For my first Marathon, this past spring, I experienced the Taper Madness for the first time. I had a slight foot injury and was trying to balance a light 3 week taper with not exacerbating my ankle problem. I felt like I was going crazy between tapering, trying to heal, and pre-marathon anxiety. And thus, “Taper Madness “ was born.
This time around, I had entered into a period that could only be described as “Taper Sadness.”
Since the debacle on Staten Island, I was on a strict fast and furious regiment of…. rest. Rest. Ice. Hobbling. And.... more rest. No running for me whatsoever. Is that even technically a taper? My one goal at this point was to banish the knee pain into oblivion with the hope that I could test it out on a run during the Poland Spring Marathon Kick Off 5K, one week before The Marathon.
For nearly two weeks my knee would ache after merely being on my feet, which was frequently unavoidable since I waitress.
Ice, Ice baby….
I did a light mile jog to pick up my bib on Oct 25th, for the Kick Off. It was not terrible, but it still hurt. I made the decision to forgo the race so I could squeeze in more healing time. A zero mileage taper would be far from ideal, but no marathon would be a nightmare.
And so I officially DNS-ed my first race.
I picked up a knee brace at Jack Rabbit. I’m not a medical expert by any stretch of my imagination, but the braces always seemed to me a bit of wishful thinking hocus pocus. Obviously, I was desperate.
Lo and behold, I should have bought that thing weeks ago. It mushed everything in just right and all week it was like having a little miracle hug my knee in all the right places. One of my co-workers saw it and said “Isn’t that thing great? I’m wearing one on each knee right now. And I run with them.”
Where was this information all my life? I thought. I am but an infant in the vast ocean of running related knowledge.
On Thursday, I sprang out of bed and limped over to the TCS New York City Marathon Expo. It was bittersweet. I had dreamed of attending as a marathon entrant for more than a year, but now I felt like an impostor since I wasn't sure if I was actually going to be healthy enough to run. It was incredible though and I tried to imagine that everything would be fine when I did the Dash to the Finish- that my knee would be great and I could finally put my head in The Marathon 110%.
Dash to the Finish
Saturday morning, as my family was in the middle of a 5 hour drive to the city for marathon spectating, I prepared for the Dash to the Finish. The race would be cold and wet. Quite wet.
We kicked off in front of the United Nations and almost immediately my knee began to ache. By the time I had finished at my “nice and easy” pace of 10 mins/mile, I was devastated. The last thing mile as we passed the mile 26 banner all set up for the marathon, I thought: There’s no way I’m going to see that sign tomorrow because I’m not going to be able to do the marathon.
As I funneled out with the finishers, I skipped the water and snacks; I couldn’t run fast enough to even get thirsty, and the more I thought about my diminishing marathon prospects the more I felt sick to my stomach.
I called the Mister and began to cry as I told him I wasn’t sure I should try to run tomorrow. I thought I would know with certainty what my knee would be capable of, and I didn’t. I thought I would know 100% whether to run or not run, but I didn’t. I prepared for over a year and a half, and my family was already en route, for a Marathon that probably wasn’t going to happen for me. I was devastated.
Moreover, my Runner Brother has been dying for years to run NYC and I desperately wanted to gift my bib to him (so he could enjoy the race, and my family wouldn’t have driven for nothing), but NYRR strictly prohibits any sort of bib transfer. Period. So realistically, not much of an option.
The Mister and my family basically advised: 1.) Listen to your body, if you can’t run, that’s ok, you’ll do the race one day. It’s not worth permanently injuring something. 2.) If you think you can at least try, at least try.
I agreed with #1, though it wasn’t very palatable. #2 made a lot of sense in theory, but I hesitated because I felt like everyone was underestimating the key element of my own stubbornness. If I started, I would want to push it as far as I could, as long as I could, no matter how bad my knee got (a la the Staten Island ½ Marathon). And since that was a day of poor decision making culminating in one of the most excruciating days of my life, I wasn’t sure I wanted to turn what was supposed to be my marathon dream into my marathon nightmare.
I told my brother “Best case scenario, my knee manages to hold together for 26.2 miles but hurts the whole way and I still spend every minute of that run on an emotional roller coaster waiting for it to all fall apart.”
Ultimately, I told everyone that I would try. I would see what happens, but to know ahead of time if I drop out, it’s because the knee is bad bad bad. Either I run it and finish, or I drop out in Brooklyn and we all go to lunch.
I told everyone my mantra would be, I WILL drag my body through every borough of this city.
And just like that, it was on.