Decisions, decisions

The Chicago Marathon is now merely six weeks away.

Obviously I’m panicking, do I need to say this? And the question of whether or not to run it still hangs above me. I mean, to be honest I could absolutely leave it until the morning of the race to decide if I’m going to do it or not. Kyle and I will be going to Chicago whatever my running outcome is. The flights and accommodation are all booked. There was never a consideration that we wouldn’t be going so whatever happens we’ll have a nice holiday. That isn’t up for debate.

What is up for debate is me being on the start line. I mean you could argue I should just go and try it anyway. I get no money back by not doing it. Our accommodation is literally a 10 minute walk from my corral. Effort levels of getting there are minimal.

Instead the risk is that by attempting it I will be making my hamstring injury worse because, let’s face it, us runners are stubborn beasts and once we set our mind to a race we will do our very best to run, walk, crawl to the end. And while yes that’s great in terms of making the most of a shitty situation, I could making the situation afterwards, well, more shitty.

The idea of starting and then going “ah you know what, it doesn’t feel that great, I’ll stop” requires a very strong mind. To limp through a race in my opinion is the weaker stance… By recognising that it’s best to stop requires far more strength. And with the adrenaline and thousands of other runners and supporters surrounding me, I don’t think I would be able to. I would push on through.

So I must decide before that day. And ideally, before I get to Chicago so’s not to get swept away with it all if the decision is the worser outcome. But I still have six weeks. So where am I at?

Well, it’s not a great place I have to admit. While my hamstring has definitely improved, it isn’t healed. The everyday niggle and ache isn’t always there. I have days when I barely feel it and running itself is a lot better. I’m not feeling restricted or like it’s such a nag I need to stop. But the feeling of discomfort is still in the background. No run has felt 100% perfect.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much? Perhaps it’s very gradually diminishing but because I’m inside my body every day I can’t tell. Or what if I’m just getting used to the constant discomfort and settling for “it’s not too bad”? I wish I could put myself in my body a few months or weeks ago and compare. Is it better? Or am I fooling myself?

The Wiggle crew I ran the 10 miles with

I ran 10 miles last week (and 20 miles overall). The 10 miles was uncomfortable and the hamstring did nag me, but it didn’t seem to get worse and I could complete 10 miles at a relatively normal pace (for me). Though that evening it ached and the next day it felt worse than before the run. But the next day I was absolutely fine and could barely feel any issues – despite having a two hour car journey to and from Bristol (which would previously feel like hell being sat down for so long).

So then the question is, do I do Chicago if running still feels uncomfortable? If it doesn’t do any long-term damage (this is a question I need answered) and is just an annoying nag the entire time, do I still do the marathon?

Am I being a perfectionist to want my last Marathon Major to be a fun and enjoyable experience – like my other Majors? Can I accept 4-5 hours of discomfort to just get it done? Do I throw away my chance to finish the last Major this year because I want the memories to be amazing? Or do I throw the towel in and have to fly out and do it all again next year (a Friday to Sunday night style affair on my own) because I want the experience to be what I’ve dreamed it would be (or at least, any issues I have aren‘t hamstring-related).

Sadly this injury is not the type of injury (hamstring tendinopathy) that just goes away with rest. Thirteen weeks of not running definitely showed that. Everything I’ve read online and the physios I’ve seen and spoken with have advised that rest is not best. I mean, that’s not to say that running through it is a good idea either. It means rehab and strengthening. And there are set-backs and aggravations and you can be setback weeks (I’ve experienced that a few times!).

I try not to read the forums anymore (you really shouldn’t) but so many people have said they had this injury for months, sometimes years. And even then they weren’t properly over it. It’s a depressing place in those forums and I know not to read too much into it or apply it to me… But when you’re standing on the edge of a big decision, it’s hard not to be dragged down there.

But until things really regress, I just have to keep going. I actually have no idea what to do otherwise. Even without thinking about Chicago, I want to run normally going forward. When it’s been so long you can’t seem to see an end. Will I be running normally next year? At this rate, I don’t know. Yes I’m being melodramatic, pessimistic and pathetic, but it’s hard not to let the panic consume you. When something you so love to do is taken away from you – or tarred in some way – your outlook can be a bit bleak.

