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Another Injured Mother Runner Can’t Run Philadelphia Marathon

We suspect this tee must summon bittersweet feelings in Sarah's Saucony 26Strong cadet, Alison.
We suspect this tee must summon bittersweet feelings in Sarah's Saucony 26Strong cadet, Alison.

In a post last Monday, Dimity told the AMR tribe she's been hiding an injury that is now preventing her from running the Philadelphia Marathon as the culmination of the Saucony 26Strong program. Now my 26Strong cadet, Alison Pellicci, delivers the same painful revelation. With Dimity and Alison out of the race, Dimity's cadet, Kelly Pollock, is going to run with two other mother runners (one for the first half, another for the second 13.1 miles). It feels too late in the marathon-game to find another 26.2 companion so I'm going to run it solo. But if you see me and want to run together for a bit, tap me on the shoulder--I'd love your company. My marathon plan is still taking shape, but for now it looks like a 9:30-9:45/mile pace for the first half, some short speed bursts in Mile 13-20, then cranking things up for faster final 10K. Aiming for 4:08-4:15 finish. But for now, I'm mainly focused on regrets for Dimity and Alison. Read on for Alison's first-person account of her injury--and her decision. Both were painful.

A week ago Saturday night, when my husband and I ran into a neighbor and occasional running partner, she asked Anthony about running NYC Marathon, then she turned to me and asked, “Are you ready for Philly?” I uttered, “I’m out.” And with those two words, the reality I had been trying to avoid, came to be. She saw the look in my eyes and said, “That’s the first time you said it?” Being a mother runner, she understood, so she offered her sympathy and her experience of dropping her first marathon because of injury--but we all knew her words weren’t going to change the way I was feeling.

For more than a month,  I have been battling this nagging hip. It started as a twinge and slowly evolved into much more. First my paced slowed, then I had to cut miles, next I couldn’t run on the treadmill at all, then I couldn’t run two miles. Four weeks out from my first marathon and I could barely cover to two miles without pain. Did I mention I couldn’t walk? Parents were stopping me in the halls of the school where I teach kindergarten to ask if I was okay; I couldn’t get up and down to sit on the rug with my class. Some days driving was hard because I couldn’t move my leg from the gas to brake easily.

It’s been rough. Being the good cadet, I just left out those details when I talked to Sarah. When the pain first started I went to my orthopedic, who is also a runner. He said it was a hip flexor strain, and advised I keep running, stretch, and take an anti-inflammatory. I went to physical therapy and yoga and I stretched twice a day, but it wasn’t improving. When I ran a half-marathon in Central Park a week later, I was uncomfortable, but got through it. By the time I got off the train back to Connecticut that night, though, I could barely walk. Two weeks later, I was back at the doctor;  I told him I hadn’t run in the past week because of the pain, and he was not happy. He said now was the point of my training to ramp up miles, not cut them; I was risking my race. I thought I knew more than he did, thinking my Internet doctor’s certificate was as good as his real one.

Alison kept lacing up her Saucony kicks, even when  her hip was hurting.
Alison kept lacing up her Saucony kicks, even when her hip was hurting.

All along I held out hope. All my runner friends said, “it’s okay, we’ve all missed runs, you still have six weeks to get healthy, that’s a long time.” Then it was four weeks, and then I was down to three. I had myofascial release; I got trigger point injections in my butt; I switched to all-natural anti-inflammatories to not upset my stomach, all of which got me through a slow 19-miler. I emailed Sarah and said, forget about the 4:30 finish, let’s hope for a 5:00! I joked  I was going to start my novena to St. Jude (Saint of Hopeless Cases).

I finally went to acupuncture, and it was like a godsend. I thought my prayers had been answered: The pain went away almost immediately, and I was walking as close to normal as I had in a long time. But I still had to run my 20 miler.

The Saturday three weeks pre-Philly was not only pouring rain, but also cold and windy but I didn’t have another option since I was volunteering the next day at NYC Marathon. I started on the treadmill, popping in a DVD and prepping for the long haul. But my hip would not let me get to a mile. I got off, threw in a load of laundry, got back on, tried again, nope, started crying. Instead, I headed to the high school track to run 72 laps around a field, by myself in the rain and cold. I trudged through five miles, half limping, half dragging my leg. The ugly creatures of self doubt and defeat crept inside my head and started their horrible trash talk. As I ran around the track, I cried: My hope was washed away by the rain and tears.

