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What Would Another Mother Runner Do? Sidelined Due to Injury Before Marathons

A shot from the 2012 Boston Marathon.

Around AMR, we have the occasional What Would Another Mother Runner Do? series, a collection of questions for collective input that are both serious (skipping a marathon you've trained for because you just don't want to do it) and humorous (bringing two left shoes to a triathlon). The next in the series comes from Mother Runner Michelle, who is a long-time member of the AMR tribe. She is incredibly supportive and empathetic of all runners on our Facebook page—she's maybe even commented on your posts. She's also been sidelined from the Boston Marathon. Injury before marathons can be a soul-crusher. Here, she wonders whether going to the expo will lift her spirits.

Here's the situation, as told by Michelle: I have been training since January for the Boston Marathon. An intense pain came on very suddenly about halfway through my last 20-miler. I could barely walk for two days, and was in nearly constant pain for about two weeks. I was diagnosed with SI joint dysfunction.

I was training to run a PR this year, and until this injury struck, I had an amazing training cycle, and had never felt healthier, stronger, or more prepared for the Boston course. Not a single unusual ache or pain preceded this, so I feel like I've been completely blindsided by this whole situation.

I ran my first Boston in 2013, which is where I set my PR of 3:30:19. I was fortunate to have crossed the finish line and was a few blocks away from the area when the bombs went off. I returned in 2014 to run again.

I live about an hour and a half from Boston and my husband planned to watch the kids for me, so I could still go to the expo this weekend. But I'm not sure if it will make me feel better or worse. Should I go?

Dimity says: I wouldn’t go. It feels too unexpected and raw to me. If the injury would have been a slow cooker, and you weren’t sure during your training if you’d be able to cross the starting line, that’s one thing. But it came on suddenly, and, as such, your grief is still very new. While most positive energy is healing and most expo energy is positive (albeit draining), I think that immersing yourself in that energy is going to be too intense and may even leave you more bummed out. Instead, I’d spend the day doing something you love (besides running), as well as taking a few hours for serious self-care: a bath, a good book, a nap, your favorite meal, whatever sounds good. You worked really hard for your race, and even though the outcome isn’t ideal, you should be very proud of yourself and treat yourself well.

Sarah says: Skip the expo. I know Michelle is on the path to recovering, physically, and her mindset is in a better place than it was a week or so ago, but the disappointment is still fresh. It's like a fresh wound: It's healing, but the expo would rip off the scab. Or, should I say, in my mind it would! Instead, Michelle should spend some time perusing websites to choose the fall 2016 or spring 2017 marathon where she will PR. (Of this I have no doubt!) Despite her fastest 26.2 being Boston, I believe she is capable of even greater glory at a less-crowded, flatter race. (This goes for pretty much anyone: The best PR races are less crowded and not super-hilly.) Plus, the travel to-and-from expo and walking around it can't be good for her SI joint!

Managing Editor Maureen says: Don't go. Being around the other racers will just make you feel like you're missing out. But do take your husband up on that offer to watch the kids, then head out for a day of indulgence. Take in a movie, browse the bookstore, meet up with friends, go to Target child-free (sorry, I think that's just me projecting my hopes and dreams). Remember that there's always a next race, and once you've worked through your injury, you'll make quick work of that PR.

Now it's time for you to chime in: What would you do? Have you struggled with a similar disappointment? Tell us (and share some love for Michelle!)

19 responses to “What Would Another Mother Runner Do? Sidelined Due to Injury Before Marathons

  1. I too am missing Boston due to an injury. I wasn’t blindsided, and I don’t live close to Boston, but the thought of going to the expo sounds rough to me. I am really struggling to get back to running (a torn meniscus leading to serious hip issues….) but am bound and determined to qualify again (this would have been my 3rd) and have at least one final Boston-the most important thing I need right now is to believe I’ll be back to running at all! I say take care of yourself, work through this injury, kick some butt and see you next year!!!

