What was your worst running moment?
For this question you get my short answer and my very long answer. I am taking a creative writing class and wrote about this question for one of my assignments. Luckily for me the assignment is graded on is it complete or not and not how great the writing is.
The Short Answer
My worst running moment was when I sprained my ankle out on a long run on October 2009. I was a little more than 2 months out from the Tucson marathon and was out on a 20 mile run when 8 miles into it I fell off a curb. I remember thinking just before it happened should I cross the street in the middle of the road or go to the cross walk. If I would have crossed in the middle, I wouldn’t have sprained my ankle. Sitting at the gas station people probably thought I was crying because I had fallen and skinned my knee. I was crying because I knew the 18 mile race the following weekend and the marathon; my hopes of qualifying there were gone. It was horrible and is still a painful experience to remember and my eyes are glistening with tears sitting on the surface. I couldn’t understand why me (I know…so Nancy Kerrigan). If I am going to come up with a silver lining though, the break probably made me stronger by forcing rest. I got some biking in and scrapbooking too. I feel for anyone who sprains their ankle. I feel for anyone who gets injured close to a race. And although I didn’t think this at the time, I can see how everything works out in the end.
The Long Answer
My worst running moment came on October 3rd, 2009 at 5:55am when I sprained my ankle while out on a 20 mile long run. Twisting away in pain on the cement, I felt my hopes for running the Tucson Marathon and qualifying for Boston seep into the cement with my tears.
It was a little more than 2 months before the Tucson marathon and I was running strong. Just 5 days before, I jogged over to the high school track a mile from my house and ran 8 x 800’s . The feeling was great. Running one 800 at a time, around and around the track, I felt like I was flying. I felt like I was fast. I was on track to qualify for Boston at the Tucson marathon. BQ in the bag!
Running a marathon hasn’t always been my dream. It was an impossible feat that only real runners could do. A real runner was fast and won races. A real runner was the perfect weight and didn’t have thunder thighs. I was none of those things. At some point along my journey, my definition of a real runner changed. The lies of an ill conceived definition of a real runner melted away and I considered myself a real runner. To run a marathon was now a possibility. Since high school I’ve run off and on. Or perhaps I should claim I was a jogger. I would jog for up to 3 miles a couple days a week and then stop all activity for months. I never considered myself a runner during that time and never signed up for a race or even considered it.
In 2006 in an effort to be healthier and lose weight, I started walking. When I figured I could run the same distance in less time, I started jogging it. Eventually I was jogging the entire route and I loved it. I had caught the running bug. Promptly I signed up for a half marathon with no prior races under my belt. The seed to run a marathon and qualify for Boston was taking root. From that point on running was part of my life and my passion. I loved running and was competitive with myself and others when toeing the starting line.
After seeing my race times, a fellow bloggie friend asked me the question if I have always been fast. Me? Fast? I had to laugh because I don’t consider myself to be fast. I’m the slowest person that goes to my running club and I run the workout by myself while the others zoom by me. I look up to my fellow runner friend Jan who runs with the fast boys at our track workouts and is often first female finisher in the local 5K’s and 10K’s. She’s fast. I’m half fast. Often placing in my age group I know that I’m not slow but I don’t consider myself fast.
When I caught the running bug I yearned to locate others to run and train with. I looked online to find a running club but came up with excuses. Too much money, too far away, not enough time and other lame excuses spread in my thoughts. I did nothing to pursue finding other runners until one day I went to the track with a co-worker and saw a group of runners doing a track workout. On one of the laps I talked to a woman who happened to be one of the coaches. I literally had run into one of the running clubs that I saw online. I joined the club the following week and began my path of learning.
A marathon training plan has three or four 20 mile long runs scheduled. The long runs help build the body’s ability to stay moving and on the feet for long periods of time. It is also an opportunity to try out paces, eating, drinking, shoes, socks and running clothes. Running the marathon is the easy part. Getting through the training is the hard part. That weekend was my first 20 mile run in my marathon training. Hitting 20 miles is an important milestone in the training and it was important to me because I had a mental block of running past 18 miles. 18 miles and above is when the stomach gurgles start. 18 miles is also the point in my prior marathon training where I got injured. If I could complete this 20 mile run successfully I would be over a hurdle.
The time commitment for long runs becomes substantial. A 20 mile long run well over 3 hours not to mention the recovery time needed after a run of that length. Sometimes I’m ok with eating a snack, lying on the ground with my feet stretched up against the wall and other times an upset stomach requires a restroom close by. Often with the long runs John, my boyfriend, gives me a head start and we finish the last 8 to 10 miles together.
