stop running, this time it was not due to injury. Instead, it was the two tiny babies inside my belly.
Now sentenced to approximately 3 months of bed rest to allow my babies to grow, I won't be able to run (or bike or do much of anything!) until they come into this world. And while I fear I will soon go crazy with boredom, they are allowing me plenty of time to reflect and dream of what my next marathon attempt will be.