Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Running is such a temperamental mistress. One week, it takes you to the heights of happiness and then, when you weren’t expecting it, BAM! Plunged into the depths of despair.

Right now I should be basking in the afterglow of a mission accomplished at Steamtown and coasting my way to a fun-filled Richmond Marathon, where I planned to just have a good time running with my teammates and enjoying the beautiful course and city that I love.

Remember how I said that Steamtown would either be a piece of cake or the confirmation that I have a bum knee? When I wrote my recap, I was confident that the outcome had been that lovely piece of cake that I had been longing for.

As it turns out, I got the piece of cake but with a side of Runner’s Knee. (Hooray – I’m an official runner stereotype!)

I’ll spare you the details and whining, but the basics are that I took a week off without running a step and then every attempt since has involved massive amounts of knee pain, weakness, and frustration. 

Cue panicked icing, visits to BFF Steve, internet searches for exercises to mitigate Runner’s Knee, purchase of a patellar tendonitis knee strap, and progression through the five emotional stages of dealing with an injury: 1) denial, 2) anger/betrayal, 3) more denial, 4) massive depression, 5) begrudging acceptance.

Until last Wednesday, I was determined that I was going to “run” Richmond, bum knee or not.  Even if it was an ugly, slow experience, I was going to do it because damn it – lots of people run multiple marathons in a season and for whatever stupid reason, I seem to think that I need to do this too to prove myself (or some silly nonsense).  I also wanted to run for less selfish reasons too, mainly that I wanted to be there for my teammates, especially the first timers, to help them get through their first marathon the way that Kit and Teresa did for me last year.

Ok, ok, and I wanted the darn medal. And the finisher blanket. And the hat.

Then Coach Shawn found out my crazy intention and sent me a whole series of text messages that made me cry at work (in a good way), basically begging me to be reasonable and abandon this ill-fated plan. He reminded me that I already had a great season, hitting every goal I set for myself. Why would I tarnish that with a potentially horrible experience in Richmond or even worse, a DNF? Why potentially injure myself even worse, taking myself out of the game even longer because I was stubborn and reckless?

He reminded me how much it meant to me when I saw my supporters along the route last year and that I can help my teammates just as much by being out on the course in the tough spots, cheering them on.

I knew he was right on all counts, but I still fought against the inevitable by trying to transfer into the half marathon instead. But I was thwarted – the half is sold out and no transfers are allowed.

With that, I finally accepted that I won’t be running Richmond this year; a painful and depressing decision, but likely to be less painful long term.

The worst part about this situation is fully knowing that to let myself be this bent out of shape over something as inconsequential as running a race is supremely stupid and irrational. Knowing that you are being ridiculous but at the same time being unable to summon the ability to make yourself stop adds to the feeling of powerlessness.

Optimism is a hard thing for me, but this weekend I did my best to put on my big girl panties and deal. On Saturday, I went to MTT but exercised great restraint by biking alongside my friends for the first 2/3 of the course before jumping off and running the last 4 miles with Kit and Lauren (while wearing a ridiculously huge knee brace loaned to me by T). I obtained poster-making supplies and started to work on my spectator signs. This is a big deal because I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. I started to plan out race day, trying to figure out where I need to be and when (and how I’ll get there) and focusing on how much fun it will be to spectate.

I keep telling myself to be grateful for the season I’ve had and to focus on the big picture – getting stronger and faster next year.

Why is it so hard?


  1. Or volunteer! I'm giving out medals at Richmond this year; last year I saw everyone off then walked to Crossroads (now Lamplighter) on Morris Street. That's at about mile 17ish. After having breakfast and waiting a bit longer, I stood on Main Street cheering everyone on their journey. Once my peeps passed by, I walked back to 5th Street and watched everyone finish. It's just before they enter the chute and it's humbling being able to tell them they made it, that they are only 1-2min from crossing the finish line.

    When I can't run, I volunteer because, if I can't run, at least I can cheer on everyone else who is running. It's actually a lot of fun. I've volunteered for the Carytown 10k the past 2 years and have been at the same spot. I love it because after the last runner goes by mile 1.5 (my spot), I go to the finishing turn and watch the fast people cross the finish line. I think volunteering helps us keep things in perspective, too. ;-)

    1. The year that I couldn't run because of a broken foot I did volunteer - handed out medals! It was the best thing I could have done and I love to do it. It inspired me so much.

      I've signed up to hand out bibs at the expo, but I think this time I want to do what you did and go hang out on the course on race day. It would be so special to give my teammates their medals, but I don't want to be tied down to the finish line either.

      Thanks for sharing your spectating strategy - I will probably model mine on that. I was telling Kit that being a spectator is hard work that requires too much planning... so much easier to show up at the start and just run!