This time, I would be running the long run by myself since John was out of town hiking in the Grand Canyon. I was delighted to have the house to myself and free time. I was looking forward to having a weekend filled with stuff I wanted to do, running, scrapbooking, and hanging around. My sister-in-law and I were going to take advantage of the opportunity and spend the entire day scrapbooking. I would need to start early to run, get back home, stretch, eat, shower, load the car with scrapbook supplies and be on the road by 9:30am to begin the half hour drive over to my sister-in-laws house. Backing from the time I needed to leave the house required me to be out the door at 4:30am running.
Leaving at 4:30am means running through the dark for two hours. Although I have a headlamp, I don’t wear it instead my eyes become accustomed to the dark and I run a little slower watching my footing. Heading over to the canal path on the main road, there is a ½ mile stretch through the inky dark that crosses the railroad tracks requiring extra caution stepping across the uneven tracks. The lights on the canal illuminate the path where the lizards sit under the beam basking in the warmth the lights provide. Occasionally another runner crosses my path.
8 miles into the run is an intersection when to continue on the canal, I have to cross two major streets. Looking all directions for traffic to cross, time slowed as I felt the unfamiliar motion, the pull on my right ankle as I landed on the cement and immediately knew something horrible just happened. The tears started flowing.
The sun hadn’t started peaking yet and the red of car tail lights blurred my vision. Lying on the cement, audibly crying, no one acknowledged I was there. Granted at 6am on a Saturday morning, there aren’t too many people out but cars were driving by and stopping at the stop light just feet away from where I lay. They were too busy to go wherever they were heading to stop and offer assistance.
I remember thinking just before my fall, should I cross the street in the middle of the road or continue on to the cross walk. I decided to continue to the crosswalk and cross at a light. If I would have run diagonally across the street and crossed in the middle, I wouldn’t be in this position. I wouldn’t have sprained my ankle. Gathering myself, I pushed myself up to a sitting position on the sidewalk and could already see the ankle ballooning. Crap! Crap! Crap! Was it broken or just sprained? Based on the immediate size increase leaving a giant bulge of where the ankle bone used to be, I feared a break. Standing up and stepping gingerly, I was optimistically happy that I didn’t think it was broken. Quickly I considered my options. Hobble home 8 miles back along the canal, go to a police station that I guessed was less than a mile away or the gas station directly kitty corner to where I stood. I took a couple jogging steps and realized that if I were to pursue running anywhere that I risked additional injury. Turning back towards the gas station I limped my way over to the building lit in the darkness.
I must have been a sight. Blood started at my knee and dripped down my shin. My eyes were red from crying and I looked as miserable as I felt. I would have been fortunate if the gas station attendant would have just called the cops on me. Running with a cell phone is something I should do but I don’t. Although my cell phone is relatively light weight I never carry it because I usually run with John or he is 15 minutes behind me on a long run. As with everyone else dependent on cell phones, I knew very few numbers not that it would help me anyways. John was in the Grand Canyon, my parents were cruising up to Canada, my youngest brother lived too far not to mention he was out of town and my sister-in-law would have to load up the kids. The middle brother also had kids and it would be an inconvenience for anyone to come help me.
Growing up in your typical dysfunctional family, I learned that I was yelled at less if I didn’t inconvenience them. Asking my mom or dad to take me to a church function or to pick me up after track always resulted in a lot of grumbling. “Why does it have to be on a Sunday?” my dad would bellow. “Who do you think I am? Your personal chauffer” my mom would screech at me. “I should charge you for all the driving I do.” So as an adult I carry my baggage of being a burden to others and strive to be self sufficient. I try and minimize my existence inconveniencing others. Because of this hang-up, I decided to first call a taxi rather than friends or family.
It took two tries to have the gas station attendant understand my request to use the phone. With a concerned look on his face he pulled out my phone and I asked him to call a taxi for me. He was happy to dial the number which of course, I didn’t know the number of a taxi. He waved there is a phone book over there and waved towards the window. I was pissed and limped towards where he waved to find the non-existent phone book. Seeing my distress and inability to find the hidden phone book that he clearly knew where it was, he walked over and brought it back to the counter. In the age of the internet, a phone book is so archaic. I went through the phone book and called many taxi companies. One person I woke up, another never answered, one said they don’t go to the area and yet another said it would be a really long wait. I tried information to get my coaches number which was unlisted. If only I could get to the internet Ian search the running club website I could get the phone number to my coach. Either the gas station attendant truly didn’t have a computer or didn’t want me using it, I couldn’t use the internet as a resource.
Finally I decided to call my brother, even though it would be very inconvenient for him. I called his house, got the answering machine and hung up. What kind of a message could I leave anyway? Hey, it’s your sister and I’m on a street corner and need to be picked up? If he had caller ID and didn’t recognize the number maybe that’s why he wasn’t answering. Looking back I should have left a message. I went back to calling taxis. Finally I found one that said it would be 20 minutes. 20 minutes came and went and I was at a loss. I had been tempted to ask someone for a ride home but that would require riding ignoring the Stranger Danger slogan.