Sorry for being so down. I just needed to vent.

What would you do?

5 thoughts on “Decisions, decisions

  1. Such a difficult decision. I think I would probably look at the cut off time and if it was OK, plan on walking pretty much all of it (is walking OK for your hamstring?).
    But I am not the best person for this sort of thing, although I am a bit better. A few years ago when I kept getting the issue with my hip, I was doing a 5 mile race with my dad, and really didn’t want to not run it, as he doesn’t do many races and this was the one we had chosen that year to run. I should have just watched and gone along with him, but instead I hobbled along (I think it took me 70+ mins when my pb is under 44) and then I was of course in agony for days after and really could not walk. So I like to think I have learnt my lesson (when it happened again, and I wanted to run at parkrun, I volunteered so that I couldn’t be tempted to run).
    If you decide not to do it, is there something else that you can do that day instead, so that you are not watching the runners? A day trip somewhere else?
    Maria @ Maria Runs recently posted…Maui for both an active and relaxing holidayMy Profile

  2. Tricky. N ended up doing his 6th with London on the hottest London ever, and was a bit grumpy that he didn’t push more at Tokyo that year, as it was perfect running weather that day…he’s not been fit enough to attempt a marathon since (he did do a half about a year ago, but he’s had injuries or illnesses, or, simply been new-parent-knackered). London was a bit of a let down for him, despite the six medal at the end.

    I think the sensible thing to do is defer. Go out in a boat on the lake if it’s a nice day. Hide in the science museum and the aquarium if it’s grim weather. Who can say in Chicago in October?

    Because, if you run it, you’re going to RUN it. We know you. And you’ll push yourself through any pain, and potentially put the rehab back for a long time – and you’ve got a plane flight home afterwards which is going to be immensely uncomfortable with an injury. Think back to Bournemouth….(sorry. You probably don’t want to think back to Bournemouth. Or you’ve already done that too much recently).

  3. Hi Anna,

    I had high hamstrong tendinopathy for about a year. It got better for me when I laid off the hamstring stretching and strengthening and focused all my efforts on strengthening everything around the high hamstring connection- core, psoas muscles, adductors etc. I think we’re all different so keep doing what’s working for you. It does heal. Since that shitty year I’ve run 5 marathons including 3 Bostons (I tend to do one marathon a year) without a problem with it at all. Have lots of hope – you’re well on the way. :o)

    Ok, now to Chicago . You still have 6 weeks. I know that seems insanely short but look at it from another perspective – someone who breaks a bone today (hopefully no-one either of us know!) will get into a cast today and yes, they’ll get out of their cast with a fully healed bone by the day of the marathon. A lot of healing can happen in 6 weeks. You’re going to Chicago to have a great holiday regardless, right? Is there a necessity to make a decision today? I’d say to give yourself a date 2 weeks out from the marathon when you’ll decide and until then commit to putting whether or not you’ll run out of your head.

    I know it will come up in your thoughts but commit to not giving it time. I’m convinced that when we obsess over something that we can’t control – and god knows us runners are wicked for that with our injuries – we can cause stress for ourselves that results in tension in the body that could possibly inhibit how we heal or allow our brains to process that we are actually healing. I’m not a doctor so have no medical advice but this just seems like common sense so I try to apply it myself. I was in the same situation as you with an achilles injury in the build-up to Boston in 2017. I decided to run it. I waited until days before to make the decision. I got myself taped up with KT tape and didn’t question the decision. Take your time. Try to consciously move your mind away from overthinking (I know how hard that is!). Breathe deeply – you can’t make the wrong decision. You can only make the right decision for you. Wishing you all things good – R

  4. If you decide definitely that you are going to do it, that will be a lot of pressure. I think it should be something you decide a few days before (not race morning). Big picture running is far more important than this one race. It’s not like this is a huge goal race for you either. I hope your hamstring feels better soon.

  5. N decided to chime in: he was in a similar position before Boston with injury. And his take is that you’re young (he’s a dinosaur, at 50) and will have more opportunities to run Chicago and: you don’t need to have a qualifying time to run it. So, if you don’t feel right, don’t run it. You also don’t need to decide now!

    Glad the weekend’s run went well!
    Jane recently posted…Knitting…My Profile

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