Marathon Monday: Christmas morning for runners

Mystics Crush Boston

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
-Kathrine Switzer

I woke up just as it was getting light outside. The air was warmer than to be expected on a typical April morning. It was only 7:30 AM and it felt like summer vacation outside. I got out of bed, feeling heavy with anticipation. “It’s today!” I thought, “Boston Marathon day!”

The Boston Marathon didn’t always excite me. Even though it technically takes place on a holiday, I always had to work and I never had the desire to stand in a crowd and watch runners. Even when I first became a runner, I only had mild interest in it. In 2013, I was unemployed and living in Hopkinton, so I decided to walk down to the start of the race. I was taken in by all the positive energy and I started to see why this race was so special. We all know that race ended in a tragedy that I’m not going to get into here, but it did give me a new appreciation for the event. A year and a half ago, when I first joined my running club I found out that the club gets bibs for the Boston Marathon that it gives away via lottery to hopeful members. You don’t need to have a qualifying marathon time and you don’t have to raise thousands of dollars for charity. It was the first time I realized that I could actually have a shot at running the marathon.

The first time I witnessed our club marathon drawing, I had no desire to ever run a marathon. That was until I got caught up in the inspirational stories, dedicated training and send-off parties. For the most recent marathon drawing last November, I did not feel ready to run a marathon. Again I declined to put my name in, but felt so inspired by the club members that were picked and by the other members that got their opportunities other ways that I decided to volunteer to be on the Hospitality Suite committee. On Marathon Day, our club reserves a hotel room, stocks it with food and drinks and provides a place for runners and their families to relax after the marathon. I figured it was a great way to support my teammates and still be a part of this historic race.

City of Boston
Not a great picture, but this is the view from the suite

I work downtown Boston, so I travel into the city every day. But this day was different – it felt like Christmas morning. I got to meet a few friends that were on the committee, rush around last minute to get some party food and set up a pretty sweet hotel room with the marathon on TV in the background. The room was hopping all afternoon, so I didn’t get a chance to go outside to the race. But every so often, we would see a Mystic Runner on TV and everyone would erupt in loud cheers. Runners came in to the room, one by one. We fed them and made sure they could have a shower if they wanted one. We truly wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable after putting their body through such torture.

Watching the marathon on TV, you get to see all the inspirational stories. The man who ran the whole way holding the American flag after he lost his leg. All the people battling injuries, who just wanted that one shot of finishing this prestigious marathon. I saw a lot of victories as people crossed the finish line and thought to myself “This will be me in six months in Chicago!”

Maybe 2018?

But then I also saw the difficulties – people being carried across the finish line, people collapsing mid-race, disappointment across some runners’ faces. I started to think, “Oh no, what if that’s me in six months in Chicago!” There is no way to know how you will do when you run such a distance. All you can do is listen to your body, run smart for how you feel and hope for the best. I am really hoping for the best in October.

Running the hospitality suite was actually hard work. I was on my feet all day which made my tendonitis flare up a bit. However, it was an honor to help out my friends who were running that day. I was able to feel the energy and be in the city for one of the biggest runner holidays around. I feel proud that I work and live near such an amazing city and that I could actually get the opportunity to run Boston one day. Many people said to me, “This will be you next year.” Well, maybe, who knows. But first, I have Chicago to look ahead to.

Mystics Crush Boston



A real sore spot

“Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.”
-A wise fella

Well it didn’t take long for my whole spring to get de-railed. I’ve been having a really great running winter. My 5K time was slowly improving, I got a 10K PR and I was killing it at track (in my own way). Things were really looking good for me to have an awesome spring, so I signed up for the Providence Half Marathon and kicked up my training a notch.

After pushing myself through a tough hill workout at track, I noticed a slight pain along the outside of my left ankle. That ankle has always been a little off since I sprained it last August, so I thought nothing of it and ran a 5K the following day. It started to hurt a little more after the run, so I took a few days off. The following weekend I ran a 10K and there was no denying the pain after I finished the race. The next day I could barely walk. Being the incredible stubborn runner I am, I rested another week and a half and then ran my weekly 5K. I told myself this was a test to see if the pain increased while I ran or got better. It stayed the same which basically told me nothing about the injury. After I crossed the finish line, I was relieved the ankle didn’t feel too bad. That is, until I started walking. I could barely hobble over to get a cup of water, trying to ignore what I was feeling. The spot on my ankle was screaming and sore to the touch. Obviously my body was telling me something that I didn’t want to hear.