On a drier day: The track where Alison had her epiphany that Philly 2014 wasn't going to be hers.
On a drier day: The track where Alison had her epiphany that Philly 2014 wasn't going to be hers.

The next day, standing in the finish chute of the New York City Marathon as a volunteer, I witnessed all types of runners come through in all sorts of conditions, none of them were walking comfortably. I thought: How am I going to do this in three weeks if I can’t walk normally before 26 miles?

I kept Sarah up to date as cryptically as I could. When I mentioned my plan of getting in 20 miles two weeks pre-marathon because I hadn’t accomplished it yet, I got radio silence and sensed she was weighing the situation. Almost 12 hours later, when I got a text from her expressing her reservations and instructing me to not attempt 20, I felt everything start to slip away faster and faster. She suggested I risked doing permanent damage and not be able to run again. Then Sarah shared the still-under-wraps news about Dimity being injured and unable to run Philly. I was shocked, but in a small way I felt better. Injuries happen; there’s nothing I could do. Sarah and I discussed cutting back to the half, and I told her I would let her know how my shortened run went the next morning.

Ignored phone in car.
Ignored phone in car.

That Saturday was a beautiful autumn day--I couldn’t wait to get outside to get my miles in. Two and a half miles in, though, I stopped, turned around, and walked home. It was then I knew any chance of running the Philadelphia Marathon was over. I couldn’t pretend that I wasn’t hurt; I couldn’t run, period. I avoided Sarah. I went to my son’s soccer game and left my phone in the car. When I got back, I saw I had a text, but I ignored it. When I finally mustered up enough courage to look at the message, I saw “How was the run?” and I couldn’t respond. I wasn’t ready to admit defeat yet. Anthony immediately knew something was wrong; he kept asking what Sarah had said and  why was I so quiet.

When we got home, I finally was able to text to her, “I’m out, I can’t do it.” Sarah immediately called me, but I let the call go to voicemail. Up until that final text, I had the hope  I would be running with Sarah, representing the tribe. Saturday night was rough, with lots of tears and anger. Normally when I feel like that, I go out for a run. That wasn’t an option so I turned to shopping, cleaning, and eating Halloween candy.

Sunday we had a family party and everyone wanted to talk to Anthony about marathon. By the end of the day, I was sick of listening to him complain about how upset he was with his time and his performance. I wanted to scream at him, “At least you got to run!” I was bitter and angry and when family asked me about my race, I replied, “Philly is in 2 weeks,” never saying whether I was (or wasn’t) running it.

A lovely road hugging Long Island Sound Alison trained on.
A lovely road hugging Long Island Sound Alison trained on.

And that brings us to today, Philly is less than a week away. I am still going, just not running. I will be at the start and finish cheering extra loud for Kelly. No reenactment of Sylvester Stallone running the streets of Philly for me. There will be tears: Some will be for me, but more will be for Kelly as she gets to feel the excitement of crossing her first marathon finish line!

There will be other races. I am taking some time off from running to heal my hip properly. I’m hoping  I know when it is the right time to start again. I’ve already put in for the NYC Half lottery, and I will put in for NYC Marathon lottery again. I will be #26Strong one day; I know it. Just not at Philly 2014 with AMR.

45 responses to “Another Injured Mother Runner Can’t Run Philadelphia Marathon

  1. choked up. so sad for your injury Allison. Virtual hugs to you and lots of good vibes your way — here’s to your recovery and many happy miles down the road.

  2. Alison, I’m so sorry. I do understand. I haven’t been able to run since the beginning of September thanks to a hamstring injury. I missed my HM 2 weeks ago because of it. My husband still went. My only consolation was how horrible the weather was (Am I terrible for gloating over that?!). It was bitter cold with a mixture of icey rain and snow. My husband had a great race. I’m still not running, though my hamstring is getting better.

    It’s hard. I hope you have a strong and quick recovery.

  3. So sorry to hear this, I can imagine how frustrating it is. But you’ve made the right choice. And, as you said, there will be other races! Just think how amazingly strong you will be— mind and body— when you do cross that first 26.2 finish line!!!

