Yesterday morning, I put in a couple of miles of recovery run. Nothing fancy, just a straight, flat, slow jog down the bike path of Central Park West to my sports therapist's office. But boy did it hurt. Though my legs felt fine Sunday afternoon, they let me know for sure yesterday morning that I'd overdone it. I thought a short jog would help... The pain was all ankles and lower shins stuff, not the knees, so I'm thankful for that. But geez... Two more short runs planned for this week, then the Staten Island Half. Yes, I'm going to go out and do it, of course, rain or shine. Can't let this unseasonably warm weather go to waste, you know.
I feel I should explain my decision to postpone the New York City marathon. I don't OWE anyone an explanation and I want to make that clear, but while I'm touched that you guys believe in me enough to encourage me to go anyhow, I want to try to shed some light on my thought processes.
The big goal here, as it's been since finishing Cincinnati, is to RUN my next marathon. I want to toe the starting line of my next one having completed a good training program, a couple 20-milers under my belt with at least one being solid, continuous, worthy training, and with my the belief - the knowledge - that my legs can carry me through a continuous 26.2 miles of running. THAT is the goal. The fact of New York being here and now is incidental to the grand plan. Six months ago, it worked into the timing. Now, it looks like Phoenix or Disney might be the race that times out better.
Shunning the start line is not a cop-out. When I consider how badly my training has gone - the missed runs, the shortened runs, the runs that were half walking - it becomes clear that I was actually better trained for Cincinnati than I am now. (Go back and read the last several months' worth of entries, you'll see what I mean.) Sure, I have experience on my side, now - but experience isn't quite enough. I need MUCH more solid training. I need a better base - and I know all of you can agree with that one - and I should probably add in core exercises, too.
I am also considering injury. It is a common theme with me, unfortunately, but I have to consider something other runners don't: I can't afford a sidelining injury, which is what I'd be risking if I did a marathon now. Cincinnati sidelined me for weeks; it was months before I ran without pain again and for any real distance. My lungs need me to stay on my feet and keep pounding out runs; to do that, my legs needs to be able to take me to the streets. I can't afford to come back from the marathon so injured I can't run for a month - my lungs would go downhill fast.
But let's take lungs out of the picture for a moment. My training has been a litany of leg problems since the start, some of which are only starting to get worked out now. My orthotics are finally adjusted right and the sports therapy is beginning to work - but I have to give it a chance and give my legs a chance to heal and get stronger. My most honest evaluation of the picture is this: if I run the NY Marathon, I am definitely risking serious injury right now, moreso than the majority of runners.
(Lungs are part of the training picture of course, but not as much as you'd think. If all that were wrong right now were that I'm struggling on hills and walking most of them, I'd do the marathon. Given a certain minimum level of lung function, I'll go. I can't fully control that element and I accept that. I'd like them to be in tip-top shape, but I won't hold my breath, if you'll forgive the joke.)
Take that risk assessment and pair it with my motivation to run the marathon, that it isn't about doing my first marathon, it isn't about doing a marathon, it's about doing it right at the right time. It adds up to this: I'm not ready for THIS marathon. I will soon be ready for A marathon. When I initiallly came to this realization, I didn't feel bummed about it and I hope my readers aren't either; this was a moment of wake-up, a moment of the smart. Ironically, the knowledge that I'm not running the race is making training easier right now; my goals can be more modest and in-line with what my legs need and I can take a step back and get my base built better. I feel it takes the bigger man to say, "I am truly not prepared for this race; I'll do it next year," than it does to say, "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead."
In short, my decision is a tactical one. It is better to retreat and regroup right now than risk everything in a suicide charge.
Will there be regrets when I'm out November 5th as a volunteer worker in Central Park? Maybe; but those will evaporate when I witness the six-hour-plus finishers limping across the finish line. I was there once, and I don't want to be there again. That's not running, that's surviving, and my running has to be about so much more than that. I must start my next marathon knowing I have the best chance at triumph, not wondering how much of it I'll have to walk or even if I'll DNF.
That was a fairly long explanation. Sorry about that. But I hope now that my supporters will realize where I'm coming from and that I'll have your support in the upcoming months of training as I prepare to RUN a marathon.