Saturday I ran The Woodlands Marathon.
Let me start off by saying, I didn’t intend to run two marathons in two months. When I qualified for Houston back in December 2014 I knew I was going to run it- I’d been wanting to run for years and always said that I wasn’t going to run it until I qualified. I qualified so my decision to run the Houston Marathon was made.
Less than a month later I suffered my IT band injury and was forced to defer my entry into the 2015 The Woodlands Marathon to 2016, which just happened to be 7 weeks after Houston.
Marathons are HARD on your body. The distance is such that serious breakdown occurs and it needs time to heal. Though everyone says you’re “recovered” after four weeks, I still think that real recovery after a hard marathon effort takes closer to eight.
After the Houston Marathon, I suffered from some shin splints in my right leg which forced me to cut back on running significantly. I only ran seven times in the weeks between the two races and most of those runs were under three miles. To supplement the running I spent most days cross training (swimming, rowing, biking, elliptical, etc) and for the most part it did a good job of maintaining my fitness. Unfortunately, despite the cross training my running muscles began the process of de-training. I knew this was going to be a tough race.
I wasn’t sure how much fitness I had left so I went into the event with the intention to race but to keep an open mind as I began to get feedback from my body.
I put KT tape on my shin and stood in the corral not knowing what to expect. They sounded the horn and we were off!
Pace wise, the first half of the race was great. At the halfway point I was second in my age group. My legs felt a little stiff but the KT tape did it’s job and kept the shin splints in check.
Mile 1 – 7:41
Mile 2 – 7:43
Mile 3 – 7:46
Mile 4 – 7:37
Mile 5 – 7:46
Mile 6 – 7:49
Mile 7 – 7:43
Mile 8 – 7:46
Mile 9 – 7:59
Mile 10 – 7:52
Mile 11 – 7:46
Mile 12 – 7:54
Mile 13 – 8:04
13.1 – 1:41
I could tell during those miles that though I was able to maintain my race pace, it was harder than seven weeks prior in Houston. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the detraining or the cold I’ve been fighting but nonetheless it was something that I was monitoring throughout the first half of the race.
Mile 14 – 8:04
At mile 14, I could feel some stiffness developing in my left knee – the same knee that I’ve been fighting IT band tightness in for the past year. The knee was reminding me that I hadn’t been running regularly.
When you run, especially distances like the marathon you become very aware of your body. When we repeatedly push ourselves to our limits we need to the difference between challenge pain and warning pain. The sensation I felt building during mile 14 was warning pain. My body was talking to me and it wasn’t happy.
At mile 15, the knee stopped talking to me and started yelling. I was forced to make a decision to run hard (and risk a DNF and most likely an injury) or run smart. I chose to run smart. Just past the mile 15 marker I did something that I’ve never done in a race before…I pulled off to the side of the road and started walking.
Mile 15 – 9:51
Immediately the pain subsided and I began to formulate a new plan. Run until it hurt, walk until it didn’t.
I could have been upset and felt defeated but it was hard to. I started training for these two marathons in June of last year. For the last nine months I’ve been pushing my body. I’ve asked it to do things that I wasn’t sure it could do and when it performed I pushed it harder. In the last 9 months, I had run three races and set three PRs. I qualified for the Boston Marathon and all the while my body did it almost without question.
At mile 15, it finally told me that it’d had enough. Instead of feeling sad when the 3:30 pace group passed me, I mentally wished them luck and made the decision to let it go.
For the next 11 miles I was hurting but happy. I soaked up the sunshine, high-fived spectators and thanked volunteers. I smiled and enjoyed doing what I love so much.
Mile 16 – 10:50
Mile 17 – 10:54
Mile 18 – 11:26
Mile 19 – 10:52
Mile 20 – 11:07
Mile 21 – 11:38
Mile 22 – 12:31
The final miles of the race were HARD. I needed to walk more than run and even walking was painful. Miles 23, 24 and 25 were particularly difficult – several times I caught myself fighting off tears.
Mile 23 – 12:50
Mile 24 – 12:09
Mile 25 – 13:16
Mile 26 was easier as I got closer to the finish and the number of spectators increased. A half mile from the finish I saw my husband who was taking pictures with his phone. I walked up the final hill then ran the last third of a mile to the finish. I have never been happier to finish a race!
Mile 26 – 10:42
26.2 – 4:07
Marathons are dangerous and unpredictable. It’s a short enough distance to race but plenty long enough to seriously injure yourself if you don’t give the distance the respect it deserves. They’re not something to be taken lightly regardless of your fitness level.
When I signed up for two marathons in two months, I honestly had doubts if I could even do it. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was going to have to dig deep. Saturday, I did it. I came home with a new shirt, a medal, a good story and most importantly without an injury. I will live to run another day…but I might wait until next week. Ouch.