  4. So sorry Allison!!! What a tough decision but you are making the right one. As a fellow #Saucony26Strong cadet, I know how hard you have worked and how tough this decision must have been. My heart just aches for you!! Many hugs to you dear girl!

  5. Thank you all so much for your amazing support. I am in awe of your understanding, kind words and good jui jui coming my way. It helps me to know that I did make the right decision as hard as it may be. I do only have one body and there are many more races!

    The AMR tribe will be there in spirit when I do get across the finish of 26.2!

  6. Alison, I am so sorry to hear about your injury. As others have said, you are wise to bow out and allow your body to heal, but I can’t even begin to imagine the frustration, disappointment, and sadness you are feeling right now. Thank you for your open and honest post. You will be #26strong one day, and all of us BAMRs will be there – in spirit if not physically – to cheer for you. Big hugs!!

  7. Oh soooooo hard. Sometimes it takes more strength and courage not to cross the start than it does to cross the finish. I’ve been out for 10 weeks now with a hip stress fracture and labral tear from my marathon and I have wondered over and over if I should have run. A different kind of marathon starts for you now…observe the mile markers, feel the pain of it, and find the beauty.

  8. Allison, your post brought me to tears, I’m so sorry to read about your injury and the decision to not run Philly. Sending hugs.

  9. Allison, you did the right thing to pull out. You don’t want to risk permanent damage and never be able to run again. You did a great job with volunteering for NYC this year. I have no doubt that you will make it to your first marathon and finish! It takes so much to accomplish all of this that we do as mother runners, we expect and demand so much from ourselves, and this keeps us going and spurs us on to achieve great things.

  10. there will always be another race, but there is only one you. Heal yourself and come back stronger. I’ll be running the half representing DC mother runners!!!

  11. I think it takes more courage to drop out of a race than it does to drag your injured self through it. You will come back stronger and better prepared for next time. Still I share your misery at not getting to compete this weekend! Be proud of yourself!

  12. I’m so sorry to read this 🙁 I’ve been out with a broken knee since September 5th and I know how hard it is to have that rug yanked from underneath you, but imagine it’s only harder when you had a once-in-a-lifetime sort of opportunity to go along with it. I hope that your hip heals quickly and that you have many great races ahead!

  13. I am so sorry you won’t be able to participate in the race. It really is a loss – all the weeks of planning and running & then this. I hope you take the time you need to feel what you need to feel. I pray that you come back stronger than ever!

  14. Allison-thank you for sharing your story. I get sidelined this year too and the disappointment is brutal. But, being injured long term/permanently was the trade off for me… Miss a few races or miss a year of my sanity. Bless your heart and cheer like mad for all the other BAMR’s who know where you’re coming from! Speedy healing!!!!!

  15. Hang in there. Nothing I write will take the sting away, but know all of The Tribe wishes you a speedy recovery. Heal up. Race on another day.

  16. Being a BAMR is more than just running….its also knowing when you can’t, and knowing the rest of us are out here cheering for you, supporting you and completely empathizing and understanding what you are going through. Sending hugs and good wishes your way.

  17. Alison, I am so, so sorry for your physical and emotional pain!! While the scale is smaller, I faced a very similar situation in October, 4 weeks before the half-marathon I was training for as part of 13.fun — all had been perfect up to that point, training was great, and suddenly my IT band freaked out and I couldn’t walk down stairs normally for 2 weeks (and running was out of the question). It is so hard to go from great, consistent training to no running (thus no stress release) during such a stressful, emotional time. I am doing PT and just went for my first slow 10 minute run last week …. and I know it will be a long road back, but I will come back. And so will you!! Hugs and empathy!!!

  18. Thank you for sharing, I have tears in my eyes. Although I was only registered for the Philly Half, I too am sidelined by injury and won’t be running. Hugs!!

  19. I am battling the same injury, and this gave me the courage to take care of myself to run another day. I just made it to the finish line of my first marathon injury-free, but in the aftermath have developed painful hip flexor strain. I am wanting to improve but realize that I can’t just keep getting after it. I need to pause and take care of myself or I could end up with a long-term sidelining injury.

    So, I’m going to dial it back, focus on lower-impact workouts, core workouts, and nutrition. Myofascial release is also a great suggestion. As someone else on this board said, “There are lots of races, but you only have one body.”

