We are now 75 days away from the San Francisco Marathon. How are you all doing? Are your legs feeling stronger? Are those long runs getting easier? Or has your body fallen apart? Are you struggling with some minor aches and pains? A pulled muscle? Or something worse?
The only time I made the trip to San Francisco for this wonderful race was back in 2011, and I will tell you this, I was not prepared to run a full marathon. The story that you read next isn’t something that I recommend, but it is meant to serve as some inspiration for those of you with ailments that are surmountable in the coming weeks, leaving a few weeks to train yourself to get back into some semblance of running shape, or maybe those who are coming off of injury now and hope to complete what I argue is the best marathon out there.
Back in February I was mid-training for a couple of marathons, and the second largest race in the country (Bloomsday 12k run in Spokane, Washington the first Sunday of May), a five mile race on St. Patrick’s Day, as well as the WSU 100k (team relay). I was hitting my long runs early, getting in 20 milers and feeling great. I planned on running through my first one at the end of May, the Coeur D’Alene Marathon, and from there I would get down to San Francisco after a few more weeks of training and set my sights on the Boston Qualifying time on a pretty difficult course. I wasn’t afraid, I was fearless.
In March I headed to the start line of the five mile race. I ran it in under 31 minutes qualifying myself for Bloomsday’s Second Seeding option, which means I got to start up just behind the elites, and get a pretty snazzy singlet. A few weeks later my goals would crash around me. Knee pain took away my running ability. It took away the long run. It took away my hopes for a Bloomsday PR, the WSU 100k, and my marathon hopes.
I stopped running for a bit to see if that would help. I had a team waiting for me for the WSU 100k, and I was supposed to run 3 legs of the journey. Ultimately I was able to run that race, but with knee pain the whole way, and I only ran 2 legs, letting someone else step up for me. The decisions came when I cut loose the Coeur D’Alene Marathon after transferring my number to the following year, and deciding to walk Bloomsday. San Francisco was a go, but only because I was travelling with a friend and we both had plane tickets already. We were going to make the best of the time in San Francisco no matter what shape we were in.
Turns out I had IT Band Syndrome. After some strengthening and physical therapy from June to July, I was cleared to run a week before the race. Now that didn’t mean go out and run a marathon, but I took it for what it was worth. I wanted to at least run the Golden Gate Bridge, my training had taken me 6.5 miles the week before, I had a though most runners have, “Well it’s not that much further.” So my friend and I hopped on a plane and headed to San Francisco. With a goal and the place I was staying of finishing the half and possibly the full depending on the knee, I motored my way downtown with a plan.
Race morning I was a bit uneasy about running, but felt good enough to make it back to Golden Gate Park employing a 10 minute run 2 minute walk strategy, as well as walking through all of the aid stations and getting plenty of fluids. I made it through the first half of the race in 2 hours and 5 minutes, which would actually have been a PR in the full marathon if I split the time perfectly, but that was something I didn’t plan on doing. With only 6.5 miles of long run training, and 13.1 miles left to go, I knew we wouldn’t be able to PR, but the knee felt good, and I was ready to continue the race!
I made my way over the hills of San Francisco, back down to the waterfront. I was running in a place I had dreamed of, and I was running a race I had high hopes for. The race didn’t let me down as I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 32 minutes.
I cannot tell you how many other stories like this I have. ITBS is just one instance where injury has held my back. Recently I have had two stress fractures and have been diagnosed with arthritis in my foot. I ran a 12k (7.5 miles) on Sunday in 68 minutes, my first race since last June, and longest run since then as well. I’ve been plagued with plantar fasciitis, those fractures, rolled ankles, other knee problems, and countless other injuries, if you can name it I’ve probably dealt with it at some time.
So take some inspiration from this. If you’re injured, there is hope, if you’re being held back from some nagging pains, take a day off, and get back out there tomorrow. If you come to the race in July, and are dealing with some injury, I hope the race treats you as well as it treated me, and maybe we can run it together.