I've been training for a marathon since the beginning of January and I haven't been on a long run since February because of an injury. This all started when I began to notice that my right hamstring seemed strained. I feared my body was digressing back to where it was in April of 2010, about three weeks before my first marathon. Then, I pulled my hamstring on my longest training run, twenty-two miles through the quite neighborhoods of Fargo, North Dakota. I remember exactly when it happened. My running partner, Ingrid, and I were about nineteen miles into that twenty-two mile run when I felt a small snap of pain right were my gluteus met my hamstring. I didn't think much of it. New body parts constantly hurt on long runs and I had learned to run through nearly any kind of pain. Plus, we were only a 5k away from finishing twenty-two miles. I could run a 5k in any condition (something I still believe, though I'm starting to see that I shouldn't run a 5k in any condition). So I finished the run, did some stretches and went about the rest of my day.
That was three weeks before the marathon. I had been looking forward to the taper, two easy weeks of running to finish preparing my body for a marathon. Instead, I struggled through two or three pathetic and painful runs and went to the chiropractor as often as he would let me. I iced my hamstring and whined to my parents, my best friend, and anyone else who would listen. I cried at the thought of having to drop out of the race.
My hamstring feels the exact same as it did four years ago. At first I thought that injury was returning, or that it had never healed. Since January, I've been practicing yoga. I like yoga for many reasons. One being that my runner body seems to like it, and for a while, back in February, I could run with minimal pain in my hamstring if I practiced yoga at least twice a week. The second reason I like yoga is that it asks me to be aware of many different parts of my body, much in the way that distance running does. I need to focus on what different muscle groups are doing while working through a pose or a vinyasa.
It was while practicing yoga that I started to think it wasn't actually my hamstring that was injured. I thought that my hamstring hurt because my hip also hurt. Sometimes I would finish practice and the right side of my body around my hip felt like it was inflamed, as though I were wearing a thick diaper or cast. I fantasized about how good it would feel to strap bags of ice to that whole area, securing them with plastic wrap.
My current training schedule says I should run eighteen miles this Saturday and twenty-two the following Saturday. I haven't been on a run since the middle of March. I've been experimenting with different kinds of breaks and exercises—a whole week off; cross-training; non linear workouts like running the stairs at Harvard Stadium on Wednesday mornings with November Project; more yoga; more awareness of my posture and where my hips sit (tucked under instead of out and back); endlessly questioning my chiropractor about what he thinks I should do. So far, there's been no improvement. Actually, there's been no change. My hip doesn't feel better but it doesn't feel worse.
Reality set in this morning around 6:45 as I swept my arms dramatically across my body and tried to use their momentum to get my body up the steps at Harvard Stadium. I had only been going up and down the stairs for about ten minutes when I got to the top of Section 31 and stopped. This wasn't working. My hamstring burned and my hip hurt. I could feel that familiar inflamation wrapping around my right hip and glute. I've wanted to quit when running the stairs, but never have. I couldn't let myself. Today, it seemed, that I needed to let myself, that my body needed me to stop for my own good.
I can't run my marathon next month. I can't keep doing these non-linear workouts and expect my hip to feel better. I don't think I can even keep practicing yoga. I'm at the 90-day mark of my personal workout challenge, and I think I need to do nothing athletic for a while. Kara Goucher is so positive in her blog post about her injury. She also has something like crutches physically stopping her and an impressive running resume already built. Right now, I don't have to stop. My chiropractor told me that I could run that marathon but that I'd probably "blow a gasket around mile seventeen or eighteen."
Running this next marathon would be stupid. I know because I was undertrained for my last marathon, which is what I believe put me in this current situation. So running a marathon is out. But I think so is any physical activity, at least for now, which I know is going to drive me crazy (and probably anyone who knows me, sorry in advance to those I see often). At this point, stopping before something worse happens seems imperative. I think not knowing when to quit is one of my (many) flaws. I let my mental will reign over my physical limitations, no matter what the consequences. Hopefully not this time, though I may need someone to confiscate all my running shoes from me.