  2. This happened to me in 2014. After qualifying for Boston by a mere 7 seconds at the Baltimore Marathon, my dear friend and training partner and I trained for Boston through an epically craptastic winter. All of the training including the last 20 miler was in the books and we decided to go run a quick and local half to get the nerves out before Boston. To quote Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”….. “Big Mistake….Huge”! It was raining and 34 degrees. Bone chilling cold set in and our easy half became a sprint to the finish just to stay warm. As I walked to the car afterwards I knew, that old ITB injury was back. I had 3 weeks to recover. I had 3 weeks to decide whether I wanted to fly to Boston to cheer on my friend. Fly. Did I mention how absolutely terrified I am to fly? Not the kind where you get on the plane and grin and bear it. No, the kind where you don’t get on the plane for 26 years. That kind of terrified. Oh yes, and all of our friends were also flying to see “us” run. After 2 weeks of PT and a cortisone shot I realized I was not going to be running Boston. What to do? Well, I decided that friendship trumped running and without friendship the running is only running. Judith and I have trained together through marriage, divorce, miscarriage and births…..and those are just the things that happen in the first decade of our training. I put my big girl pants on and I went to Boston. I went early with her and we navigated the city together. We went to the expo and I struggled amidst the sea of orange and blue ,but I was there. I took pictures of my friend standing on the finish line. I went to the pre-race dinner, and I walked her to the train the morning of the race. I also sat in the bar with a few other runners the night before the race and saw them the next morning working hard in the gym in an attempt to rehab. After I saw my dear friend off to the race start, I headed to meet up with my other friends who had just flown in to town. We spent the morning shopping and I had my first martini lunch while Judith was out running. There were tears and hugs and more tears. Every one of my peeps, Jill, Felicia, Maureen and Chris knew that this was killing me and they made me feel special. When Judith crossed the finish line I made a beeline to our meeting tree and hugged her with everything I had. When everyone flew back home it was just Judith and I in the hotel that night and on the plane the next day. It was one of the most bittersweet experiences of my life. It broke my heart but not my spirit. Honestly, as a 51 year old mother of 5 boys I cannot afford a broken spirit. That day in Boston the true spirit of running….friendship….was what was celebrated and I wouldnt trade that ( or the martini at lunch) for anything. Running isn’t who I am, but it makes everything I do just a little bit better. But that day in Boston, wasn’t about me. It was for the survivors and the friends and the people I will never meet. It was wonderful and awful to be part of the finish line on Boylston street and I it has motivated me to train smarter in the future.

  3. I think it might be too raw and painful to go. I broke my foot on my last taper run right before a half marathon at Disney. I was non weight bearing on crutches. The trip to Disney was already paid for. I did not go the expo. I did not want a shirt to remind me of the injury. I have zero regrets for not attending the expo.

  4. Five years ago I missed out on what would have been my first half marathon when I had to have emergency surgery three weeks before the race. (My doctor would have let me try to get through it with pain meds – it was not running related – but my husband rightly wouldn’t let me put it off.). On the day of the expo I made my husband drive me the two hours so that I could hobble in and pick up my shirt, and I haven’t ever regretted that. I worked really hard, and even of I couldn’t run the race I felt I deserved to pick up my shirt and participate in the expo. It also gave me some closure that I really needed. I can’t say what’s right for anyone else, but I did want to share this because there may be good reasons to go. It’s all very personal….and I hope you figure out what’s right for you!

  5. Ugh, I totally understand what you are feeling. When I was training for Philly and got hurt it was awful! Going to Philly was bittersweet. .. so excited to cheer on others, bummed that I wasn’t running. The expo was rough, but I still enjoyed being there to be in the moment. I say leave it open and decide at the last minute. If you’re feeling it… go, if no, be there in spirit.

  6. I am so sorry! (((Hugs))) I would go and get my “free” shirt and use it as motivation for the next race. Either way, you will be having a bad day and personally I would be crying a lot. After that, I would go do something for yuy… A movie, coffee, target splurge etc. hang in there ( I know, cliche right?!?!) you will be back soon!

  7. I don’t have any special words of wisdom but I just wanted to tell you I am so sorry. I know how much training goes into a marathon and you were on top of the world prior to your injury. I have tears in my eyes knowing how disappointed you must be. Take the time you need to recover and you will be back kicking asphalt before you know it. Hugs!!

  8. Michelle, feel better soon. If it were me, I would go to the expo. I love the positive energy at race expos. It would remind me that even though I may not be running this year, I am still part of the running community. I am sure you will find people at the expo who have no doubt been in the same situation and that will console you. You WILL come back, better than ever. Best of luck to you!

  9. Oh I am so sad for you!!! I agree about not going to the expo. That would be pure torture. I would, however, still get together to carb load or whatever with friends if you had plans to do so. And yes, still take that day off from motherhood/wifeness and go pamper yourself!

  10. First- I’m so sorry, Michelle! I hope you recover quickly and fully.
    I would skip the expo, for same reasons cited by others. It’s still fresh and I think you’d be better to be removed from it and take the time to indulge in some free time to renew yourself.
    I was two weeks from my first half marathon when I was diagnosed w/ a stress fracture. I did go to the expo, but it was a small local race and the expo was super-low-key. I was still sad about it all. However, I was able to volunteer at the race and that was really awesome and therapeutic. I’m guessing with a race like Boston, it’s too late to volunteer? If not, you might look into that. I enjoyed being able to see all the runners at the start/finish and asked everyone about how their race went. They were all so happy to be asked and to give a recap (like we runners love to do!).

