On February 17, 2013, as I limped over the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge and dragged my battered body across the finish line of the 26.2 with Donna, I thought what many of my fellow first time marathoners were probably thinking: “I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.”
Marathon Training is Like Childbirth?
But then a couple of weeks passed. The pain in my left foot was nearly gone, and I could bend my knees and walk up & down the stairs in my house again. I proudly displayed a 26.2 sticker on my car and talked about the marathon at every opportunity. I went for a run with my Galloway training group, and we laughed and compared notes about our race experiences. And then suddenly I found myself rethinking the whole “never again” thing. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to run another marathon. Maybe with a little experience under my belt I could run a better, less painful race…maybe even a faster race! I set my sights on the 26.2 with Donna in 2014.
(I think it’s like childbirth. During labor, you’re in such intense, horrible pain that you swear that you’re “NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.” And then you hold that bundle of snuggly sweetness in your arms and forget all about the pain…and before you know it, you’re thinking how much you’d love to do it all over again. I’m pretty certain that if we retained vivid memories of intense physical pain, no one would have more than one child or run more than one marathon.)
First vs. Second Marathon Training
For the most part, I trained for my first marathon without injury. However, during our two longest training runs (23 and 26 miles), I began to experience intense pain just above my right knee. I had difficulty completing the 26 mile run because of the pain in my knee, which got quite severe around mile 24. This was just three weeks before the marathon and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run it – I was freaking out. I ended up seeing an orthopedist, who ordered x-rays and an MRI, and fortunately I hadn’t broken or torn anything. I was diagnosed with ITBS, or Iliotibial Band Syndrome.* The Iliotibial Band is a thick band of fascia (tissue) that runs from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip, and all the way down to just below the knee. It helps stabilize and move the knee, so when it isn’t working properly, movement of the knee is painful. It’s one of the most common injuries in runners and is known as an “overuse injury.” My ITBS didn’t prevent me from completing my first marathon, but it sure made the last few miles painful.
So back to training for a second marathon. Shortly after the first one, my dad (a lifelong runner) told me that he thought that February 2014 would be too soon for me to run another marathon. He suggested that I spend the next year focusing on shorter distances and becoming a better runner, and that my goal should be to run the 26.2 with Donna in 2015. He felt that perhaps the strain of going from a non-runner to a marathoner in less than a year had been too much for my body – which resulted in an “overuse” injury. And I sure had the pain to prove it. My husband agreed with my dad. And initially I did too. But then a few months later, I sat down at my computer to register for the Galloway training program, and I found myself clicking on the “full marathon” option.
Fast forward a few months. It hasn’t been an easy training season so far. My Magic Mile times have been slower. I’ve had issues with my asthma. I’ve had to miss several runs, including the 16 miler. And last week, during an 18 mile run, my ITBS came back with a vengeance – this time in both knees. They started to twinge around mile 8. By mile 16, even walking was painful.
I had a mini-session with a massage therapist at the finish of the 18 mile run. And a few days later, I went to a local running store seeking suggestions. Both recommended consistent and frequent foam rolling. In fact, the specialist at the running store suggested that I should be using my foam roller four times a day! I’ve tried that – but now I’m afraid that I’ve only made things worse. I guess I overdid it a few days ago – I took a yoga class, ran six miles on the treadmill, and foamed rolled before and after my run. That night and the following night, my ankle and outer right calf began aching – tendonitis, perhaps? (Also an overuse injury, by the way.)
My muscles felt very tight in yoga this morning, so I tried to take it easy. Later in the day, I ran a pain-free 3.5 miles. I’ve been icing and taking ibuprofen. But is all this just a stopgap? Was my dad right? Am I pushing my body too hard? Should I continue training for a marathon in 3 months? Will I even be able to? I guess some of my questions will be answered this Saturday when I (attempt to) run 20 miles. Maybe I’ll see some results from my foam rolling. Maybe I won’t. The one thing I know for sure is that I’m bringing ibuprofen with me this time.
