A Perfect 10 (Miles)

Okay, well, maybe it wasn’t perfect (it was actually a tough run!), but the 10 miles I ran on Saturday were a huge accomplishment for me.
As most of you know, I am training to run the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15, 2011. It will be my first full marathon. Last summer, I was training for the Columbus Marathon, but had to scale back to the half distance after learning of a knee injury (among other things) that resulted in one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make.  I felt like a failure and although I knew I was making the right decision and taking care of myself, it still wasn’t an easy one to make. It was August of last year when I decided to switch to training for the half marathon and the last long training run I completed was 10 miles.
It was after that run that my knee blew out in my living room as I was walking to the kitchen on lazy Sunday afternoon. It felt like extended way further than it should ever be able to and I went down – all the way to the ground. I remember lying on the carpet sobbing as my husband tried to help me up. I remember limping back to the couch clutching my knee in both of my hands. I remember hoping it was only temporary.
And I remember being wrong about that. I tried to run a couple more long training runs after that, but had to stop after 5 or 6 miles. I was never able to push it beyond 10 miles while training. I backed off every time for fear of the pain returning.  I kept up with my physical therapy strength exercises (still do) and I actually ran the Emerald Half in September and got a PR. My knee hurt then, and I limped home, but I questioned whether or not I had made the right decision.
Then I ran the half in October, and it was slow and painful. My knee gave out nearly moments after I crossed the finish line. I fought back the tears as I watched others crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles. It was a bittersweet day for me. I was happy I finished the half with the help of my running friend Suzi, but I was sad that I didn’t run the full as I had hoped.
Since that time, I’ve kept strengthening my quadriceps as a means to relieve the strain that running puts on my patella and surrounding tendons, hence the grinding and creaking I used to hear (and feel!) has dramatically been reduced. I can feel my quads working instead of my knee pulling to the point of being painful. And, I am developing a well-defined quad muscle that never used to be visible.
Still, even though the state of my knee and mental anguish about the injury has greatly diminished, 10 miles had remained a mental block for me. It was the last long training run I did last time I was training for the full before, in my mind, everything fell apart.
I was scared when I set out on Saturday with my pace group. I almost didn’t want to run. A thousand questions raced through my head: What if my knee blew again? What if I couldn’t make it through the run? What if I failed in front of the people who are depending on me? What if I let everybody down? What if I can’t run Pittsburgh? What if my knee never gets better?
What if I never tried?
Then I would not have been able to run 10 miles in 2 hours and 17 minutes with no knee pain. None. Not then. Not today – Sunday, the day after my longest training run of the season. Snow, ice, and even hills. I ran it and it was hard, but I finished.
My mental wall crumbled almost instantly. I am not afraid of 12, 14, or 16 miles. I know now that my knee will hold up. I know that I can do this. The fear of pain is not holding me back this time – I beat that already this Saturday. This reminds me of the quote I originally shared when righting about my decision to stop training for the full marathon last August:
“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” 
– Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ
I will succeed. 26.2 in 2011.

Happy Running,

Comments

  1. Congrats, Sara! You are such an inspiration!

  2. Congratulations, Sara! You’ve wondered if you are an inspiring pace coach? Absolutely! We watch you face and overcome your challenges, and it gives us the strength to face ours. I’m so proud to be one of your Lucky 13s!

  3. That’s so awesome!! Way to go, Sara!!

  4. Good for you! You are such an inspiration!

  5. Congrats! Thats awesome! Keep breaking down those walls. Next up…20 miles

  6. WOO HOO!! totally awesome

  7. You will succeed, I am sure. Good luck!

  8. WOO HOO!! totally awesome

  9. Congrats! Thats awesome! Keep breaking down those walls. Next up…20 miles

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