  11. I can relate. Needed to skip my first marathon after injury following 18 miler. And I was doing it with both my sisters. I was going to expo/spectate, but wise ( and experienced) marathon sis told me to take that weekend and treat myself. Steak dinner and high-end vino with hubby–check! I would definitely advise the same–training takes so much out of you physically and mentally. Nourish yourself, Michelle and you will come back stronger, faster. Good luck!

  12. The NYC marathon was like in a way for me. My friends and I all went through the lottery system and two of us got left out, me being one of them. I went to the expo and the race to support my friends because I did every training run with them. 18 milers and all. I was supremely depressed at the expo and that turned around to positive energy as a spectator. I was healthy though and thought constantly “that could be me.” Go be a spectator and soak up the joy from the other side of the curb.

  13. I have yet to be sideline from something big that I trained so hard for so I’m bummed for you. I do know that this would be a tricky spot to be in. Here’s how I would encourage you. List as many things as possible to be grateful for in this training cycle. Just keep the list rolling. There are a bunch of tiny little things that we overlook in trying to accomplish great goals. And I would find a way to turn around and serve others during your day off. Yes, take care of yourself and take up the offer from the hubs to watch the kids. But then cheer for others hard. When I take the focus off me, my attitude straightens up. And I would probably sleep a bit more. Best wishes for your recovery.

  14. I would go. The energy will give you a boost. Take the injury in stride (sorry), it’s not cancer. Sometimes we need a reminder that we are human, we get hurt, we get sick, and with any luck/ God’s grace/ or whatever works for you, we heal. Still pamper yourslef with a visit to a spa, but don’t mis out on all of it. You worked too hard to simply not go.

  15. I was unable to run the Marine Corps Marathon this fall due to a stress fracture around my 5th or 6th week of training. I wasn’t nearly as deep into the training cycle, but wanted to weigh in that I did choose to go to the expo because I went with friends who were able to train successfully and we had a great time together. I don’t think I would have enjoyed doing the expo alone, but with a group it was a different story and I’m glad I could share in their excitement (and then get back to pool running). So my advice would be to go if this is a social event – but don’t go if it’s just you.

  16. You know you’re the only one who knows you. So, as they say “you do you”. I am also on the “down and out” list as well, again. Just had another breast surgery that was supposed to be simple, but having to resort to other measures, I am not able to use my lower body (think about it) or upper. I will be missing the Bike NY Tour May 1st, but I am going to the Expo. It’s not easy, But we’re used to not easy, right? Just being able to touch some of that energy, and feed off some of those vibrations is kind of like hanging the carrot in front of my nose. You get caught up in all that excitement and it rubs off on you, like going to a concert or listening to an AMR podcast. (hearing a workout or training tip and you want to drop what you’re doing to try that!) It’s out there, and I can have it and I will have it. Soon. If I don’t go to things, I find that I’m more distracted trying NOT to think about what I’m missing and trying to pretend I’m OK. I wind up “shouldda-wouldda-couldda-ing” myself all day. But, that’s me. Plus you’re sooo close you can alway go home if that “oh gosh! bad idea! Bail! Bail!” feeling hits. I’ve missed out of a bunch of running since last summer, but I know there’s an end to the means. PRing Boston is a massive high fiver! Heck running Boston give you bragging rights. I’ll never make it there! So even with your bittersweet experience,perhaps go in solidarity, wear you’re training injury proudly, go for those who cannot. Switch your mental focus and look for the positive in it. (like a good sale! kidding) You already know how strong you are. Mother Runner Strong. Boston Strong. Whichever you choose, you know you’ve done the right thing for you and I hope you peace and happiness with your decision. No regrets.*see way too much time on my hands!* 🙂

  17. I also say skip it. I couldn’t run Chicago last year and just seeing all the runners walking around downtown was depressing enough. If possible, treat yourself to a spa day – get a nice massage, or do something else you enjoy. As my kids say “Do you!” And don’t forget what a BAMR you are – you’ll be back in no time.

  18. I (@MalindaAnnHill) have struggled with similar disappointment. I have attended expos for races I was unable to run and I found it to be very meaningful. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite elite runners and enjoy the entire expo experience without having to worry about racing. Being around and connecting with other runners who were excited about the marathon was inspiring to me.

  19. I would do something that nourishes your soul. and speeds your healing. I have been following your training, impressed with your speed and determination, and I still feel super disappointed for you! I think it feels too raw to jump into the hype at the Expo. I do not have marathon plans ever, and I am going to the Expo and I think that even I will feel like I am missing out by not being one of the runners. I think it might be tenfold for you. Get ready to kick it up a notch at Hartford or wherever you end up setting that PR!!! Hugs!

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