  20. I’m so sorry, Alison. I am sending you a big BAMR hug. That post was dripping with emotion. It brought flashbacks to my own first half last year. I wasn’t able to run due to a foot injury a week before the race landing me in crutches and stitches. I cried for the pain, but mostly I cried for the emotional pain of not being able to run the race, all that hard work, all the plans.

    Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story about this journey you have been on. I think many of us recognize ourselves in your words.

    I love your final lines. You will get your marathon. Not next week, but when you attain it, it will be twice the accomplishment.

  21. Alison, so sorry to hear about your injury. I was in 13.fun training for my first half when I had to limp home from a cut-short 10 miler, crying my eyes out. My kids just looked at me in shock… they couldn’t remember ever seeing me cry like that. It’s hard physically, but the mental and emotional is the real injury to the runner’s soul.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I know it must have been hard to push the “send” button on this. The tribe is behind you and glad you will be healing instead of taking the chance of further injuring yourself!
    Heal well and quickly. Best of luck and please keep us updated!

  22. Alison, this really really stinks. Your post brought tears to my eyes because I could tell how hard this is for you. I hope your hip recovers well so you can get back out there and run your best.

  23. So sorry to read this blog about your injury. I hope you find out the cause of your pain and heal quickly but smartly. I will keep you in my prayers and heart while you heal.

  24. So sorry to hear this news. Amazing you will go to support, kudos. I hope your rehab is quick and uneventful, and you’re back running longer soon.

  25. Alison, really sorry to hear your story. I can totally sympathize. I had to step back to a half for my first planned marathon because of a calf tear (which healed, but I couldn’t get in the mileage I needed). The second time around training went OK and I ran my marathon, but I came out of it with what turned out to be high hamstring tendinosis. I just didn’t recover like I should have. First I cut back on my mileage, then way back, and added more strength work. Then I stopped running altogether – my last run was a six miler in March that hurt every step of the way, and on the walk home I finally came to my senses and said ‘you have got to take time off and really fix this problem.’ I saw three different physical therapists and am currently doing rehab on my own. It’s been eight months off running and if a minor hamstring strain on the opposite side doesn’t stop me, I plan to start a C25K plan in December. It is incredibly rewarding to train for a goal like that and pull it off, and incredibly frustrating and saddening when you have to give it up. I have learned a lot of lessons over the past eight months, not least of which is that I can’t make my body heal on my schedule. In the end, I have had to let it dictate what I do and how much. I’ve gone through so many minds about it – at first I was so frustrated and angry to lose all the great training I had done, and then to lose the ability to do the thing I love so much. But now I will just be happy and grateful to be able to run a step without pain – I will appreciate every moment. I know you are disappointed and hurt right now, and probably will be for a while. But do what you need to do, be patient, find other outlets if you can, and you will – eventually – get back out on the road. If you’re luckier than me, sooner rather than later. All the best.

  26. Alison, I am so very sorry for you. There are no words that can offer you total comfort at this time but I hope that you can find solace in knowing that you are doing the right thing and to this tribe of mother runners that is an important message. I really admire your unflinchingly honest post. Wishing you a speedy recovery. There will be more miles as soon as you take all the time you need to heal.

  27. Allison, I am so sorry to read this. Ii recognize all of the emotions you are experiencing. Last spring I hurt my hip 4 weeks before Boston. I did all sorts of therapy, acupuncture and massage being the best. I chose to run even though I knew I wasn’t fully healed. I wasn’t in pain after those 4 weeks, but I knew it would be difficult, especially given I hadn’t run in 4 weeks. I debated and debated, but since it was Boston, I chose to run, with the approval of my therapy providers. I went into it with the resolve to pull out if I experienced any pain. I didn’t have any pain until literally the last .2. I ended up walking the last 5 miles and ran those .2 I wasn’t going to pull out at that point. Anyway, as the night went on, my pain became nearly unbearable and I went home on crutches. Spent 4 weeks on crutches and am coming up on 7 months with no running. (I had another complication unrelated to the injury that has sidelined me for an extra bit of time). All of this to say, if it hadn’t been Boston, I wouldn’t have run that race. I would’ve made the tough decision you did and said “another year, another time.” I don’t regret running or the experience. But I will say that this has been a very long road of healing. Best of luck to you and I know you will be a marathoner soon! Take the time you need now to heal properly.

