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.
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.
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.
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.
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.