More than Miles

I want to run a marathon. It’s on my bucket list. And I want to run one in the rock ‘n’ roll series. Because, really, what could be more motivation than live music at every mile marker and a party at the end? Oh, maybe microbrews and salmon and Mt. Rainier cherries? Sign me up! And sign up I did.

Two months ago I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Seattle on June 26th. Nick has never been to Seattle, and so he agreed to come along as my cheerleader. (He decided last year’s half marathon was accomplishment enough for him.) I have only spent a few days in the lovely coastal city (during a conference in 2007: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) and am excited to return.

So I joined a gym in our new town and endured the treadmill during a very cold February. I faithfully followed the first few weeks of Hal Higdon’s 18-week training guide — because his half marathon plan worked really well for me last year. And on the first sunny spring day in central Pennsylvania — two weeks ago from yesterday — I anxiously slipped into my Aasics after work and set off on a trail that connects my office to campus.

I ran past Penn State’s agricultural science labs and fields, around Beaver Stadium, along East Halls, and past the Creamery. About four miles in, I turned around to make the trek back. I felt great. The warm breeze provided just the right amount of relief from the sun, and my legs felt strong. I completed just over seven miles just before 7pm. By that point I was fatigued and hungry and still had to drive almost an hour to get home. So instead of properly stretching, I climbed into my car and headed south on Interstate 99.

Perhaps it was the shock of my first run on pavement. Or maybe it was because I forced my stiff legs into the driver’s seat before a proper cool down. Whatever the reason, I was in pain the following day. I took Advil and iced and declared it a rest day. But the pain lingered the next day and the day after that. Each time I tried to run I felt an acute ache along the outside of my knee. I struggled to walk down stairs, and it felt uncomfortable to cross my legs.

I turned to Google with my list of symptoms, and all search results pointed to the IT band. I vaguely remembered reading about the IT band issues of a fellow blogger, Kelly, and so I tweeted her with my questions. She (along with other well-respected running friends) suggested I invest in a foam roller.

And so I rolled and I stretched and I posed. I jumped on the elliptical and the bike, but I yearned to return to the road. Twice I did. With very unsuccessful results.

After hosting a dinner party last night — which required several hours on my feet to prepare food and more hours on the floor to play with my nephews — I’m in more pain today than I’ve felt over the past two weeks. That realization, along with a lecture from my mother, finally caused me to call the doctor. I scheduled an appointment for Tuesday, and I suspect he’ll tell me I need to take a break from running. But how long? One week? Three weeks? Six weeks? At this point in my training, I should be logging a comfortable 25 miles/week with at least a 9-mile run on the weekend. I can’t afford to take time off. That’s the right side of my brain talking. The logical left side is saying, “Don’t be a fool, Emily. Don’t over exert yourself and cause long term damage.”

Friends and fellow runners: I’m looking for some support. Have you faced a similar situation? What do you recommend?

8 thoughts on “More than Miles

  1. Oh no, I’m so sorry! My advice is to take all the time off your doctor recommends. If it is your IT band, you’ll re-injure yourself every time you run. I had a similar thing happen to me about two years ago, and it was awful. But it did heal.

  2. Ohh Emily! What a bummer! Obviously I’m just starting out (and have already had my fair share of bodily ridiculousness), so I don’t have much helpful advice, but just know I’m rooting for you! Sending you good thoughts, hope the doc helps you find the fastest way to recovery. My saving grace has been a physical therapist whom I adore who also happens to be a running/marathon training expert… maybe getting a referral to someone with that skill set could help you structure your workout routine to maximize healing at the same time? Hugs!!

  3. Hi, I just happened to stumble across this post, but I’ve been dealing with similar problems. I was training for a half marathon in November, and after a really great month of training in October, had so much pain in my IT band that I had to pull out of the race at the end of Nov. In the beginning, my knee hurt only after I ran a few miles, but it soon became really really painful and began to affect my everyday mobility (hard to walk around, climb stairs, etc).

    I haven’t found my own solution yet, but I wish you the best. It’s probably not what you want to hear (it was not what I wanted to hear), but don’t push through the pain. It’s not going to help. I never saw my own doc (uninsured…) and instead relied on advice from a doctor friend, but definitely wait to hear what your doc has to say. good luck.

  4. Hi Em, I am sorry to read that your knee is still not doing any better. I know the feeling of yearning to run and can relate so well! You want to go out, but just can’t and it is very hard. My doctor as well as my physical therapist are sports people too and I also found that this helped me a lot to calm down and think positive about coming back into running. I am wishing you all the best and keep me posted about what the doctor says. Be patient. I know it is hard! A big hug from runner to runner!!!

  5. That is awful! While I have never been a marathon runner- I have gone on running “spurts” where I run up to 20 miles a week and get really bad pain in my knees and shins. I just have to take time off, but I am not training for a marathon nor consider myself a real runner, so best of luck to you! I’m sending positive thoughts your way that the doctor gives you good news! Keep us updated.

    PS Seattle is my favorite city. So jealous you are running there.

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