Eventually I did call my brother again and he answered this time. Crying I asked him to come pick me up at the gas station. I didn’t give him anymore information and wish I would have at least given him the information that I was ok and hurt myself running. He’s a pretty smart guy and figured that out but still, I didn’t need to worry the guy needlessly.
Sitting at the gas station waiting at first for the taxi and later waiting for my brother, people probably thought I was crying because of my skinned knee. I was crying because I knew the 18 mile race the following weekend, the marathon and my hopes of qualifying there were gone. They had no idea the anguish displaying on my face wasn’t physical but the sadness of the loss of hard work I had done to get to that point. There were many nice people at the gas station however. Many asked if I needed anything. One lady bought me ice and gave me Neosporin. Others offered me water and some offered unsolicited advice. One bicyclist told me uneducated and unwanted medical opinion that my ankle was broken because of the way it was swollen and protruding. Idiot. What did he know anyways?
My brother finally drove up and walked over to me where I was sitting on the curb by the front door of the gas station. Rising up off the sidewalk, I hobbled his direction and he hugged me. I sobbed and he continued to hold me with a laugh in his voice he soothed me. By that point I couldn’t walk and the ankle was throbbing when I stood on it. The ankle was severely swollen and the bruising was well under way. Originally I was going to have him take me home but I realized I wouldn’t be able to drive and should swallow my pride and take advantage of the help while I could We drove to the urgent care by my house, which didn’t open until 8am. Wanting to be first on the waiting list, he propped me up by the front door at Urgent Care and went to my house to get my wallet and crutches. The funny thing about the crutches is I had been considering bringing them to Goodwill and was thankful I wasn’t that efficient.
My brother showed back up with a smile and a Krispy Kreme donut for me. Since I was no longer in marathon training as of 2 hours prior, I happily enjoyed the decadent, sugary, greasy donut. Ever since I had talked to him on the phone I had felt bad that I hadn’t explained what was going on and was so vague. I apologized to him and he claimed he figured it was running related and that I was ok, otherwise I would have called the police.
Being the first at Urgent Care meant I was tucked away in a room right away and seen quickly by a doctor. She offered me something for the pain, which was declined. Soon I was wheeled over to an x-ray machine where three pictures were taken of my ankle. Again I was wheeled back but this time I was brought to a screen where the doctor read the x-ray announcing there wasn’t a broken bone. My knee wound was cleaned. I was given an air splint to keep the ankle stable, brief instructions about ice and rest and that it would be a couple days before the pain decreased and many days before the swelling went down. Being offered Tylenol a second time I quickly accepted and took the doctor up on the offer for pain medication.
I love to say I had a good attitude about being laid up, but I didn’t. There was part of me that believed that it would only be a couple days of no running. Certainly my body and mind was more resilient than that of other runners. I thought running the 18 miler the following week and the marathon two months away were still options. As the bruising encompassed my entire foot and 12 inches up the right side of leg I knew it was a bad sprain. My foot reminded me of a baby’s foot where it is really chubby through the foot but the toes are tiny. That is what my foot looked like except it was a giant purple grape. I joked on my blog that I my foot had been snatched by aliens and replaced with cankles.
I was not patience coming back and could hardly wait for the 3 weeks to pass to could out on a jog. My first jog around the block was quite uncomfortable. Running the quarter mile around the block, I imagined my ankle creaking with stiffness and tightness. The good news is during the run it never hurt worse and post run the swelling and pain didn’t increase. Two days later I tried 2 laps around the block. Again the tightness caused discomfort and a compensating gait which caused my other leg calf to become sore. On the third day I increased the distance again. Realizing that this was going to be something I was just going to have to run through, I continued running. Months later my ankle remained stiff and there was swelling in the evening but but it didn’t matter because I was running. Not sure how I would do, two months after the sprain I ran a 10K race that I had signed up for pre-sprain. I got a personal record dropping 9 seconds off my prior PR. 3 weeks later I ran another 10K and dropped another 33 seconds.
Recanting this is still a painful experience to remember and my eyes now glisten with tears sitting on the surface ready to fall. I couldn’t understand why me (I know…so Nancy Kerrigan). This was my second training attempt for a marathon in the year which had been halted due to an injury.
Four months after spraining my ankle I did run a marathon and ran stronger and faster that I thought possible. I qualified for the Boston marathon with 6 minutes to spare. My ankle sprain was just a bad memory and there were no physical repercussions from that devastating day. Looking back on it, the forced rest from the sprained ankle gave my body a chance to heal and rest. I was able to train harder and bypass my own expectations during the marathon. And although I didn’t think this the weeks following the sprain, I can see how I caused myself undo stress and everything worked out in the end.