There are a few things you need when you have a running injury that sidelines you. You need:

  1. Plenty of ibuprofen (in some cases)
  2. Friends to talk you down
  3. REST

The last part I’m not so great at. It’s one of those words runners don’t want to hear,  especially now when the weather is getting warmer and I see people running EVERYWHERE. I’ve been trying to do other exercises at home, but it’s hard to stay motivated since I don’t like them as much as running. This just makes me even crankier, and it has gotten pretty bad since I don’t have my main stress release to keep me sane. And no, for the last time I don’t have access to a pool!

I made the decision to see a Physical Therapist for the first time, and was I glad I did! I trust them more than doctors for this kind of thing because they really are experts when it comes to mechanics of your body. And if you find one that also runs, you really hit the jackpot. He told me there was some inflammation in the muscle due to a combination of extremely tight calves, weak glute muscles and pronation of my feet. I was aware of all these issues before, but this was the first time this perfect storm had caused me any major problems. Strengthening my hips and glutes has been a major goal this year, so this works well into my new routine.

He also asked me if I had any races coming up. What do you think? I told him I had a 5K towards the end of the month. That is most likely out. I told him about the Providence Half at the beginning of May. Unrecommended due to very high mileage. I mentioned the Ragnar relay race I have coming up mid-May.  That one is doable, even though it is pushing it a bit. Luckily because I’m slow, the mileage I picked isn’t too high. And I’m already feeling loads better after this first PT session, so I’m very optimistic.

I’m making the decision to drop the May half in Providence, which is a bummer because it would have a been a nice weekend in the city I went to college in. Oh well, maybe next year. It will be better to take this time to heal up and focus on the races in the later half of spring. For now, I guess it’s back to more strengthening and cross-training. I might add in some spinning for cardio and yoga for stability. This means it’s also time to suck it up and join a gym.

This is definitely a learning experience and I’m lucky it won’t throw me too far off my marathon training goals. I could be a lot worse and I’m looking ahead to better times. But until then…I’ll just keep moving.


So what’s the plan?

“A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.”

Well lucky for Confucius, I’ve had a long time to plan this marathon.  I knew I was in last fall, which gave me all the time in the world to not think about it.  When January rolled around, I knew I should take the time as a gift and figure out a plan for the year.  As a business person, I tend to think in quarters.

Quarterly plan

Well at least that MBA didn’t go to waste right?

I live in New England, so the first part of the year is cold and snowy.  I still run in this weather, but I wanted to focus this time on getting stronger to prevent injury and prepare myself for the training to come.  Getting my muscles in shape was something I really needed anyway since my strength & cross-training had fallen off a bit last year.  Starting the year off right now would help with those long runs later.

Right now, we are in the beginning of Q2 and I am currently training for a half marathon.  I’ve just started increasing my distance with long runs on the weekends.  I’m also committing myself to going to track practice once a week, when my schedule allows of course.  This will help me work on my speed, which needs improving.  Luckily my running club offers track coaching, free with membership.  I want to add in more hill work too, because I think it is helping me become a stronger runner overall.

The real marathon training starts in June and that will carry me into Q3.  I will eat, sleep and breath training. Well…we’ll see how it goes anyway. I also need to get my head in gear and mentally prepare for running this distance.  This is almost as important as the physical training.  I’m not sure yet how I will get into the right mindset, but that will be a new learning experience.

The marathon just happens to fall at the beginning of Q4.  After I complete my goal, I can spend the remainder of the year in rest & recovery mode.  I’ll still be running after a much needed break, but my concentration will be on learning to enjoy the run again. This might mean limiting myself to slow easy jogs or maybe I’ll throw in some fun and interesting races to switch it up.

So this is what I have planned for 2017…wait what is it they say about relying on plans too much?  Oh well, I’m sure it will come to me eventually.

Scenes from my winter running, faces have been blurred to protect the innocent.