Running the Boston Marathon: When Injuries and Bad Timing Mix

I’d like to tell you all a story about the past few months.  Today the 114th Boston Marathon is right around the corner, and anyone in my shoes (running Boston for the first time) would be a mixture of nerves, excitement, fatigue, and determination.  I am also all of those things, with one more key factor added to the mix: I’m hurt.  You see, I’ve been exceptionally busy with work, and travel for work, and a baby, and everything else that we all have on our plates in today’s world.  As a result, I tried to cram in my key workouts when I could and maybe I pushed a little too hard when I should have backed off, and now I’ve got a sore Achilles.  For a while it was awful, recently it’s been better.

This story, however, isn’t about my Achilles tendon specifically.  It’s about the process of deciding what to do next.  The irony isn’t lost on me that 3 years ago (almost to the day) I had my left knee reconstructed so I could one day run the Boston Marathon, and that same leg was now keeping me from running at all.  I was lost – should I stop training, play it safe, and give up on my dream this year to come back stronger in 2011?  Should I train through it on the chance that I might never have the opportunity again?  The decision was completely unclear.

I decided to take a step back, and I eventually followed a process somewhat like what follows.  What I hope is that the same process might work for anyone else in the same situation.

First: Take some time off, regardless of what is injured.  Rest is our friend when we’re hurt.  Don’t make the snap decision to “push through it.”  That’s just asking for a chronic, more serious problem.  I’ve ended up resting or cross-training for the better part of 3 weeks straight.  I know I’ve lost some fitness, but my injury has gotten a chance to heal.  I’ve trusted my training up to this point.

Second: Bring yourself back to what really matters.  At the end of the day, what can you not live without? Obtaining that goal should drive what you do next.  Is it long-term health? Is it achieving a dream? Is it doing something for someone else?  Let this be your guide.

Third: Gather ALL the info.  I read up on my injury, learned about recovery strategies, massages, stretches.  I read up on the long-term risks of continuing to train.  Most of all, I listened to other runners.  dailymile is such a great community in that people are open an honest.  So I reached out with a little poll:

Finally: Make your own decision based on what you know is right. I actually decided both ways.  I gave up on Boston for 2010, I looked at what I needed to do to defer my eligibility.  I made peace with it.  Then I found this:

Based on when I ran my qualifier, there would be no penalty for my taking the trip to Boston, running the marathon in whatever form I could, enjoying a tour of the course, and still coming back for more in 2011.  Then I woke up feeling much better…and ran a little less than a mile with zero pain.  And so I made the only decision that I can truly live with, to run Boston this year with no pressure to run fast.  I’ll cross train my entire way there, keeping as much pressure off my injury as I can to be fit enough to finish the distance.  I’ll enjoy the journey there, the experience with my dailymile friends, and the knowledge of the course that I’ll gain.  Then, in 2011, I’ll be back for a PR.

About Caleb M.

Caleb Masland is the founder and head coach of Team Wicked Bonkproof, a group of regular people who like getting after it one mile at a time. Caleb has enjoyed some moderate local running scene successes in his own right, but his number 1 mission is to get other dailymilers running faster and smarter by sharing what he has learned along the way. When he's not traveling for his career as a Technology Consultant or spending time with wife and son, you can find Caleb on the roads and trails around Boone, NC. Caleb has an unreasonable longer-than-longshot dream of running in the 2020 Olympic marathon trials, and all he has to do is turn his 5k pace into his marathon pace to achieve it!
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