Last month when we ran Ragnar DC Pablo saw a guy running injured and asked me “Why do people run races injured?” At that time I wasn’t sure. He couldn’t find a runner to replace him? He paid so he may as well do it? He got injured during the first leg of Ragnar and didn’t want to give up? He is hardheaded? At the time I didn’t really understand why he would run and risk injuring himself even more. Now, I know why people run races injured, at least, I know why I ran injured.
First things first, I don’t recommend it or at least I recommend you do a thorough analysis of the benefits and risks. Talk to your doctor or PT about it. Be smart about it. If you risk making your injury a lot worse, potentially causing long-term damage, don’t do it. If however your injury will just bring you temporary pain and you have a good reason to push through it, who am I to judge? It’s exactly what I did yesterday at the 39th Marine Corps Marathon.
In terms of finishing times I had the worst race of my life, but I knew that might happen given the hamstring injury. I had nursed it back to health since injuring it few weeks ago, but I had done almost no running since the injury, so I knew 26.2 miles would hurt. As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I threw all times goals out the window and was going to take it easy, walking whenever I needed to.
The goal yesterday at Marine Corps however was not to run (umm, walk) for myself, but for all of those suffering from leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers and for those who serve the US, which became my country this year. Cancer patients don’t get to quit when they feel sick and marines and other service members don’t get to quit when they get injured. And then there’s Amanda Sullivan (pictured below), who crutched her way through 26.2 miles in honor of her boyfriend, a marine who lost both his legs and an arm in Afghanistan.
I caught sight of her right before the start of the marathon and ran over to tell her she is an inspiration. With Amanda, marines, wounded veterans and leukemia, lymphoma and other cancer patients in mind, I started the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon.
I met up with some of my Team in Training teammates and we headed to the start. Seeing DC at sunrise is the first perk of running Marine Corps. It’s breathtaking!
The start was amazing. There are thousands of people, including tons of marines wishing you a great race and a group of marines parachuting in!
I started off feeling okay. My plan was to stick to my 9:1 run/walk as long as I could. From the start my hamstring started bothering me and I knew it probably wouldn’t hold up for 26.2 miles. I started stressing out about it and then I remembered to just forget about time and enjoy everything going on around me!
The first few miles had a few hills and while I was initially running them strong, I decided to slow down and walk them and save my leg. I saw many Team in Training shirts, as well as many other charity shirts and a whole lot of shirts with photos of fallen marines people were running in memory of. It inspired me.
I found Pablo around mile 6 (which I believe was mile 9 for him), had various TNT coaches run with me, read all kinds of fun signs Pacers Old Town put out on the course at Hains Point, where crowd support dies down, and saw a fellow DC Tri Clubber, Amanda right after mile 13 at the tip of Hains Point. Pain was starting to take over and as she showed me the sign she created for us, I burst into tears.
Around mile 16 my leg really started hurting. I stopped and added some more KT tape, hoping the extra support would help me through. It did for a while, but that stop was more amazing because it allowed the Operation Just Cause runners to catch up with me. In a team of 10, 7 carrying flags and 3 dressed in their full uniforms, they approached me surrounded by cheers.
Run/walking next to them for the next couple of miles was just what I needed. Thoughts of quitting briefly crossed my mind and I reminded myself that marines and other service members don’t get to quit when they get injured, so, I kept moving.
Somewhere around mile 18, I met Janeen, my 2013 Rock ‘n Roll Team in Training mentor and her smiling face and encouraging words reminded me that I was here not for myself but for Team in Training, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and all the patients and families we help every year.
Knowing a walk wouldn’t make my injury worse I settled into a determined walk pace to get to the finish line in honor of all of those amazing people. My first goal was the bridge and my TNT Coach Christina met me on the bridge and walked with me. She left me to run with some other TNTers and before I knew it a fellow DC Tri Clubber was walking with me for another part of the bridge.
I made it to mile 21…anyone can do anything for 5 miles, I told myself. I continued into Crystal City where the crowds kept me motivated. I saw a runner juggling a basketball and 2 juggling balls, I had the honor of running next to George -a guy running his 100th marathon-, and marines along the way offered high fives and words of encouragement.
At the last medical tent I stopped to get some more tape. “I just want enough support to make it to the finish,” I told the medic who assisted me. She taped me up and off I went. One piece of tape came off and I stopped to adjust it and I heard “are you okay ma’am?” A fellow runner and marine had stopped to check on me. I don’t know who you were, but thank you!
Having texted with Pablo since mile 18, questioning whether my leg would hold and telling him how much walking 8 miles, when you want to be running it, sucks, he told me he’d come out to meet me. Right before mile 25 I found him, medal around his neck, big leaf balloon attached to his waist, smile on his face.
His walking pace was a bit slow (just kidding babe, I love you so much for coming out after running a marathon in 3:25!) We walked a pretty desolate and windy part of the course next to the Pentagon to mile 26. Everyone around me was walking at this point or doing some version of a run/walk and many others were limping just like I was. I saw more Team in Training supporters who loudly cheered me on. A few people joked with Pablo about why in the world he was out here trying to finish the race again.
We snapped a quick picture at mile 26. Both of us on the course at the same mile marker at the same time, this was a moment to document! Then it was time to tackle the last hill up to the finish.
I did a hobble jog into the finish shoot high fiving as many marines as I could. Once across the finish marines were waiting to shake my hand, fist bump and high five me. Again, I took as many of those as I could, thanking each of them for all they do for us. I might not be a supporter of war, but I am very much a supporter of those people who willingly go out and risk their lives for us.
At the medals, I hit the jackpot with a handsome marine who offered me a hug and gave me a giant bear hug. I saw the Iwo Jima memorial and hobbled over for a quick picture, before shuffling my way to the food and out to meet Pablo.
I’m hurting, but it was absolutely worth it! I highly recommend signing up for Marine Corps and if you can, do it for a cause. You won’t regret it!
Just try to get there uninjured, so you can enjoy it even more than I did!
Did you run the Marine Corps Marathon? How did it go?