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In April, I registered for the New York City Marathon.
At the time, I wasn’t running on account of nasty shin and hip pain.
By early May, the time I took off from running helped: My shin and hip pain had let up, and I could ease back into running again.
Two weeks later, at my best friend’s wedding, I found myself again taking time off from running — this time because I was having a Crohn’s flare-up.
I went on a high dose of steroids, but they never fully helped. I eventually started running again, but each run was plagued with bathroom stops and stomach pain.
June had its highs and lows. Some days I felt fine, other days I was fatigued and Crohnsy. But overall, I got to do some running in June.
Still, the New York City Marathon seemed a lifetime away. I was hopeful, though. The injuries were behind me, the flare-up seemed to be on its way out, and the road to recovery seemed just a few stop signs away.
Then July came.
I planned to start training for the marathon in July. I’d build up some base mileage at first, working my way up to 40-mile weeks, and eventually I’d add in speedwork and hill training.
I was sick for almost all of July…and then all of August. This flare-up was probably the worst one I’ve faced, and it completely knocked me out. I was out of work constantly, I was in nonstop pain, and when I did go running, my attempts were weak and stop-filled. I got a new doctor who put me on a higher dose of steroids, but they didn’t help.
I was miserable.
Finally, over Labor Day weekend, I was admitted to the hospital.
At this point, I had done a lot of thinking about the marathon. My initial goal was to run 26.2 miles in fewer than 4 hours. Lofty! Ambitious! The way I like to be!
But while I was in the hospital, and in those recovery days immediately following, I knew I had to alter my plans. A sub-4:00 race would be lovely, though unlikely. For two months prior, I’d done my best in regards to training. I tried to get the miles in, but it’s hard to count a set of “quality” mile repeats when the miles are interrupted. I remember going for one “so awesome” 15-mile run in mid-August. I was so excited to cover the distance — my longest in a while — and to “only” have made five bathroom stops…in the first four miles.
That was a huge accomplishment, and I remember coming home and using my special mango soap that day.
Still, for two months my “training” was essentially ineffective, or at least it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.
By the time I left the hospital and started quickly feeling better, I was excited to get back in my Brooks and onto the Central Park roads. I was eager to get back into a training plan and to do what I could — all the while monitoring my health and how every single part of my body felt. I didn’t want to move too quickly, because I didn’t want to find myself injured again. I also didn’t want to shock my system by going from hospital bed to 20-miler too soon.
As I got back out running, I was discouraged at first. I felt slow and easily fatigued, but I knew not to beat myself up too hard. I kept reminding myself: “You just got out of the hospital. You are taking it easy and that’s OK. Don’t be crazy. Act cool.”
Each time I went running and didn’t have to make a bathroom stop was — and still is — cause for celebration. I found the joy in running again. I appreciated every run, and I loved being back in Central Park in the morning. Life seemed to be returning to whatever “normal” used to be.
All the while, though, the marathon seemed really far away. When I got out of the hospital, I knew I still had two months until Race Day. It’s not the ideal amount of time to train for a long race, but I told myself I’d do what I could, whatever that meant each day. I’d be smart and, as much as I hate the dang phrase, I’d try to “listen to my body.” Or at least kind of tune into it from time to time.
I ran a pretty decent amount in September, all things considered. I started off running slowly every few days, and then working my way back up to 4 to 5 days of running per week. Some runs were tough. I traveled a lot and was super busy at work, and I was definitely getting tired far easier than I used to — but I considered it a win overall. I felt like I was back.
It’s not September anymore, though.
The marathon isn’t a cushy two months away anymore.
I know math is hard, but let’s try to work through this together:
Today is October 3.
The New York City Marathon is November 4.
October 3 + November 4 – 2 months of training / Crohn’s disease = Holy shit, the race is in a month.
A month and a day.
So that happened. I spent weeks thinking “I’ve got time,” and now it appears as though I really don’t.
I have two long runs left before I’ll start to taper. I’m doing an 18-miler tomorrow before work. My alarm is set for a terrifyingly early hour, and then I’m running 18 miles in the dark with the raccoons before attempting to make it to work by 8:30 AM, locking down a full day at the office and then flying to Las Vegas at night for my friend Lauren’s bachelorette party.
After that it’s three festive days in Las Vegas, followed immediately by three working days in L.A. I’m on a late-night flight back to NYC next Wednesday, and then I’ll try to rest, recover and be ready to run 20 miles next Saturday. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll taper.
Ideal training this time around, huh?
But that’s OK. Sometimes you plan for things — like a marathon — and life just gets in the way. Work gets busier than you ever thought possible, you have personal demands outside the office and then your body decides to attack itself from the inside. That’s just life I guess.
This “training cycle” has taught me many things. Perhaps most importantly, it’s taught me that one marathon, one race, does not define who I am. Running one marathon doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, and if I don’t run a 3:59:59 in NYC next month, my world isn’t over. Right now, my health, my family and my friends are so much more important to me than a PR.
I ran a great half marathon this past weekend. I ran strong, I didn’t give up and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.
Overall, am I feeling confident about running NYC?
No. Not at all, actually.
My “marathon goal pace” has been an 8:45 pace, and right now I don’t realistically think I can hang on to that, especially on a hilly course, for 26.2 miles. We’ll see what happens in the next month, but I’m not going to waste time beating myself up over failed mile repeats (yesterday morning, ouch) or way-slower-than-they-probably-should-be mid-week runs.
It’s just running.
And it’s supposed to be fun.
So for the next month, and especially on November 4, my goal is to have fun with it.
See you soon, Staten Island!
TALK ABOUT TRAINING: It seems like every runner I know is in marathon or half-marathon mode right now. Are you training for a race? If so, how’s it going?
AND TELL ME ABOUT RUNNING IN LAS VEGAS AND L.A.: I plan to run while I’m in both cities, and I know places to run while I’m in L.A. (Santa Monica! Beach path! Who’s in?) I don’t, however, know where the heck to run in Vegas. Last time I ran out there, I remember getting frustrated on The Strip because of all the stop lights and stairs you climb to cross the street. Tell me what to do. Tell me about a secret, safe path. Thanks.