Digging down for my marathon spirit

Spirit has fifty times the strength and staying power of brawn and muscle.

Here’s the deal: I’m boarding a plane to Regina this afternoon and I’m running a marathon there on Sunday.

Here’s the catch: I’m limping.

Here’s the story:

I have been feeling fantastic: training went well, taper started a couple weeks ago, I’m feeling strong and well-prepared.

I went for a run Monday night: 10-11 km was all that was on the schedule, including a 5k pick-up at about a half-marathon pace.So I warmed up for 1.5k, ran 3k tempo and slowed it down a bit for 2 k. Then I met up with Scott (the loyal, consistent member of my Running for the Truly Terrified group) and we ran an easy 6 k from there.

Towards the end of the run I noticed my calf was a little stiff. We stretched when we finished, it went away. Then when I got home I iced my feet and had a hot shower – no stiffness. The next day I felt great – nothing hurt or was stiff.

It was rainy though, and I broke out my winter shoes and walked around all day in them. I don’t have a car, I live close to downtown, work, grocery stores, etc. so mostly I walk to where I need to go.

That night though the pain came as I lay in bed: upper calf just below the knee. Ouch. I iced it, then I heated it. The next day: same thing, but I though it’s just those pre-race nerves you get that amplify every little creak and grown in your body. I laughed it off — sort of.

I flew to Vancouver, where I walked from the Helijet terminal to our office downtown, and back at the end of the day. It was a beautiful day, I wouldn’t think to take a cab or shuttle!

Except my leg kept hurting. I started to get worried, but I thought – no problem, I have my pre-race massage booked for Thursday afternoon.

Nicola, my massage therapist, explained as she worked on it, that it’s a little sausage-like muscle right behind the knee that has stiffened up. She tells me if I heat it, and work at it myself, a couple times a day today and tomorrow, I should be OK to run.

As I walked to meet up with some friends last night it was acting up again, hours after Nicola’s magic touch. Discouraged, worried, sore, on the verge of tears, I hailed a cab home, put a warm pack on my knee and commiserated with my daughter.

What if, after all that training, that one little sausage-like muscle keeps me from finishing the race? What if I can’t even run at all? How am I supposed to run if I can’t even walk without a limp?

Well then, I wouldn’t be the first runner felled during a race because of an injury. One wise marathoner told me the true test of my mettle would come the day I had to DNF (“Did Not Finish” – it’s what they list you as if you drop out in the middle of a race). I’ve never done it, not over a number of 10k, four half marathons and one marathon – not finishing is just about the worst thing I could think of doing.

I keep going over my past week wondering what I could have done differently. Did I push the pace too much Monday night? Was it the winter shoes I broke out on Tuesday? Why couldn’t I just wear old runners in the rain and bring other shoes to work? Did I walk too much thinking it would loosen up?

Woulda coulda shoulda – what’s done is done. Even as I write this I realize all is not lost. I will follow Nicola’s instructions. I will be there at the starting line on Sunday. I will probably finish the race – but the dreaded DNF is an option if I’m completely crippled by injury on race day.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world, just another story in my running/life journey.


3 thoughts on “Digging down for my marathon spirit

  1. myron

    i fear the DNF too, haven’t experienced it, but like you said, if it happens it ain’t the end of the world. the race itself is just a vicotry lap, and you know (admit it!) what the rest of us know: that you’re already a champion!!

  2. Tori Post author

    Thanks so much for reminding me of that Myron! You’re right – I enjoy the effort, camaraderie and discipline of the training as much as I do race day itself – and just by showing up I am already a winner. Words I needed to hear this morning – love my Twitter community!

  3. Pingback: How to get over a DNF heartbreak: part I | tori klassen

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