Monday, September 28, 2009

the pros of pain

When I started this blog, I knew I'd be writing about the highs and lows, but I never realized how each leg of this journey would take me past all of the significant running milestones.

I've written about the great long runs, the not-so-great ones, the thrill of completing my first marathon, and the guilt of sitting on the couch when I could be running a race. I guess it was inevitable, but now it's time to write about the dark side of running...getting injured. And of course, it wouldn't be Unlikeliest Marathoner if I couldn't find a lesson or two nestled within the nebula.

So far, two Saturdays have passed since my longest run yet, 17 miles, and both I've tried to go out and run a modest amount. And both times I've had to stop at 4 miles because my knee has felt like it would collapse beneath me. I've tried to hobble run, run on the balls of my toes, and even a combo walk/run, and each time, my knee would just send shooting darts of pain up my thigh, laughing at me, like, you know this won't work. I've been going to physical therapy and doing my exercises and ice, and though my right leg feels much stronger, and I'm now able to walk pretty well, my body has gone on strike.

It's been frustrating to say the least, and as each day passes, and my leg still continues to give out on me, a dark thought keeps creeping in...what if I can't do my long runs, or worse, what if I'm going to feel this way the day of the race.

I hate to even think about it, and what it would mean. I'd have to tell everyone who's so generously donated to me that I had to back out. And not to mention that dream of crossing the finish line in Central Park that I've been holding onto with each run would disappear. Okay, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic, but for someone who until only recently was not so great at completing things, it feels like I'm back at square one.

But, still, in all of this, there have been a few silver linings. For one, I've encountered a whole new community: physical therapy. It's so weird as a person who's so in her head all the time to meet people so heavily focused on what their bodies can do that they'd be willing to devote three hours a week, and $40 copays, so they could compete. And the weirdest part? I am now one of those people. I've woken up for 7:30 AM sessions with my physical trainer, and actually enjoyed spending the better part of an hour trying to strengthen this funny part of my musculature. It's actually pretty calming, in a different way than running. Like, it's okay to be so body-obsessed and have someone else really care about my leg and my goal other than me.

Another lesson? In order to get through this, I have to be on my body's side. I can't run through the pain, and I can't curse my knee for giving out on me. I got my knee into this, and now I'm going to have to get it out. The more I get frustrated, the more my body seems to hold out on me, like it's taunting think you're going to run long, heh, I can wait just as long as you can. So I have to seduce it back onto my side with plenty of special treatment: massages, ice baths, rest. I guess I owe it as much for getting me through the first marathon pain-free.

And the funniest part? I'm willing to do anything if it works. Today I even went to a sports acupuncturist on W. 20th street and had about 20 needles stuck into various parts of my leg today to try to release the muscle's trigger points. And you know what? It feels a whole lot better (even better than after the PT massages.)

So hopefully, I'll come out of all this soon--my next practice is tomorrow. The pain, just another reminder that taking it slow and steady always pays off.

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