How not to finish two marathons: part 1 - ouch!

20th October 2014

By Peta Smith

A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to be a runner. And so I did the logical thing and started running 10kms everyday. Not surprisingly, I was hit by a string of injuries. Thus, nine months ago, I nervously walked into Jock Athletic Headquarters for my first session. I don't really know what happened that day, but somehow, an hour later I walked out of the gym (I actually shuffled - single leg squats were new) and was training for the Gold Coast marathon.

Training plodded along well. I don't do anything by halves, so I was running most days, in the gym every other day, and swimming in between. I was also completing my Honours thesis at uni, so in hindsight, I probably had a little too much on my plate, which came at the expense of all the little important things (like sleep, for example). My first injury struck me down right before the Gold Coast Marathon. I decided to race a half-marathon at full-speed on a tendinitis injury. As a result, I managed a minor tear in said tendon.

Lesson #1 of running: No-one is going to think less of you if you stop at 16kms because your ankle is on fire. You're not a lesser person if you don't finish because you're in pain. You're an idiot.

Lesson #2 of running: listen to your physio and/or coach when he/they say "race easy" or "rest" or "this is not a good idea" – they’re qualified professionals and you do not know better.

The rehab for this injury was physically and mentally challenging. However, this task was made easier by the fact that I'd decided I would run the Berlin Marathon later in the year. So resting now was the smart thing to do. I worked hard over the next 6 weeks to rehab my ankle. I did my exercises religiously. I swam to keep up my fitness and ran with the old dudes in the walking lane at the pool (they loved me). I read every article and book available on "posterior tibial tendon injury recovery". I kept up my gym work and spent my savings for Europe on weekly visits to the physio.

Soon enough, I was back running, and Jock managed to keep me believing that the Berlin marathon, only 10 weeks away, was more than possible. I was up running at 6am all winter, gloves and beanie on, unable to see along the dark sandhills path. And every morning, Jock was up with me. Rain, hail or shine, we hit the track and got it done.  On Sundays I would run 20-25kms. I was eating more pasta and GU gels to get my carb intake up than an Italian competing in the Kailua-Kona, Hawai`iIron Man.

There were times when I really didn't want to. Some mornings I woke up when it was pouring rain and I thought, "Why the actual hell am I doing this?" but then I remembered Jock was out there waiting for me, and so off I went. Then I'd run a brutal session and think, "This is why I do this. Because of this feeling." And if you’re a runner too, you’ll know that feeling. It’s addictive.

Two extra enormous blisters developed on the soles of my feet. I did not miss one training session because of them. I told myself that if I couldn’t run through a blister, I couldn’t run a marathon. I also accidentally gave myself ice-burns on my calf from over icing (yes, that’s possible) and developed an infection on my malleolus from a scab. At this stage, I had 6 out of ten toenails left, purely due to the amount of miles I was running.

Miranda Kerr, eat your heart out.

I also made really big sacrifices in the process. I was in bed when my friends were out being young and fun. I even left my graduation party early because I knew two days later I had a 22km run! I rearranged my entire backpack holiday of Europe around the race (which meant missing Oktoberfest). When my eyelashes fell out, I’d wish to get to Berlin and finish.

Lesson #3 of running: running is not a sport for the faint hearted. It’s tough and it hurts. You need to be ballsy and prepared to work really hard. You need to sacrifice what you want in the short term, in order to achieve what you desire in the long term.

Stay tuned for part 2.............