When Stepping Back is a Pain in the Butt

Things haven’t been going so well in my training these past three weeks. The Route 66 Marathon is next weekend and I’ve had to make the decision that I can’t run it. Disappointing, especially after running through the Hottest Summer on Record in Texas, but stepping back isn’t necessarily the end of the game. I think I still have enough training under my belt to run the half marathon instead of the full.

The reason for stepping back is the nagging ankle tendonitis, which I’ve had off and on this entire training season. Despite trying everything from RICE to lower mileage, it still comes and goes. In addition, always running on a sore left ankle has probably led me to change my gait, which has resulted in a sore piriformis muscle in my other leg. This new pain in the butt, literally, has been getting progressively worse, and makes any run over six or seven miles very uncomfortable.

I really haven’t had many serious running injuries these past six years. Like most runners at some point, I’ve had both ITBS and plantar fasciitis, but only once and they never reappeared. The ankle tendonitis is another issue altogether. I used to get it all the time before I ran, when all I did was walk and do yoga. It tends to come and go through the years, and this year it’s decided to stick around for awhile. I suspect the sore piriformis will be like the ITBS and plantars and leave on its own, never to return (hopefully).

In the meantime, I’ve been cutting back my mileage (which coincided with the taper), walking, and doing a lot of yoga.

There’s a part of me that wants to go ahead and run the marathon. I know I can do it, I can gut it out and finish, but do I really want to put myself through that when I know I can’t do my best? I used to tell runners I trained with to “respect the distance” of the marathon. Time to take my own advice and accept that there will be other marathons in the future (namely, New York City in 2012 or 2013).

If someone in this same situation asked me what they should do, I would tell them not to run the marathon. If I sound like I’m trying to convince myself I’m doing the right thing by stepping back to the half, you’re right. I am.

It’s been a year since I ran my last half marathon, so I’m looking forward to running a shorter distance. The best part of Route 66 is that the half and full marathon courses don’t split off from each other until just before mile 13, which means I’ll be able to run almost the entire length of my race with the friends I’ve trained with since July. It will be hard not to continue on with them and cross the line at 26.2, but I’ll be waiting for them at the finish line a couple of hours later.

We have one final long run tomorrow of 12 miles, which I’m looking forward to. It will give me an idea of what to expect next weekend and to see how the piriformis holds up, at least over 12 miles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t make it worse.

Have you ever had to step back from your original race plans and either switch to another race or bail completely? Did you ever decide to go ahead and run a marathon, even when you were injured or hadn’t trained well?



  1. Kristin

    I ran my first full after getting piriformis syndrome. It was horrible and took me 5:30 to finish. If it hadn’t been my first I would have probably sat it out or done the half. I had to run/walk the last half because it kept cramping up. Are you doing lots of foam rolling of the outter thigh and IT? That and lots of trigger point therapy from my chiro were the main things that helped along with resting after the marathon. Get better soon!The good thing is I haven’t had problems with it for a year and a half so hopefully you won’t either once you’ve rested up.

    • Run Nature

      Yikes, how horrible that it happened to you before your first full! I have been doing lots of foam rolling, and yoga (forward bends and hip opener poses) has helped tremendously. I’m pretty sure if I ran the full I would also have a 5+ hour marathon–and that’s not something I want to do! Thanks for the advice. Hopefully it will go away after the half with some rest and lower mileage.

  2. Laura

    I bailed on the Austin marathon this year due to ITBS and ankle tendonitis. I deferred to 2012, and if all goes as it’s been going, I’ll be good to go in February. Have fun running your half – it’s half the distance and twice the fun!

    • Run Nature

      I got ITBS when I was training for my first half marathon years ago in Austin, too. The piriformis syndrome actually feels a lot like ITBS, just in a different location. It hurts worst when I run uphill, too, just like ITBS. I actually am really looking forward to running “just” a half next weekend, and not feeling so beat up afterwards like you do when you run a full. Good luck in Austin in February! I still haven’t run either a full or a half there.

  3. Michelle

    I didn’t run the Frankfurt Marathon because of my back. I regret it because I’m sure I could have pushed through it but my time would have been horrible and I’m sure I would have been disappointed. It just blows paying for something, planning to run it, training hard, and then not doing it. Injuries are nothing to take lightly and I’m trying to really accept that and just move on already. I have some big plans for 2012 🙂

    • Run Nature

      Yep, putting in all the miles (and money) to train for a marathon and then getting injured just plain sucks. Like you said, however, you have to be smart and not make the injury worse. I’m really excited for you and the Berlin Marathon!

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