My friend Liz can’t run because of a sore ankle. It’s been sore for weeks. She even ran a marathon on her bum leg, after getting it checked out by a doctor to make sure it wasn’t a stress fracture.
Now she’s walking. Like most of my running friends, Liz is stubborn. She texted the other day that she had been walking to stay in shape, and that she had just walked seven miles. Seven miles! Like most of my running friends, she’s also an overachiever.
I asked if I could keep her company on one of her long walks at the lake. Even with an injury, I was pretty sure Liz would walk me into the ground.
I wasn’t wrong. The past two days have been extremely windy, and this morning it was overcast and humid. Despite the wind and humidity, she never let up. I secretly struggled to keep the pace.
I was so glad I was walking and not running. Running into a strong head wind is not one of my favorite things.
I love to walk. If I lived in the mountains or someplace more scenic than Dallas (and it doesn’t take much to be more scenic than Dallas), I might not even run anymore. I would take off into the hills and hike to my heart’s content.
This is a lie, of course. I’m pretty sure I’d still run, even if it meant switching to hilly trails.
In the meantime, we have White Rock Lake. Even though I’ve been partying and playing hookey (high school), driving, walking, and running around this same lake since I was a kid, it’s still one of the best parts of Dallas. Though we curse the monotony of the nine mile, flat, paved path that encircles it, it’s been a huge part of our training.
As runners, we tend to look down on walking and forget that it’s great cross training. We hate having to walk during a run or race. For many of us it’s a sign of weakness. But it has its place, and being injured or walking after a challenging run the day before, it can be a nice change from running.
Especially if you walk with Liz.
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?