  28. Alison…Let me tell you about my Philly story….just last year. I was training for the Marine Corps marathon and my training was going pretty well. I did the 18 miler warm up in Central Park and then the 18 miler in LBI. All good. So with Philly marathon still open, i thought, why not do 2 this year? I’m feeling pretty kick-ass. I signed up and so excited! Well….i ran Marine Corps and it was decent. But in my mind, I still HAD to do one more. My attitude really changed, from excitement to what-a-chore and I was feeling pain in my hip and IT Band. However, I am never one to back out of a challenge, so I continued my training. My heart wasn’t in it but i was still plugging. Then the weight of the run really rested on my shoulders. I was running, then I wasn’t. Going back and forth everyday. My friends kept saying good for you…2 marathons. Smile plastered on my face, I said Thanks. Then I called the hotel asking when was the last possible date to cancel my room. It literally was noon on the Wednesday before I picked up my phone and canceled the hotel, which in turn was the fact I was not running Philly. My choice was not entirely due to injury but I can really relate to how hard it is to not run, when this is what we trained for, wanted so badly and it was not going to happen. I didn’t run the rest of year and then I too decided to run the NY Half in March. I didn’t start to run again in late January, mostly treadmill but I got out there again. Alison, you WILL run a marathon. You have the drive, the will to go the distance and just plain chutzpah! Give your body a good rest and you will be back in action and lining up before you know it setting your GPS for the 26.2 that lay in front of you. Keep the faith. 🙂

  29. So very sorry Alison! You made the right decision though. I’ve been there. Still hard but there will be other races. Looking forward to meeting you with hugs at the ready!

  30. I’m so sorry to hear that you are injured. Your time will come and when it does it will be SO sweet. Take care of yourself. I know it’s little solace, but there will be lots of races and you only have one body. I think we all take for granted the ability to run races, especially marathons. We look around and see so many people finishing 26.2 miles and think “I can do that too”. And we can for sure, but all those miles are hard! They are hard on our bodies! They are especially hard on us the first time we try to run that far. I’m proud of you for not giving up hope until the very end. You have a true badass spirit. Take care of your hip and come back stronger in the spring. Take all you have learned from this training cycle and use it when you get to that next start line. Hugs.

  31. Hi Alison, I’m so sorry this has happened…. reading your words you can feel how badly you wanted this to work out. I know it’s no consolation and it sucks, but it sounds like you made the right decision for your body and for your future running. I’ve had injuries that have sidelined me from running for long periods (and from races I was looking forward to) and all of those have come because I pushed myself to run when I knew better and my body was telling me to stop. It’s so hard now but when you’re back it (before you know it), you’ll look back and be grateful you made this call. I’ll be in Philly, too, so I’ll see you there (with a hug!)

  32. I have been there! I was put in a foot cast 1 month before my first marathon. The good news is I made it to the finish line of the marathon the following year.

    And years later- last November I developed the same injury you did. I ran with the pain and finished my half in December. Then found myself unable to walk in January. My Dr made me take 8 weeks off from running and swimming. I was allowed to cycle after 6. The physical therapy and the rest made a world of difference. Started running again. But 1 month ago the pain started again. This time I saw the chiropractor at once. His recommendation was to do the myofacial release and let me keep running at a much slower pace and with walk/run intervals. That has been a godsend. I completed my 11 mile run on Saturday with no pain. .

    His advice for hip injuries like ours is that after proper rest,you should restart your running base at a lower pace and with run/walk intervals.

    So all of that to say. I’ve been there. It sucks but there is hope.

  33. So sorry to read this Allison! Wow there’s something about the Philly Marathon. I can totally relate. I too had to DNS Philly a few years ago due to hip pain. So frustrating! Wishing you a speedy recovery and know that this too shall pass. I just ran NYCM a couple of weeks ago! Hang in there!

  34. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. I didn’t call off the race at the end of October. I can currently walk with no pain but cannot run more than 2 miles. Alison, it hurts but you are doing the right thing.

  35. I feel your pain! I will be deciding after I try to run this week if I can make a go at Philly. I will still be going to cheer on my large group of friends who I trained for the race. I am truly glad it is me that is injured and not one of them!

  36. Hang in there. Use the winter to heal and maybe when your school year is over you can enjoy some summer runs. So sorry you can’t do Philly.

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