6 July 2015

Long distance running

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The Gold Coast Marathon weekend has come and gone for another year. Satisfied runners of all levels will proudly explain to friends and family this week how all their hard work has paid off. Sadly, this feeling of satisfaction is one that I am yet to experience. It is not for want of trying.

I have now trained and paid entry fees for three marathons; I am yet to even make it to the starting line. The first time around I took it in my stride. My goal at that stage was to run around the 3 hour mark. Ambitious for a first-timer, but nonetheless, I had high hopes. I had already run a half marathon in 84 minutes, and was flying in training.

However my hip started playing up following a cycling accident and six weeks before the big day I had an appointment with a hip surgeon. The result… a hip arthroscopy and thankfully a refund of my entry fee.

The second time I started to get a bit irritated. This time it wasn’t even a running injury. I had bilateral inguinal hernias that needed surgical repair. However despite the disappointment, I tried to remain philosophical about things. There would be another chance and at least it wasn’t a running injury this time. I got my fee refunded again.

The third time though, I was really peeved. I had just moved up to the Gold Coast in January 2013 and having made a fresh new start in a new state, I decided to enter the big local event. This time I wasn’t aiming for a 3 hour run. All I wanted was to get to the end and eat a massive pizza at the finish line.

I made it all the way through 6 months of hard training and just under 2 weeks before race day I was on my last long run before tapering. At the 28km mark I felt an all too familiar twang in the hamstring. I knew that feeling from my football days, but this one felt so minor that I thought I would just be able to “run it out”. By the 30km mark I knew I was done and my dream was over for another year. This time I didn’t get a refund.

In the weeks leading up to any long distance running event, I see numerous injured and anxious participants desperately seeking my last minute help to mend their injuries before race day. Sometimes I can help them achieve their dreams; a rewarding part of my job. Sometimes, sadly, there is nothing I can do.

It never gets easier breaking the bad news to someone who has put their heart and soul into training for a challenging run. I know all too well the physical and emotional energy spent along the journey to reach those final weeks of training. All I can do is provide support and optimism for future attempts.

I wish I had a bullet proof formula I could provide to my patients that would guarantee an injury free marathon campaign. Unfortunately no such formula exists. Every person is unique and every marathon attempt will provide a new challenge. But the one thing that we can all control is our own determination to succeed. And if fate happens to hand us a dodgy card or two, though it can be a challenge, the best way to come out the other side a winner is to stare fate right back in the eye and tell it (nicely) to get lost. You may temporarily be out of action, but you are not yet defeated.

I plan to run the Melbourne Marathon this October, the same marathon I first entered and never ran. Though I’m not really all that superstitious, after going zero from three previous entries, this year I’m not paying the entry fee until the last possible moment. Will I make it? I don’t know. Am I confident? Not really. But am I going to give it everything? You bet! The pain of injury and disappointment is an unavoidable part of long distance running. But the pleasure of achievement will be my ultimate “take that” to injury.