I must apologize: I have not been talking about my half marathon training like I wanted to.
Honestly, it was going great! I was running more and more miles each week at longer distances and even saw an increase in my pace. It was beautiful! My long runs left me feeling proud and accomplished (while sometimes exhausted) and my other runs always put me in a good mood.I was learning so much about myself and about running that I could have shared. Like how I learned to pace myself through long runs and to always share my accomplishments. I learned that when you eat candy and cookies, the next day you run will be slower. I saw how important it was to have good shoes and not to buy ones on sale. (Those never quite were comfortable and I returned to my old pair). Not all were great runs, but they were all milestones on my way to the finish line. I was a happy happy runner. With big hopes of finishing my half marathon in less than 2 hours and fifteen minutes.
My friends were planning on coming to my race to support me and I had recruited some friends to run some miles with me towards the end. My family had booked a hotel to spend the weekend in Tallahassee to watch me complete my first race. Everyone knew I was training and was so supportive of my effort. I was convinced this would be my first race of many and that a full marathon would be in my future.
Well, I was wrong.
Last Wednesday, I began to have a lot of trouble running. I had been having bad shin splints (or what I thought were bad shin splints) but this run was different. Every step was painful and my right leg kept giving out. I could hardly complete a mile and half. I walked home and the rest of the day my right shin was in horrible pain. I decided to took a few days off from running but every time I went to go run (perhaps from the kitchen to my room or to the car, etc) my right shin would hurt like crazy and would also buckle. I knew something was wrong but I refused to say anything.
I started to do the ellipitical and bike instead of running on Thursday and Friday but my right shin still hurt. Not crazy pain but a dull aching pain in my lower right shin and then a sharp pain randomly. My right leg was also buckling a lot, sometimes when walking and other times when I was simply standing on it. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I began limping and I knew exactly what was going on. There was a particular spot on my shin that hurt a lot when I touched it, there was a slight bump and it was hot at the end of the day (from inflammation). I had already began researching and then when I couldn’t believe what might have happened, I cross-referenced. I then emailed a fellow runner that I found a blog and she confirmed what I thought on Christmas Day.
When I received new running sneakers, new running tights, new armband for my iphone, and running jackets for Christmas it felt bittersweet. I knew what was coming and I would have to let everyone know. I cried to my parents on Sunday night and they reassured me it wasn’t the end of the world but I was unconvinced! I talked to my doctor the next day and she also believed the same thing. A stress fracture in my tibia. An x-ray wouldn’t show it. Only a bone density scan. I wouldn’t need a cast or anything but I would need to rest from running for about 8 weeks. A stress fracture in my tibia.
I think out of all the injuries, this is the most frustrating. A majority of the time I feel fine and think I might be able to run but I know I could never complete 13 miles. I can work out using low impact cardio which is where I am each morning but running is out the question. In addition to how much it hurts when I try to run, I can do serious damage if I try to run on the fracture. There is no way I could not run for the next 8 weeks and complete the half marathon on Feb 6. My race dreams are squished. My training is not complete. And most heart breaking, after all the hours spent running and sacrfices made, I will never cross a finish line.
For me, this race was to prove to myself how strong I am. I never believed it. I always felt weak. I was diagnosed with a form of spondyloarthropathy (back arthritis) known as ankylosing spondylitis in Decemeber of 2009. I found out when I ran 14 miles over Thanksgiving day and the day after and gave myself a stress fracture in my back. When they took an xray there was also a significant amount of calciumfication on my sacroiliac joints. Sometimes I have ‘flare-ups’ similar to those with rhumatoid arthritis and I will feel especially weak and stiff. I do feel a lot of discomfort in my hips when I sit too long or aren’t active but I refuse to complain. The doctors told me the importance of being active and taking care of all of my bones. My bones were more sensitive than other and any impact on my body would have a greater affect than normal. I was told to gain weight to protect my bones since I was at the height of my eating disorder and had maybe 6% body fat. When I wouldn’t gain weight, my parents and doctors realized the anorexia was a bigger fish to fry.The whole time throughout my disorder and recovery, I was driven to prove I am more than the diagnosis.
I know I am blessed to be able to somehow still run even though, statistically, those with AS cannot. I know I could have hurt myself much worse. I know that mentally I made huge breakthroughs. I believed I was capable of doing something great and I was able to be left alone with my thoughts for long periods of time without using toxic talk. I know that I ran 11 miles in 1:45 minutes and that is a huge achievement. I learned to love what my body can do, even if I couldn’t appreciate what it looked like. I overcome binge eating while dealing with marathon hunger and learned to eat normally (This is not an accomplishment, that was a miracle). I was prepared in the beginning that the AS could affect training but it did not lessen the shock. The disappointment. The saddness.
Generally I am pretty optimistic about the fracture. I can still do a lot and am thankfully not immobile. I am not in a severe amount of pain most of the time and its not in my back. It could have been so much worse considering my bone health and the amount of work and stress they were going through daily. I can work out still and now I can make new different fitness goals. Perhaps that’s actually the most exciting!! I have always focused my goals around running but now I can try new things! I learned how important it is that I take care of my bones and calcium intake will be a daily goal of mine. I got through a majority of my training. I was mentally and physically (well muscle-wise) capable of completing the half marathon and knowing this makes me feel somewhat complete.
I am grateful for what I was capable of doing and the experience of trying to complete a half marathon.
……..Even though I may start to cry every time I talk about having to back out of the half marathon. And even if I consider throwing things at people who are running when I am driving. Even if I think it is cruel the treadmills are in front of the elliptical at the gym. Even if I can’t quite look at my garmin yet knowing we wont be together for some weeks. Even if I think the bike is boring……..
I am still a happy
runner gym rat.