Again, the first couple days after hurt, but as the week went on, it felt better and better. By the time I woke up today, I couldn't feel any pain.
Mission day features all of the runners/walkers from all of the local TNT chapters. Some people read stories of cancer patients, facts and figures about LLS's contributions to cancer research, and how far medical technology has come, reinforcing the importance of what we're doing. Then, one by one, we went around in the circle and shared who we are running for if anyone has a connection. I got to take a moment to honor my grandpa Audley, and the dozens of names that people spoke. It was asked that we run the first mile in silence to honor those names we read.
As a team, we started jogging down the path. Before we even hit a quarter mile, I felt my knee tighten up. Uh oh. Spoiler alert: that was the best it felt all day.
By mile 3, it was hurting. Not a lot, but enough for me to be worried. When we came to the water stop at mile 6 and I refilled my water bottle, the stopping cause it to instantly start throbbing. Whenever I stop and start when I run, usually that's when pain exposes itself. I have to keep moving. At around mile 8, it loosened up a little bit and felt a little better. By mile 9, it was back to hurting, and mile by mile it started feeling worse. I hit the turnaround at mile 10, and was just excited to be there. Mile 11 was more of the same, and by mile 12 I noticed I was running with a little limp. I tried to change up my form a little bit, because when I changed my stride it helped stretch the knee a little bit. I hit the half marathon mark, and had a panicked thought about how I have to run two of those in three weeks. By 14, all I could think of was how I couldn't wait to be done. I started to question whether I could make it the rest of the way. Determined to make it the final 6, I kept trudging on. At 15, I was done. I slowed to a walk to give my knee a break, and my whole leg tensed up. It was so tight that I could barely walk. I tried to start running again, knowing that when I'm moving, my legs stay looser. I made it 4 steps. I couldn't do it. I tried to start again. I couldn't. I tried a third time. That's when the tears started. Pain. Disappointment. Fear. Worry. Every bad thought crept into my head. I reached a bench and stretched out my leg as much as I could, but I was still a ways from anything and anyone. I had to walk another mile and a half until I reached the next water stop, and I just keeled over, leg shaking, not wanting to move any more. Luckily, someone was there with a car, so I caught a ride back to the finish area. 15 mile run. 16.5 total. Run over.
I made it back, got out of the car, and saw one of my coaches. The tears came again. After several words of encouragement, and a discussion about the pain, we figured out the culprit. Runners will read the following and cringe: IT Band. Fortunately, it's a common injury that runners often face. Unfortunately, I've pushed it farther than imaginable over the past week. We went over a number of stretches and ways to help the knee heal, and discussed strategy for the rest of my training the next three weeks, happy it's time to taper.
My team started coming back from their runs, and I was happy to be there to congratulate them and welcome them back. I am so proud of their effort and how far they've come over the past few months. And I was thrilled to share the day with them.
Although the run went about as horribly as I can imagine, and I didn't hit the 20 miles I was supposed to run, there are a few positives. I am excited that despite the pain and circumstances, I still made it 15 miles running. Every runner has days when their body just doesn't cooperate. Today was mine - it just so happened that it was three weeks away from the big day and arguably my most important run. Also, the fact that I have 3 weeks to try to remedy this makes me feel better about it. I just have to be smart. It may mean that the marathon doesn't go as well as hoped, but I should be able to get to a point where I can reasonably get through it. And that's ok with me. Because that's the day that matters - I kept thinking if I should keep running even after I stopped, but I knew it wouldn't be worth it. Only bad things would happen at that point. I chose to live to fight another day. I have been told several times that it's better to have a bad training run than a bad race day, and I wholeheartedly agree. Today wasn't the day that I've been training for. Today's not the day that I will remember for the rest of my life. Today isn't the culmination of this journey. That day is getting closer and closer, and now I have no idea how it is going to go, but I can't wait for it. I'm just going to have faith that my body will recover, I will take the steps necessary to make that happen, and race day will be incredible.