*I’m no expert, so if you want to learn the real deal about ITBS, read what they have to say about it over at Runner’s World.
Have you experienced ITBS? What helped you?
What do you think is the ideal amount of time to wait in between marathons?
Joan Anderson says
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Information you share is very useful. It is closely related to my work and has helped me grow. Thank you!
Rachel Demas (@TaoOfPoop) says
You have such determination! I have such respect for people who run marathons, even more for those who have asthma and do it. Good luck to you!
Thanks! I’m also a little nuts and find it fun. 🙂 I love your blog, BTW.
I wonder if my ankle pain is tendinitis. I also experienced an injury before a big race — my first half marathon. I’m ready to do another one but I’m suffering through a much neede rest phase for the ankle. I hope to do a marathon one day. 🙂 My friend said the same thing you did and is doing exactly the same thing you’re doing. 😉 Good luck!!
Thanks! I’m sidelined again with asthma. So frustrating. 🙁 Good luck to you too!
Dee Dee (@MissFoodieFab) says
I’m not a marathon runner, but one of these days I will do one. But something fun, and that ends with food. 🙂 Keep up the great work.
Thanks! There’s always so much food at the bigger races. Personally, I’m lucky if I can even scarf down a plain, dry bagel at the end of a long race…then I just stare longingly at the food & beer tents. 🙂
Erin @ The Speckled Palate says
Yow. I’m so sorry to hear you’re dealing with ITBS during this training session, Sharon. It’s so aggravating, and it is SO PAINFUL.
I struggle with IT band issues, and I’m currently training for a half in December. I’ve found that if I thoroughly stretch before and after my runs, as well as foam roll AND use a heating pad/ice, that my IT band has been OK. It’s been harassing me for about two years now, sadly, but the good thing is that it’s only sporadic pain these days, so I really think my stretching/foam rolling/heating and icing routine is helping out. I hope you find something that works for you so you can complete your second marathon!
Thanks, Erin! I haven’t really done much icing. And I haven’t been consistent with my foam rolling because, well, it just sucks. But not running sucks worse, so I need to just suck it up. Just about everyone I talk to recommends the combo of foam rolling + icing, so it’s helpful to hear that it’s actually worked for you. I’m trying KT Tape this morning, so I’ll see if that makes any difference.
I commend runners because it takes a lot of strength and athleticism to run in races like that! I’m not a runner but I hope to eventually get healthy enough to start 🙂 Awesome post!
Thank you so much! 🙂 I truly think that running is for everyone – not just super athletic types. Trust me – that’s not me at all. Even walking is a great place to start.
Joy @ Yesterfood says
Your determination is inspiring, Sharon. I have run some, but nothing like you do. You’re so fortunate to have a running buddy and an experienced dad-advisor! You have succeeded, whether you run the full marathon or not. 🙂
Thank you! What is truly inspiring to me is getting out there every Saturday morning and seeing all of these everyday women (and men) run these incredible distances. Marathons are not just for elite runners. 🙂
Michele C. says
It’s hard – when is the pain the type that is ok to push through, when is it your body telling you to take a break. I had to bail from my first scheduled half marathon because of injuries, because I was pushing too hard in training to be ready for it. I’m now in training for one in the spring but I gave myself a VERY long training time for it because I know that if it’s too soon, I will get hurt again.
I think you need to listen to your body. While your heart may be wanting one thing, if your body is telling you something else, it may be time to make some decisions. When I didn’t listen to my body, I pulled a tendon and was off the road for 10 weeks. Better to pull back the training, plan on doing a 10K or a half at the time of the marathon, and avoid an injury that may sideline you completely for a longer time.
Oh and (((HUGS)))
It’s so frustrating because I’m mentally ready and I have the physical endurance…it’s just my legs that won’t cooperate. I’m doing the 20 mile run today. I need to give this one last shot. And if today doesn’t go so well…well, I guess then it’ll be decision time. <3