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Reflections on Marathon #3

March 21, 2018




Marathon: Publix Georgia Marathon

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Date: March 18, 2018

Finish Time: 4:55:30 

Marathon Mantra: I actually had a mantra for this race! "It is what it is. I am what I am." I get very down on myself when I'm running. I feel slow and frustrated that I don't improve much. I know I work hard and I understand that I need to work around injuries. I get very frustrated by all the things that my hips will not allow me to - speed work, squats, zumba, exercises that require repetitive hip movements, lean over, etc. Honestly it's a pretty lengthy list. The truth is when I didn't understand what was wrong with my hip, I did all of these things and my torn labrum often got caught in my hip joint. When that happens, I have to shut down most exercise for six months until it randomly pops back where it should be. While it's stuck, life is miserable. It hurts to sit, stand, walk, lie down, roll over. Everything is painful. So I am working on being grateful that I can run and do many other exercises. Hence - "It is what it is. I am what I am." Along with this, I have rededicated myself to enjoying the journey. It is a year-long journey and each race is only a small piece. I am also working on not saying negative things to myself. 

Review of the Marathon: I had a great time during this marathon. The route was lovely. We went through many nice neighborhoods, small towns, parks, and historical sites. Everything was well organized - from packet pick-up to the finish festival. The course was well marked with numerous supportive volunteers.


The race started downtown at the Centennial Olympic Park. Then runners headed to Midtown. Around mile four, we passed Martin Luther King, Jr's childhood neighborhood. As a history teacher currently teaching the Civil Rights Movement, I was stoked for that. We toured Decatur and North Decatur, which had large homes and quaint city blocks. In Decatur, we ran a small loop in Agnes Scott College which was one of my favorite parts. Mile 22 took runners through Piedmont Park that was teaming with life - people out enjoying a sunny, warm early spring day. Finally we ran up and down a few more hills as we entered Atlanta and headed to the finish line back in Centennial Olympic Park. I give the course five stars. Everything was beautiful. I never felt bored.


The course was hilly, hilly, hilly!! It is not much of an exaggeration when I say, I was always going uphill or downhill. This was particularly true the last nine miles. Cincinnati runners take pride in our hills, but - no joke - Atlanta has us beat!! The hills did not deter me, though. I can maintain my speed pretty well running up hill and usually it feels good on my hip. Though running downhill makes my hips ache, I picked up some good time on those portions. Eventually, toughing out all the hills seemed like a rite of passage that only a few people get to conquer.


I finally broke the five-hour mark. October 2015 was the last time I ran a marathon this fast. That was still when I beat my hip up. I remember how excruciating it was to sit during the plane ride to that race. Hopefully I have found a system to run under five hours that is more healthy. It was so cool when I was at mile nineteen and realized that if I just kept a 12-minute per mile pace I would reach my goal. I was amazed that my body kept feeling well enough to go on. I was all smiles at the finish!! If I weren't a shy person, I would have leapt, jumped, and fist pumped across the finish line.

The State of My Body: I had a lot of success in this area! I worked very hard since the Galveston race to get my body healthy. The day after I returned to Cincinnati, I got a cortisone shot in my heel. As that began to work, I realized how bad my Achilles hurt in that leg. My heel had been so painful, I didn't notice how bad the Achilles pain had gotten. So I started doing 120 heel drops a day with that foot (60 with a straight leg and 60 with a bent leg to hit the different calf muscles). I started on a flat surface because the pain was very low on my heel and it hurt a lot to extend any further. As it responded, I switched to doing them with my heel off a step. This worked beautifully and I have almost no pain in either foot!!


I was much more consistent with doing my hip PT - completing the routine at least three times a week. I also added back in one exercise that I did right when I started PT a couple of years ago. I was dedicated to foam rolling every day. Foam rolling increases blood flow to muscles and helps release trigger points. It takes about thirty minutes to roll out my quads, hamstrings, bottom, hips, IT bands, and calves.


I find both the foot and hip routines boring. I watch a daily Youtube vlog called "The Frey Life," which has really inspired me. Mary Frey from the vlog has cystic fibrosis and she spends two hours every day doing her vest, plus a lot of other time doing other airway clearance. The 30-60 minutes that I need to do daily to keep my body running pales in comparison. Plus, I get to run marathons because of my exercises. She has to do all her work to stay alive! She and her husband are always upbeat and finding the joy in life. It is very inspiring.


I won't lie. My left hip is still really painful when I run. Again, it blessedly backed down some the second half of the race. It doesn't seem to be getting worse so . . . So I count my blessings and keep on going.


I struggled some with my asthma during the race. My breathing continued to be difficult the entire day after the race. Atlanta is in spring and Cincinnati is not, so I blame sudden exposure to pollen. Who knows, though. It is what it is. I am what I am. I used my inhaler when I felt necessary and plowed on.

Lesson Learned: I probably learned more preparing for this race than actually running it. I found a diligence I haven't used before. I took the time to do what it takes to keep my body working - PT exercises, foam rolling, and massage. This seems like a small thing, but I think it is going to let me survive this year-long journey. I feel a great sense of gratification from taking my beat-up, barely working body that limped through the Galveston Marathon and turning it into one that could accomplish my goals four weeks later.


This was my most disciplined marathon ever. I never let myself run faster than a 10:30 pace, even when I easily could have done so. Around mile seven, I walked up part of a really steep hill. I thought it would take a lot out of me to run up the whole thing and would be better later if I walked. I usually run the beginning of a race much faster than I should to bank time for when I run out of gas. This disciplined approach worked great in Atlanta. (I've run enough marathons to know what works one day may not work another.)

Final Takeaway: I was ecstatic to make my goal and break five hours. I honestly felt that if the Publix Georgia Marathon was the last marathon I ever run, I would be completely content. It was a beautiful course and wonderful weather. My body felt as good as it can. I felt strong and proud!! I ran my race and it not judge myself by the runners around me. I felt a great combination of focus and enjoyment while I ran. 


It was a bit of a bubble buster to realize my next marathon in St. Louis is in only three weeks!! I need to quickly go through the process of taking a breather and then gearing back up to be mentally ready to run a marathon. It takes a lot to encourage yourself to keep going for 26.2 miles. I don't know if I can expect a run as nice as Atlanta every month. I will continue to be diligent and see what happens!

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