In the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Chancellor Gorkon answers a quote from Hamlet by stating, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” I can’t say that I have. My knowledge of the Klingon language is far too limited. However, I do quote the fellow often enough, as I did this past spring when I railed against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and pondered whether “to run or not to run.”
The season was supposed to have proceeded thusly:
March – NC Half Marathon brings long run distance to 13.1 miles.
April 5 – Abe Lincoln Half Marathon in Springfield, plus 2-3 miles brings long run distance to 15 or 16 miles.
A few more weeks of training brings total long run distance to 20 miles.
May 18 – Cellcom Green Bay Marathon marks my first completion of a full marathon.
However, like the Klingon prince Khamlet of the famed play, I was to find myself opposing a sea of troubles instead of following my original schedule.
On April 4, I drove down to Springfield with every intention of having a wonderful weekend: a room at the Hilton, post-race steak dinner with a friend, and joyful celebration of kicking off the 2014 running season in splendid fashion. I felt a little queasy early in the day but blamed it on too much coffee. I figured it would resolve itself with time, as my rare digestive issues usually do. As I picked up my packet, the volunteer who handed me my bib said “ooh lucky…777″ as she handed it to me with a smile.
Shortly afterward, back in my hotel room, I began to get chills. Feeling like something flu-ish might be at hand, I figured I’d take a nap. I don’t nap as a rule but felt oddly tired. I woke up 3 hours later when a forceful and insistent rush of diarrhea sent me running to the bathroom. It continued all night long.
Needless to say, I did not run the half-marathon. I spent the next day and a half wrapped in a blanket and watching TV when I wasn’t sweating, sleeping or pooping. What a bummer! At one point, I looked out my hotel window and snapped a photo of city. It was the closest I would get to my wonderful weekend.
But as always, like Hamlet, opposing the sea of troubles in order to end them seemed like the wisest thing to do. It took almost 2 weeks for my system (after 5 days of rather dramatic stomach woes) to mend itself and for me to get back to running at full strength. This type of setback is not a dealbreaker in marathon training and I decided I simply needed another half-marathon to help me pick up where I left off. The excitement and challenge of race is always a source of inspiration for me, and that was what I set out to find.
The Eggshell Shuffle on April 19 in the nearby Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village looked like just the thing. It is run every year in Busse Woods which is a beautiful 3700 acre forest preserve with large fishing ponds, boating and even its own herd of elk. Unlike Springfield, which is some 200 miles south of our local area and usually about 10 degrees warmer, the weather around here in mid-April is as likely to be snowy as sunny and the day turned out to be quite a chilly one. Nonetheless, I showed up and did my best. The first few miles were slow going because I was a bit underdressed but as the morning progressed and the sun rose in the sky, it turned out to be a beautiful day. The warmer it got, the more energy I seemed to find. By Mile 10 when others were slowing down, I just kept going faster and faster. I finished with a better time than I have managed in 2 years. It felt great and I was happy.
In fact I was SO happy that instead of merely picking up where I left off in my training schedule and doing 2 miles after the race, bringing the long run total to 15 miles, I decided to add 4 miles on to the outing and log 17 miles instead. “Why not?” I mused, “I feel wonderful today.” I would just skip ahead in the training to where I was supposed to be on April 19 instead of where I really was. No different than cramming for a test, right?
The next morning I woke up and felt pretty decent except for a mild pain in the arch of my right foot. I didn’t think much of it. I rested a day and did a short run/walk the day after that and the pain was still there. I tried different shoes and did some aerobics the following day and then lifted weights the day after that. Still a little pain but less. I figured, “it’s getting better.” The next day, a Thursday, I went out for some speedwork. By 1/2 mile into the session, SHARP pain with each footfall began to course through my right foot. “What the hell?! This better not be a stress fracture,” I remember thinking as I limped home. The pain increased over that day and into the next. I found a pair of dress shoes with a 2 inch heel that took my weight off the arch when I walked and wore them. That weekend I got an x-ray. Normal.
Determined to find out what the hell I’d done to myself, I got an MRI 4 days later. The report said “peroneus longus tendonitis at the level of the cuboid bone.” Another “what the hell” moment crossed my mind. I can go months, no…years, without even thinking of my peroneus longus tendon. And if I hadn’t already learned about it in med school, I would probably think Peroneus Longus was an ancient Roman porn star. This is how obscure an injury this was to me. I’ve had Achilles tendonitis, hip bursitis, iliotibial band syndrome, quad strain and arthritis flares in just about every joint impacted by running. I’ve never gotten any guff from my peroneus longus tendon before.
So off to the podiatrist I went although by the time I got in, the pain was gone. He took a detailed history, looked at my films and considered the problem. “I’m ready to do anything,” I told him, “Taping, PT, orthotics, rest, whatever it takes.” I was desperate. “I mean, I don’t even know how to stretch my peroneus longus much less protect it from strain.” His advice was simple. Stretch, ice, be prepared for strains and sprains during marathon training, and get rid of the over-pronator shoes. “They think everyone overpronates,” he said. “Wear a neutral shoe and see how it goes. Use a medial heel lift if the pain comes back. Go run. Come back if you have any problems.”
What a joy that was to hear! It led me to think about why I was wearing overpronator shoes in the first place. Back when I first started running about 6 years ago a guy in a running store watched me walk. After 2 minutes of observation, he told me “you overpronate” and handed me a pair of Asics Gel Kayano which I dutifully wore until they almost fell off. The more I learned about running, the sooner I replaced them. I learned about rotating shoes, wearing the right socks, stretching, foam rolling, icing — but I never considered that they might be the wrong shoe for my foot and gait in the first place. I know now.
So the foot healed and I moved on. But once again, a planned marathon was missed. And once again, I emerged the wiser. I see how I screwed myself by overtraining. I see how the shoe played its part. I found another marathon, this one in December, and once again I will try one more time.
For me “to run or not to run” is never the question. “To run = to exist, no more” is from my version of the Shakespeare quote. Or maybe I should give credit where credit is due, to the legendary Klingon playwright, Wil’yam Shex’pir, who wrote:
“taH pagh taHbe’. DaH mu’tlheghvam vIqelnIS.
quv’a’, yabDaq San vaQ cha, pu’ je SIQDI’?
pagh, Seng bIQ’a’Hey SuvmeH nuHmey SuqDI’,
‘ej, Suvmo’, rInmoHDI’? Hegh. Qong — Qong neH —
‘ej QongDI’, tIq ‘oy’, wa’SanID Daw”e’ je
cho’nISbogh porghDaj rInmoHlaH net Har.”
Up next: the BEST race of the year.