Marathon Training

Why I’m Glad I Got a Stress Fracture and Couldn’t Run My First Marathon

This time last year, I was just about to start training for my first-ever marathon: the 2018 Twin Cities Marathon in October. I had big plans for my summer of training — I envisioned myself being super consistent, tackling all my long runs with vigor and energy, and getting as prepared as possible for the big 26.2.

In reality, I fell into a lot of traps that first-time marathoners fall into. Four months sounds like a really long time at the start of a training cycle. So if you miss a long run or two, it doesn’t feel like a huge deal. But once you get into the pattern of missing runs, it gets easier to miss more and more, and then before you know it the marathon has arrived.

That’s pretty much what happened to me. My training was sporadic at best — I frequently missed both long and short runs, rarely making up the missed miles. My diet was all over the place. When I did run, recovery wasn’t something I prioritized. I shouldn’t have been at all surprised when I developed a serious femoral stress fracture seven weeks out from the marathon, but I was surprised. Really, I was devastated.

I drew a smiley face on my boot to try to keep my spirits up during the recovery period.

I had this epic vision of what my first marathon experience would look like — crossing the finish line to cheers from my husband and friends, getting that glorious medal placed around my neck, chowing down on an epic post-race burger and beer. So when the doctor told me I would be in a boot for at least 8 weeks, I took it hard. It took me quite a while to get out the emotional funk that came with my injury.

Eventually, I did come out of it and made plans for my text training cycle. I’m currently seven weeks out from Grandma’s Marathon, the same length of time I was from Twin Cities when I got injured. So maybe that’s why my failed marathon attempt has been on my mind a lot recently. I thought about it for most of my 16-mile run yesterday and came to a conclusion that simultaneously shocked and heartened me: I’m grateful that I developed my stress fracture and couldn’t run the marathon.

It was emotionally and physically painful, but it taught me a really important lesson. I was envisioning and expecting a marathon experience and finish that I hadn’t worked for, that I hadn’t earned. I didn’t put in the work, yet I was expecting a picture-perfect race.

If I had made it to the starting line, I know I would have had a miserable run. I wasn’t prepared, physically or mentally, for the challenge. Ultimately, I’m guessing that the bad experience would have totally soured me on the entire idea of ever running a marathon again. I didn’t know it at the time, but by getting injured, I was actually protecting my future as a long distance runner.

During this training cycle, I’ve only missed one long run — and that was a decision I agonized over and did not make lightly. I’ve been super consistent in getting my runs in and, as a result, I’ve seen a real improvement in my times. Diet has been a major focus for me this time around, too. I’m always thinking about what I’m putting into my body/how it could positively or negatively impact my next run. Recovery has been another priority during this training cycle; I schedule my weekends around my long runs to make sure that I have enough time and space to properly recover from hard efforts.

Do I have marathon training totally figured out? Nope, not at all. But I learned a lot about the work I need to do in order to have the marathon experience I’ve dreamed of. I’d say at this point, I’m cautiously optimistic about Grandma’s. I’ve still got lots of training miles ahead of me before the race, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But I’m proud of the effort and consistency I’ve maintained so far in this cycle. I’m super excited to see what the next seven weeks will bring. And ultimately, I’m grateful for the injury that played a big role in getting me to this point.

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