At some point during the New Orleans half, my right knee started to hurt. I tried changing up my stride, and did a silly hopping high-knees trot for a bit to try and ease any kinks out. I chalked it up to the sunshine, remembering the one day I did a long run in Seattle when the weather was fairly warm, and the aching stiffness I had in my knees towards the end. I told myself it didn’t really matter how much anything hurt, it was race day.
I was sore later that day, but not horribly so. It wasn’t until later that night that my knees—both of them, if I remember right—started hurting to the point where I got some ice from the machine down the hall and wrapped cold towels around my legs while I sat propped in the hotel desk chair.
They hurt the next day, too, but I took solace in the fact that at least I wasn’t as bad off as the girl I saw wearing a race shirt and limping stiff-legged up the stairs to her own hotel, each step accompanied by a little inward hiss of pain.
The Friday after I got back I ran 15 miles, having made the decision I was going to try for the full marathon. It wasn’t a very strong run. I was slow, and things hurt. My right knee again, and this time, my right hip too. I was so sore and stiff later that night I found myself walking like that girl I’d seen. Like an arthritic robot.
The next Monday I had my gym workout, and the trainer sent us through a punishing series of lunges, uphill treadmill intervals, stepmill sprints, and a bunch of other crap I’ve blocked out. My hamstrings moaned piteously for several days, while I tried to stretch out the discomfort with yoga.
I’ve only done two runs this week, and they hurt like hell. My knee hurts, but the real problem is in my hip. Earlier in the week when it was at its worst I could press my hand into the outside of my hip and feel something—a tendon? the faschia?—sort of kerchunking over the socket when I moved my leg back and forth. I don’t think it’s an IT band injury because the pain in my knee is right under the cap, not on the outside, but something’s clearly inflamed and Not Very Happy.
If I had to guess at what’s going on, I’d say that something caused an overuse injury during the race, maybe inflammation from the all-day plane ride the day before, maybe not being hydrated enough, who knows. The 15 miler probably exacerbated things, along with the tough gym workout.
So here I am with the marathon just weeks away, wondering what’s going to happen. Will this get better? How much pain is okay? Where do I draw the line?
According to my training schedule, I should be running 16 miles this weekend, but after thinking about it (and posing the question to Twitter) I’m going to skip it altogether. I kept hemming and hawing over whether it was wimpy to bow out, but finally asked myself what the worst case scenario was with either choice: don’t run, and be behind in training? Or run, and possibly make this injury a hell of a lot worse?
For now I’m staying off my running shoes altogether. I’m using my foam roller, I’m trying different shoes, I’m icing at night, I’m planning to get a massage ASAP. But if I’m going to run those 26.2 miles, I need to get back out there soon.
The thing that sucks the most about dealing with pain isn’t that I might not make the race—there will be other marathons, after all, this is not a once-in-a-lifetime chance—it’s that I’ve struggled so long with finding the discipline to go out on days when I don’t want to, and put in the miles when all I want to do is stop and walk. I’ve battled against my own brain so many times in order to find the motivation to keep going. And right now it’s really, really hard to figure out what the right thing to do is, and to feel okay about the choice I make. Because there is a big part of me that feels like I’m being weak, that I just need to push through the discomfort and suck it up. I feel like I hate my leg right now, like this body that’s performed so well is now betraying me. I’m angry, is what I am, and I can’t believe how stupid that sounds, but it’s true. I’m pissed, and I’m frustrated and disappointed and in completely unfamiliar territory.