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Marathon: half full or half empty?

August 3, 2012

My rheumatologist was taken aback when I asked him if it would be possible for me to train for a marathon. Truth was, I’d already been training, and had just completed my first 1/2 marathon distance– 13.1 miles– earlier in the week.  But doubling that would be tricky; it would mean a lot of pounding on my skeleton and joints.  His response? “Well, I’ve never known anyone on Remicade who…did..a marathon.”  Finding no real reason to say ‘no’, he made me promise to get more iron (inflammation, for many RA-ers including me, causes anemia) and to stop or slow if I flare after a long run.  Done. I have long felt that vigorous exercise is actually the key to keeping my joint swelling in check, so I knew that this would be a unlikely concern. I was ready to go.

Training had been going well – with my school schedule I got a late start and added miles probably a little too fast, but, hey, I felt good, right? I’d even exceeded my hopes for running on our road trip, so much so that on our last day I rocked some mean Catskills hills. In my minimalist shoes, I raced up the hills and took long, full strides as I pounded down those steep suckers I’d just killed.

You see where this is going.  Cue putting my foot in a 45degree angle on motorcycle pegs for 8 hours immediately after my run, and by the end of the day my foot was sore.  Ignoring it (see post on pain), I kept running. Surprisingly, it didn’t go away by sheer will, and within a few weeks it hurt the second I took my first running step.

Stress fracture or tendonotis, I’m still unsure as my doctor helpfully booked an appointment for a month after seeing her (still over a week away).  Thankfully, my school’s trainer volunteered to look and help, and under her care after two weeks of rest and crosstraining, I am pretty much pain free on runs.

But my training schedule, already tight, may have been blown in the process.

Today was the last day to register earlybird for the Maine Marathon. I know I promised to register after 10 miles, then 13 miles, then 15 miles…well, I just couldn’t do it.  But today there was no more time to flap about, so I registered…but  I registered for the half marathon.

I don’t want to do the half. Never have.  When I did my first triathlon, they were clever in calling it a ‘sprint’ triathlon, like it’s not a short triathlon, it’s a sprint.  It still sounds epic, even though I by no means ‘sprinted’ through it.  “Half-marathon” sounds…unfinished.

Though I still have time to transfer to the full, I’m trying to find balance. My running break felt glorious on my knee; for the first time in months it was barely swollen.  Training for the half-marathon means leisurely runs a few times per week.  Training for the full marathon means many more days of pushing myself to the edge, giving up plans, devoting the last weeks of summer and first weeks of the school year to getting in miles and crosstraining.

But I was raised by a mom who asked why my A- wasn’t an A, who asked about my PhD plans on the eve of my MA graduation, and still wonders why I don’t teach at a university instead of a high school. I was taught that if there was more distance to go, you shook off any obstacles and just did it. But as I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize that the best at burnout speed isn’t necessarily  the best. In the coming weeks I will decide to enjoy a leisurely training for the half, or push my body to its edge and go for the 26.2.


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