Fortuitous Disaster

Not everyone has the same body constitution, weight or natural ability to run. To overdo it on the road could cause fatigue, lack of motivation and even injury. One size fits all running plans run the risk of pointing you in this direction. It certainly did for me. Just my luck

After the half marathon debacle back in January, I just wanted to get back in the game and prove to myself that the last marathon I had run was not my swan song. There was also a little anger involved, directed towards myself and what I had done to bring me to this point. I chose to train for a marathon that I normally would not consider. I was born in Illinois- so the Chicago Marathon would make sense. But this one was in Orange County, California, an area where I did not have any kind of physical or emotional ties. But timing wise, it was next on the list of marathons.

Three marathons and there was no marked improvement in my times. They were all slow. I was looking for something that would change the game so to speak and speed me up. I came across the Hanson Plan, put together by two brothers with years of experience in the sport and a good reputation to boot. It would be a different kind of plan for me. Six days a week of running, with no run more than 16 miles. 10 miles short of a marathon as the longest run seemed a little suspect to me, but the reviews were great. Many swear by this program. It goes on the theory of accumulated fatigue, where six days a week including the attenuated long run (attenuated by other program standards) could prepare me for a full marathon. It would take alot of time and commitment. After all, I do have to work in the day, and marathon training would take place afterwards, with four of those six running days being weekdays. I bought the book and dove in, determined to-well, I didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish to be honest; I was still angry about January.

If you embark on this plan, say goodbye to your family and friends for the next 18 weeks. You won’t be seeing them very much. Between work and running, that was pretty much all I was doing on this plan. I won’t go into the details of the mileage and intensity, you can look that all up, but as the weeks wore on, it felt like I was getting weaker, not stronger. Six days of pounding every week was taking its toll on me. My muscles just weren’t recovering. But the idea of the plan was accumulated fatigue. The idea of running on tired legs was supposed to prepare you for late in the marathon where that is exactly what you will be doing. But the marathon is just one day. This was day after day, and I was getting weak.

Despite feeling worse and worse, I plowed on, religiously following the plan. My right achilles was starting to hurt, but would usually be okay after a warm up. But the nagging pain would return later. I ran through it. Tape, ankle braces-you name it, and I tried it. But I kept going. That was until my left achilles started to give me problems. Now I had two weak, sore achilles tendons, and the marathon was six weeks away. Both achilles were now hurting while running and it was affecting my stride. I took a week off to see if it would help. It did not. Now the marathon was five weeks away and I had missed a week.

I went back to the grind, getting weaker by the run and with both achilles now screaming in protest. Was it me? Was it the achilles? Did Hanson’s cause all this? With four weeks until the race, I was slowing down and it was getting-on some days impossible to cover the prescribed mileage. I hate to use the word impossible, so I’ll rephrase that to say the mileage was more than I could conceive of covering that particular day. The result was the same though. I would absolutely not be ready for a full marathon. If 16 miles was half walk, half shuffle then…

Call it mercy, call it providence, call it whatever you want. The misery was about to end, and with it, the humiliation of possibly having to drop out of a marathon mid race. It was a Saturday long run and with my stride horribly compromised, I stumbled on an uneven dirt path and twisted my ankle. It swelled up like a balloon later that night. That was it. I was out. The fact was, I was never in.

What went wrong? Was I too out of shape? No, I had three marathons under my belt. Too soon after a marathon to run another? Possibly. Wrong program for my body type? Probably. Something that was outside my universe and should have never been attempted? Yes. I didn’t even want this marathon. It was trying to punch an immovable object, throwing a tantrum, it was misguided passion, it was…a mistake. Funny, but I knew that the entire time I was training. I was being stubborn and emotional, and instead of listening to that subtle voice of reason, I went down the road of perdition-again. I had ignored the lessons I had learned in January, and this was just the universe taking me back to where I was supposed to be, where I want to be. The fact is, I want to run Chicago again in October, skydive in my hometown in Illinois and see Jackie who will be in the area that week. None of that would have happened if I had actually completed the training and run this marathon. It would have been too soon (for me) to train for another that would only be 5 months away. It all worked out, or at least it will now. I fought the universe and it did what it had to do to get me back in line. I’ve found a new running plan that is much more suited to my body and everything is going pretty well. Just a few glitches, but overall, good. I’m back on track, and if I know what’s good for me, I’ll stay on that track. What seemed like a disaster in the moment turned out to be exactly what I wanted.

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