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Reflections on Marathon #5

May 27, 2018



Marathon: Flying Pig Marathon

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Date: May 6, 2018

Finish Time: 4:50:09

Marathon Mantra: With some pretty significant knee pain between the St. Louis Marathon and this one, my motto became, "Stay calm and finish." I prepared myself mentally to walk if I felt necessary and to not be consumed with living up to my expectations. I was prepared to put ego aside and just finish.


I also wanted to have fun. This was a race I was able to share. On Saturday, I walked the 5K with twenty-three friends, colleagues and students to raise money for Run for the Future. It was fun to be part of their journey as many experienced their first Pig race, finished their first 5K, or earned their first medal. Their joy gave me joy!  The students finished feeling gratified and proud. This is the gift that running gives and the Pig shares. It was truly a wonderful day that I hope will grow over the next few years.


Review of the Marathon: This is the first race I have run this year that I have done before. I am very familiar with the Pig route. This was my fifth full Pig marathon. I have run the half a couple of times, the relay many times, the 5K for a few years and the 10K once. In addition, I often train on parts of the course. 


The race starts downtown by Paul Brown Stadium home of the Cincinnati Bengals. This year the beginning was changed and we head directly to the first bridge that goes over the Ohio River to Northern Kentucky. The course makes a quick jaunt through Newport, over a bridge to Covington, Kentucky before returning to Cincinnati. Runners then head to Seventh Street running across the city with a throng of fans on both sides of the road. Then comes the dreaded hill to Eden Park.


I ran this beginning portion with the banker who helps the West Clermont Education Foundation (and therefore Run for the Future). I wasn't sure was to expect. I run with music and enjoy the solitude. I had a good time, though. We even ran a few more miles than planned together. Seth did an amazing job. He was basically winging a half marathon. He plowed up to Eden Park with me and kept on trucking. For me it was a nice break to have conversation for the first eight miles. It made this race seem shorter.


After touring Eden Park, the race weaves its way through O'Bryonville and Hyde Park. Finally after many uphills, runners get to coast down Erie Avenue for a nice break. Then runners take what feels like a victory tour through Mariemont which I thought had more supporters than normal. At the end of this leg, I see a high school basketball teammate each year. I am so thankful for the volunteers who hand out water for hours with a smile. I also was surprised to see Georgia one of my former gymnasts. She is a quirky, fun kid and lifted my spirits.


After Mariemont, it's head-down and plow-through-the-pain time. Racers run a mile or so on Columbia Parkway, which is basically a highway with no shade. This year it was HOT! We finish with approximately a 10K along Riverside Drive. For part of this the fans dwindle which is sad because otherwise the entire course is packed. I did see my friends Melissa and Ken. I usually stop and say hi but momentum was on my side. Eventually runners pass the "Layup for Lauren" station, where they try to throw small basketballs into hoops. Lauren was an Northern Kentucky University student who died from DIPG (brain tumor) several years ago. She fought her way to participate in a collegiate basketball game and it was an inspiring event for our city. When I'm in pain toward the end of the race, this station puts the world in perspective. 


At mile 24.5 I ran past an aid station run by the West Clermont High School cross country team. It was fun to see familiar faces. I was also excited that I was running (not walking) when I came upon them. (I'm not as good at putting my ego aside as I'd like.) Aaron, a cross country runner with special needs, high fived me and ran with me for a few minutes yelling for me to go and not give up. It is a moment in life I will always remember. He was pumped up and gave me a boost at a point when I was exhausted and hot!



This year there was a new finish line and I loved it. We finished by the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which is a beautiful, classic blue bridge. It was an early model for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. I thought the new finish allowed runners to be surrounded by fans with a great overlook packed with people above us. This finish put everyone at Smale Park with swings and a grassy area overlooking the Ohio River. It was a wonderful exclamation point to an already top-notch race. 



The State of My Body: Just to be an optimistic, upbeat person, I will start with some positives. My left quad no longer bothers me when I run. I am continuing the strengthening exercises with light weight. My feet are doing great. I still do 120 heel drops on each foot everyday and they continue to work their magic. My hips were very cooperative during this race. 


My right knee has become very painful. This is why I have waited so long to write a post. It stresses me out. Between marathons, I had developed a pattern of ten days of no running, followed by a 13 mile run, and then a series of 3-6 mile runs. This has been working quite well. During my attempt at the 13 miler, my knee became very painful - so painful that I thought it might give out. I bailed on that run and took a few more days off. I did get in the long run the next week. I went to the doctor twice. The final diagnosis is runner's knee, which means the cartilage around my kneecap is wearing down as it does not have enough time to heal between marathons. So the bruised, beat-up cartilage rubs against the groove the patella is supposed to peacefully sit in. To get through the Pig I took a lot of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, KT taped and braced my knee. Ignoring the intestinal issues caused by the drugs, this worked fairly well. 


I have not run since the Pig, but still plan to continue with my marathon schedule. I plan to take four weeks off from running. Today is the three-week mark. My knee is still tender and painful, but has shown improvement. I am pondering doing a couple 1-2 miles runs this week. I still hope to complete a thirteen mile run before my next marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. I have also been going to physical therapy once a week. We are working on strengthening my quad without upsetting my hip, which is a true challenge. I have done some swimming during these three weeks. A couple of them have been over an hour as I try to keep up my endurance. Swimming is hard, but different hard than running. I'm not confident that long swims will lead to successful long runs. Grandma's Marathon has a seven-hour time cap. I am confident that I can finish in that amount of time without much training this month. How miserable it will be I do not know.


Lesson Learned: This race reminded me how fun it is to be part of other people's journey. My friend Becky worked so hard to be ready to walk the 5K. We trained together once a week and she did many other walks on her own. She has lost thirty pounds the past few months!! Another friend, Erin, got to participate in a Pig race for the first time after volunteering for several years. She was awarded her first medal! The students that did the 5K planned to walk, but got swept up in the fun and ran a lot of the race. They were proud to do the race and to help raise scholarship money for future students. I loved being part of each of these journeys. It was also fun to share my journey of both racing and fundraising. My friends, colleagues, and administrator all seemed to enjoy being part of this dream.


I learned a lot about fundraising during this event. Asking people to participate personally (as opposed to a group message) is much more effective. Instead of having people create their own fundraising pages, if I made pages for people they were excited to share them with their friends. I promoted (or celebrated) a different participant each day leading up to the race. I have new ideas for next year. Though my blogs are usually about running (and my body breaking), the goal of this year is to raise scholarship dollars. I think that we will reach $20,000 by the end of 2018. This is the amount of a single scholarship. I am now looking at this challenge as how can I rise $20,000 a year. This really does not even seem that overwhelming to me!

Final Takeaway: My final takeaway is that this journey is not going to fall into a pattern. Each race is going to bring its own challenges. I continue to tell myself, "It is what it is. I am who I am." I am basically going to run this next marathon with two weeks of training! It is what it is. I am doing all I can to keep myself in shape before those two weeks begin while consciously avoiding anything that will slow down the healing of my knee. 


When thinking about my personal growth, I am a lot calmer about setbacks and realities. I know that I have to give my knee a break. My future health depends on it. My ability to walk without being miserable depends on it. It is what it is. In seven hours and one way or another, I will finish Grandma's Marathon. Being full of anxiety for six weeks is not going to change anything.  

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