Lisa, that tiny figure in the middle of the frame, is walking because of an angry ankle. Should she continue on with the race?

This edition of WWAMRD comes courtesy of the ZOOMA Cape Cod race this weekend. I was out taking pictures on the course, and came across a runner who was walking. It was around mile 1.5 or so for both the 10K and half-marathon, and she was alone and looked capable of picking up the pace. “Run for me,” I cheered, “I’ll get a great shot.”

“I can’t,” she said, and as she caught up to me, I realized it was Lisa, a longtime member of this BAMR community. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she said, “My ankle hurts.” (And by hurts, she later explained, “On a scale of 1-10,  it was a 5. It didn’t hurt-hurt, but was more twingy and made me feel like it COULD be a problem more later on. Didn’t want to drop out at the 10th mile.”) 

I gave her a hug, and she explained that it started to hurt during a long run recently; around mile 11 of a 12 miler. Then she mentioned was training for her second marathon, the Steamtown Marathon on October 7th. Turns out, she’d already run two 20 milers, so she was ready to steam through Steamtown, if her ankle would cooperate. She’d done the work for a full 26.2–and was potentially sabotaging her hard, hard work through this race.

Not wanting to completely waylay her plans, I suggested she downsize from the half-marathon and walk the 10K, but then I was more honest: “You need to remember what your goal is. It’s not this race; it’s the marathon.” Still, she had a posse of girlfriends running the race–they were all staying at her nearby parents’ house–and she would be the only one at the finish line without a race story.

So she could continue with her original goal of the half, downsize to the 10K, or call it a day.
What would you do? 

What Dimity would do: Against my more rational judgment, I’d probably run the 10K and hope the pain would stay at a 5. And pray that I could, despite not listening to the warning signs my body was sending out, make it through the marathon. Not coincidentally, I just interviewed a sports medicine doctor who said, and I quote, “Your body gives you plenty of warning when it’s going to be injured. You just have to listen. Most runners are really bad at listening.”

What Sarah would do: Not cross the starting line. My bout with plantar fasciitis was so debilitating last summer that I will not put myself in a position where I have to deal with another injury like that.

Lisa, left, and her pal at the expo, post-race. She didn’t run happy–but she’s happy with the decision she made.

What Lisa did: Turned around with me and walked back to the starting line. “I was very sad and weepy right away,” she says, “But later on in the day, I was resigned that it was the best choice. On Sunday, the day after the race, my ankle was fine so I totally second-guessed myself and wondered if I shouldn’t have just powered through.” She contemplated making up the mileage today, but another friend talked her down from the ledge and realized she needs to taper, not put the marathon in jeopardy. “I used to think it was weak to drop out of a race,” she says, “The more I run and the older I get the more I realize it’s much, much harder to be smart and live to run another day.”

What would you do? Turn around, downsize your race or gut out the half-marathon?