It’s Wednesday before Marathon Sunday. I’m sitting in a chair with my feet up instead of standing at my desk because of shin splints and achilles tendinitis in my right leg. The shin splints are new to me as a runner, but I’ve experienced shin splints several times in my life due to basketball and tennis. I worked through achilles tendinitis in my left leg late last year. It led to a DNS at the 2014 Route 66 Marathon.
It hasn’t even been 2 weeks since the Oklahoma Aquarium Run, arguably the best I’ve ever run in any race. Instead of being the runner blowing up in the last few miles, I was catching runners and accelerating through the final mile. After running just under 1:40 for the Half Marathon, a sub-4 hour Full Marathon was a foregone conclusion. The only question was whether I should aim for 3:45 or 3:30. If the weather was in my favor, 3:30 was the likely answer. Maybe adrenaline and some wind at my back would push me below 3:30. If it was too hot or windy, maybe I would adjust my goals and look to 3:45.
3 weeks ago, I ran a 20 miler with my full hydration pack (extra weight) and a plan to run 9 minute miles to test my endurance without hurting myself. It was the first time a run of that length felt reasonable after 3 weeks battling Influenza B. Other than a minor foot problem due to tying one of my shoes too tight, it went perfectly. I ran an 8:30 mile 20 to finish up in about 2:55. That would have given me 65 minutes to beat 4 hours, and given the way I felt, 65 minutes was more than enough. I couldn’t have run a 45 minute 10K at that point, but I certainly could have gotten in under 65 minutes. A sub-4 hour Full Marathon was a foregone conclusion.
Sub-4 hours is no longer a foregone conclusion. I’m optimistic I might be able to walk without pain by Sunday, but I know from past experience that my achilles will flare up early in the race and continue to hurt throughout even if the pain abates over the next 4 days. And, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I will rest, roll, stretch, and strengthen, but a few days won’t be enough. There will be pain. The question is whether my calf will continue to function properly. If it will, I can endure the pain.
Why not go ahead and attempt 3:30? Sub-4 in and of itself might lead to a death march due to injury. The death march might be shorter if I go ahead and attempt 3:30.
It will take a remarkable injury to force a DNF out of me for this one. Looking back at 2012’s Route 66 DNF, I still regret stopping. I don’t want to stop again.
Years ago when my right ankle was in a cast, I used to hop around the house on one foot because it was quicker than crutches. If my achilles goes really bad, can I hop my way to the finish line?
And so it goes with marathon training and racing in my experience. I have had some great success in this training cycle, but I’ve also had injuries, illnesses, and a couple of unexpectedly tough races.
Now the optimistic and pessimistic sides of my personality will do battle until the gun goes off at 6:30 am Sunday morning. In that moment, there will be peace, but somewhere out on the marathon course the pain will begin again. Maybe it will be near Lake Hefner like my 2011 OKC debacle. Maybe it will be somewhere in the final stretch on Classen. Regardless, the battle will begin again. I hope we win.