I registered for the Boston Marathon 2008, the day after I ran the Chicago Marathon of 2007. That was the only year in history that the weather conditions in Chicago were so severe that mid way through the marathon the race organizers decided that they had to shut the race down. Yes thats right, the marathon was cancelled about an hour and a half after it started. Ninety degrees with about 90% humidity at the wee hours of the morning caused an immense amount of chaos and panic for the runners and organizers. Things got kind of crazy for awhile. Aid stations ran out of supplies, runners were dropping like flies, helicopters were flying overhead announcing over a speaker that runners need to walk and the course was rerouted and cut short to ensure the safety of all runners. It was madness.
At $100+ dollars for a marathon, it takes a lot for me to throw in the towel. But by mile 3 I had already sweat out everything in me, the heat was making my legs feel heavy, and I could not hold a steady smooth cadence. Thoughts were rapidly producing in my mind for those first 9 miles about what was best for me, and at the 9 mile marker I finally said to myself "this is not worth it today". There are a lot of things I would do in life to challenge myself or to receive a medal, but that day I decided that the conditions were not worth a medal. My safety and well being trumped the thoughts of goal achievement and a sparkly medal.
Feeling like a quitter, the very next day I decided to register for the Boston Marathon of 2008 (those were the days when registration wouldn't close in a measly 8 hours). It wasn't until a few days later that I received my acceptance email to the race that I decided to tell my husband that we would be spending several days that upcoming spring in Boston and I would be racing the most coveted and famous race in America. Bill Bowerman in Without Limits said that "it is easier to beg forgiveness then ask permission" and I heeded his advice, and my husband eventually got over my impulsive decision.
After such a stinky race at Chicago in 2007, I wanted vengeance and to have payoff for all of those grueling miles my legs put in. My fitness became my focus, and peaking at Boston was all I could think about. Instead of taking time off after training for Chicago I opted to continue pressing on through the fall months thinking that I would then be in the shape of my life when I begun training for Boston in the winter. That was quite possibly the biggest mistake I had ever made in my entire life.
Naturally I ended up with an injury in week 3 of training that I just could not shake off. Stubborn is my middle name, so I refused to go to a doctor or seek treatment. My knee was constantly in pain and I could barely walk let alone run. Instead of seeking the appropriate treatment, I treated myself and continued to be creative with my training methods. Because running was out of the question, I would instead spend hours a day at the gym on the bike or elliptical. By the time April rolled around I was able to run a bit here and there and decided that I was still going to make my best attempts to run Boston.
My husband thought that I was nuts. I was gimping around everywhere, yet my mind was filled with thoughts of how I was going to cruise up those hills and have a rock star performance in Boston.
Once we arrived to Boston, I felt like my body had magically healed. The beauty of the city had filled my heart with hope and I knew that I would be fine. HA!
The hills killed me. Really killed me. My knee was screaming every time the ground wasn't level, which was basically the entire race. Somehow I made it through the first half running and was under two hours and thought that I would finish under 4 hours. But I didn't. I had to walk up every hill and my quads were screaming at me the last few miles wondering why I was torturing them. My body hated me for what I was doing to it and I crossed the finish in 4:09, my worst marathon time ever.
Boston taught me a lot of lessons that year and it took my body 9 months to bounce back to normal. I was a dope that allowed myself to be blinded by my goals that I refused to adjust. I could have cancelled my trip and waved my registration until the next year, but for some crazy reason I just could not admit that I had an injury...which I very clearly did.
Some of my life lessons from Boston are:
You cannot train for a marathon on a bike or elliptical. There really is no comparison.
Take time off to let your body rest. The human body is not a machine. Joints and muscles are not always as resilient as we think, they need time to rest and repair. Marathon training puts a lot of stress on the body, the best repayment for hard work is rest. Too bad I didn't realize this then.
Always wear sunblock while running, even if it isn't the summer. Tan lines on your legs from cropped spandex and being burnt on one side of your body isn't cute. It took two summers for those ugly tan lines on my upper calves to disappear from the Nike cropped spandex that I wore that day...it was really hard to look cute in dresses.
Goals can be adjusted and there will always be another race. Listening to ones body is difficult, and sometimes we have to admit to defeat. Ignoring discomforts and constant pains will not help the body in the long run. I have decided that I want to be a "forever runner" and not a "right now" runner.
I think that I lost my mind in the early months of 2008, but have since come back down to reality. Boston and I will have a rematch one day when my body is ready for it, and when we do I will cruise over those hills and have the time of my life crushing all of my expectations. Boston will not let me down again because I am now a more sensible women that has a lot more respect for my body and its limits.