The five year comeback….

Kacey told me that I should document (for the sake of history!) my journey and comeback to marathon running….it was a long and torturous path…so bear with me for it may be a long and tortorous post!

This story begins with the Marathon that we do not name! This has become kind of a joke, but I really don’t like to speak badly of a race that many people love – especially since I think my poor relationship with it may have more to do with me than it. Maybe one day we will makeup and come to an understanding about our relationship, but for now lets stick with “it’s not you, it’s me…” So, if it is really important to you to know which race this is/was all the information is in the public domain and (for the sake of not attracting the google search of a prospective race entrant!) I will leave  it to you to stalk my profile to find out!

At the end of 2006, I decided to start running more regularly and train through the Michigan winter (can you tell already that many parts of this story will scream INEXPERIENCE!) for the Martian Half Marathon in April. I found a plan (via a Runners World article) that promised an “efficient” training planning with 3 key runs a week plus cross training and I worked the plan. I took afternoons off work to complete my long run on part of the course (along Hines Drive often with snow floating in the air), I ran speed sessions on the track until the track was covered in snow and then I ran laps of the cleared parking lot by the track and I ran tempo runs around the neighborhood that I lived in at the time. During this time I met Kacey when we both ended up on a team to climb the stairs at the Ren Cen and we sat at my kitchen table one day after one of those neighborhood runs as  she realized that she might be pregnant!

So April arrived and it was time for my first half marathon. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life as I toed the line, and I ran a good race. I paced to mile 10 then let it have everything I had left for the remaining few miles. I think this is why the half marathon is still one of my favorite distances. I ran 1:45:57 (thanks Athlinks what would my failing memory do without you!) a pace of 8:05/mile. I was pretty impressed with myself!

Here is where the inexperience starts. I felt so good that I was immediately focused on “what next”. If I could do this then what else could I do? I set my sights on the full marathon, but not in the Fall (as would have been sensible)….my logic was that I already had this great base fitness so I could just spring board to a full marathon in 2 months. It looks crazy in writing, but I can assure you that it made PERFECT sense at the time! 😉

So I pulled up the full marathon training plan, from the same site as the half marathon, smerged (smashed + merged) them together and off I went. At the end of May I found myself at the start of the full marathon. Here is where the trouble really started…as Mo Farah recently said in that crazy interview where a local TV news anchor appeared oblivious to his gold medals in the 5,000m and 1,000m or his previous half marathon records, “a Marathon is a long way”…..and I had a lot to learn.

As I had trained, I had become a faster runner. So I knew I was capable of fast running, but this pace hadn’t been on my long runs. So I convinced myself that I had a shot at a 3:40 finish – my 1/2 marathon time doubled plus 10 minutes and coincidently at the time it was by “Boston Qualification” time (coincidence, I think not….) – and went for it. You can probably already tell how this is going to end…but I felt great for the first miles, I was running faster than planned and felt great. At the turn of the out and back course I was dead on track for that 3:40 finish….and then I ran out of juice. By mile 16 I could have cried, and by mile 20 I felt like I had slowed to a crawl. My finishing time was 4:12:12 (not so much thanks for this one Athlinks.) I had picked up 32 minutes in the second half of the race, not quite the negative split that everyone hopes for! So this is where expectations come in. The reality is 4:12 is not a horrible marathon time, especially for a first full marathon – heck any time is not a horrible time, many people see running that distance as totally unachievable. But it wasn’t what I had hoped for. So I can say that it was a warm day, that there was no shade, that I didn’t like the out and back course or monotonous views – do you see know why I don’t mention it by name??? the race director may lynch me! – but the reality is I was inexperienced and it wasn’t my day.

So I picked myself up and dusted myself off and kept running. I figured if I could “run for fun” for a while and keep my mileage around that half marathon distance I could hop back in when I felt ready.

Then, one day in the fall of 2007 my butt started to hurt at mile 6 of a run….it got progressively worse and by mile 10 required constant stretching every few minutes. I cut the run short. I rested for a few weeks and then tried running again, the same thing. I cried. Although I didn’t have a race on the schedule, this was not what I had in mind. I couldn’t run so I began yoga classes to try to stretch it out. I saw Drs, had MRI’s, sought treatment from alternative massage therapists who told me the problem was with my digestive system….no-one seemed to be able to figure it out, or they didn’t care.  After all, within the medical community “I can’t run” isn’t usually much of a call to war. The pain progressed to a point where I couldn’t stand for more than 15 minutes at a time without pain radiating down my leg. I saw another doctor and presented to him some research I had found about cluneal nerve entrapment and surgical treatments. He sent me for diagnostic cortisone shots to try to identify whether this was the cause of my pain. They had mixed results, sometimes they seemed to help. We decided to try the surgery, to remove the tunnel. It was something he had never done before, but he was game. Post surgery he told me that he couldn’t see any evidence of the tunnel, but had removed the nerve (which he assured me was only sensory).  After I recovered from the surgery the leg felt better. I no longer had the radiating pain down my leg, but my glute was still tight as a rock. No amount of massage seemed to help.

Then one day the Ford Runners Club had a guest speaker, a massage therapist who made sense to me. He had a background in track and associations with many U of M sports programs, a Masters in Kinesiology and he was particularly interested in how our daily repetitive behaviors (sleeping positions, posture etc.) lead to imbalances in our bodies. So I made an appointment. Several months later after relentless work my glute began to relax. I joke that it just wanted a little attention! In the spring of 2012 I started to run again, and began to train with a friend for the Ann Arbor Half Marathon. It was supposed to be “just for fun”, but as the race approached I wondered if I could come close to that Half Marathon time from 5 years earlier. We finished on the U of M marching band’s practice field in a time of 1:46:43…pretty close! I had made my comeback! From here I went on to sign up for Race the Train and the Chicago Marathon, which is a story I will save for another day since I have gone on long enough here!


So I hate to hear people say that they “can not” run because of an injury – where there is a will there is a way, it may take time and persistence and changing of expectations. It may not be the journey that you had planned, but there are many things to be learned and seen along the way.


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