Marathon training is not easy work. It requires sacrifice of time to run and time to prepare for and recover from those runs. Many of those runs are just you alone with your thoughts, allowing them to haunt you in whatever they choose that morning. It can be an expensive sport with race entry fees, equipment, nutrition and, in unfortunate circumstances, health care for your running-induced ailments. And the physical toll running takes on you can sometimes be harsh enough to keep you from running in the future.
Last week, during my 18-miler, I noticed a twinge in my left knee. I figured it was just tight and would work itself out, but after the first five miles it was persistent. Yet, during the group run, the pain subsided deep into the half marathon.
The twinge, though, restarted the next morning during my shakeout run and has grown into a consistent dull ache, with sudden surges of pain. I’ve tried to heal it with rest – missing my midweek long run – compression, and icing, but the pain lingers.
Team World Vision has an easy 10 scheduled for this weekend and, on Friday night, I am unsure if I will go. Yes, I want to sleep in and not care about running for a change, instead enjoying my Saturday like a sane person, but I also am terrified that too much rest will deteriorate all the training I’ve done.
I am also eager to get out there because I am committed to this race and to this cause. I pledged to run 26 miles and raise money to provide clean water for 26 people and I don’t want to break that promise. I don’t want to let anyone down, specifically myself. I want to push through the pain, raise $700 more and cross that finish line knowing that I did everything I could do.
But, maybe, resting and taking care of myself is the all that I can do in this moment. The race is not for another two months, plenty of time to heal my knee and raise the rest of my fundraising goal. A marathon is not about rushing to the finish line, but experiencing each step and understanding it as part of your path.
This knee injury, I am hopeful, is not an exit, but a road sign along the way. This is part of the hard work of marathon training – taking care of myself and listening to my body – and I will do so because what’s at the finish line is much greater than a couple of missed runs.