As I write this I am sitting at my desk with my right leg fully extended. Not by choice. My (rather stylish) cane leans against the wall next to me, as I wait for my MRI result. It has been three days since I was injured while running my first marathon but I am proud to say that I completed it! But let’s start from the beginning.
I was incredibly disappointed when the NYC marathon was cancelled. I knew it was the right decision but I couldn’t help feeling the way I did. As soon news of the cancellation started to trend on social media my wonderful husband, knowing how important this had been to me, started calling up charities to the already-full Philadelphia marathon. He called me up and said,” We got you a charity spot for Philly. Don’t worry. You WILL run a marathon and I am going to help you do this.” I felt hopeful and motivated again.
I got into Philadelphia late Saturday evening, and found this waiting for me in my room….
The marathoner’s goodie bag, courtesy of the Four Seasons Philadelphia!
I quickly placed an order for my pre-race dinner…
Crab Gnocchi, which was lip-smackingly good!
I then lay out my race outfit so that I could quickly get to it in the morning…
I woke up at 415am on race morning, downed half a bowl of oatmeal and a banana, met up with my friends Mary and Robyn in the hotel lobby and we made our way to the race start.
I won’t give you a mile-by-mile breakdown. Instead I will give you some highlights of this race.
The first half of the course was lovely. It snaked through the city, through residential neighborhoods. The crowd was great! There was lots of cheering. Some hilarious signs. One of my favorites was at mile 4, “Run Faster. A Kenyan has already finished!” After the 13.1 mile point, the crowd thinned as the half-marathoners left us. This next section of the course, in my opinion was interminable. From miles 13-20 we were running along the river, and in the lane right next to us we could see the speedier runners racing the exact same path from miles 20-26. The realization that I would have to run this entire path back was demotivating. Also, there was no new terrain to look forward to. Anyhow I persisted on.
The Fuel/Water situation:
This was very well organized. Water was at one end of the station and Gatorade was served at the other end. Plenty of areas where Cliff gel shots were being handed out. I never once felt dehydrated or un-fueled throughout the race. Special shout-out to all the wonderful volunteers that were manning these stations.
The Porta-Potty Situation:
This left much to be desired. I waited 40 minutes in line for one before the race, and 20 minutes in line at one during the race. Throughout the course I would see long lines at each rest stop. I saw plenty of runners dive behind bushes to relieve themselves.
Now for my race experience. I felt very strong during most of the race. My training had been strong and I was going for a sub 5:00 race. I kept my pace slow at the beginning and enjoyed the sights and the sounds. I took advantage of every water station and alternated water with Gatorade. I took a Cliff gel shot every 5 miles. I was feeling great. Unfortunately at mile 5 I felt a slight pang on the outside of my right knee. The last time this happened was during the UAE Healthy Kidney 10k last May, which was ultimately diagnosed as Ilitibial band syndrome and required weeks of physical therapy. I started to get nervous, but hoped it was nothing, and continued running. The pain started to get worse as I kept running. This was not happening, I kept saying to myself. I slowed down my pace considerably and kept going. I got to mile 20 and the pain was excruciating. Every heel strike felt like someone was jabbing a knife into the side of my knee. I moved to the side of the race course and started to massage my IT band and stretch. It did not do much good. I decided to jog/walk which I did till Mile 22, after which running was no longer an option because of the pain. At this point I knew I had to make a decision. I could, a) Drop out- which would have been incredibly devastating; b) Keep running and risk turning this injury into something irreversible; or c) Walk. I chose option “c.”
I walked from Miles 22-26. I could not believe this was happening to me. After all the training I had put into this season, my IT band was acting up? Unreal. I fought back tears with every step.
Once I reached the Mile 26 sign, I decided that I was just going to have the buck up all my strength and run the final stretch. My finisher’s picture had to show me running! So I ran and crossed the finish line, tears streaming down my face as I collapsed into my husband’s arms.
My total race time was 5 hours 47 minutes. Not bad, considering the injury-related pace slow-down as well as the 4 mile walk. I was disappointed with how things turned out but I was also really proud that I had had it in me to finish the race!
I limped back to my hotel room and then to the train station to get back to NYC. Walking was becoming a major issue.
I decided to see a physiatrist on Monday who looked at my swollen knee and told me that this is likely more than just an IT band injury.
She prescribed a cane, lots of painkillers and an MRI.
So while I am still waiting on a diagnosis and a course of treatment, running is out of the question for some time.
Was it all worth it? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am finally a marathoner. And crazy as it may sound, I cannot wait to start training again for another marathon.