I got ready for my first run of week 13, laced up my new shoes (excited to take them on their inaugural run!), and headed downstairs. I stretched out my legs and feet, especially my left foot. Though it was still sore from Sunday, where I had become afflicted with pain during my long run that was, unfortunately, not going away, I felt sure that I could at least jog. I would do it even if I had to run slow. I didn't even make it to the end of the next block before I was turning around and walking back.
I felt pretty certain even then that what I was dealing with was another plantar fasciitis flare up. I had gone just over a month without any pain whatsoever--I felt so strong even during the toughest of runs!--now it was obviously back and obviously making itself at home. The pain was mostly concentrated to my heel and my arch this time, not up through my whole leg (I credit all the stretching that I have been doing for that). By Wednesday, it was apparent that the condition of my left foot was deteriorating more quickly than I would have liked. I called my doctor and got the soonest appointment I could with him-Friday at 9:45am.
This is the point where I very seriously started considering the fact that I may have to defer my marathon entry to 2016. In a way, it kind of felt like strike two... and I knew that strike three would not be good. Not only did I have to consider my running career, but also my general livelihood. I'm 28 years old, still plenty young enough to not spend the rest of my life in pain because of this. I wanted it so badly, I wanted to run the Marathon more than I could put into words, but I also knew I might go into that appointment and be told it was more or less over.
I once again found myself faced with a familiar scene. I had been doing everything the doctor told me to do on a regular basis (and still am doing now) and had even dialed back my running intensity a little bit. I was incorporating more run/walk intervals than I had been previously in training, in an effort to save myself the risk of pain. Unfortunately, even though I had been so very careful, the pain was back and it wasn't going away.
Fast forward to the Friday before last. I opened at work, in a pretty fair amount of pain, and pushed through to my appointment at 9:45. I got into the exam room relatively quickly and didn't have to wait long to see the doctor. After he greeted me, he told me that he was hoping I would get more than a month out of the cortisone shot. "You and me both," I said in reply. He prescribed me a round of prednisone oral steroids and also told me that he wanted me to get an ultrasound to really see what's going on in my foot.
It could just be really bad plantar fasciitis, or it could be something degenerative, or it could be a tear. In any case, an ultrasound will show these things. He encouraged me to continue to stay active--biking, swimming, using the elliptical, doing upper body exercises, controlled walking, hiking--but advised me against running. "Too much pounding when we don't know what's going on in there." As I'm on my feet at work for 50+ hours a week, I am already putting myself and risk and running is too much at this point. He seemed optimistic that I would get back to it at some point, but definitely didn't want me running until after we figure out what's going on.
Even then those marathon dreams of mine started fading away, but when I made the ultrasound appointment, I knew I was done. At least for this year. I left the doctors' office and went back to work. To say I was upset was a bit of an understatement. Here I was, being told I couldn't do the one thing I had been training for for the last couple of months. I really wanted to run that marathon--this year. I had poured so much of my heart and soul into it and for it to just suddenly be over like that was disorienting and, quite frankly, a little devastating.
I was so sad, but so grateful for all the support I got (and continue to get) from my husband, family, and coworkers. Everyone in my life has been so supportive and encouraging to me even as I've struggled a little bit with accepting this new reality and I am definitely so fortunate to have so many wonderful folks in my life. I started the Prednisone treatment, set to icing and stretching and resting, and officially deferred my marathon entry to 2017 the following Monday, on Labor Day. And in that moment, marathon training officially came to an end.
So many good things came out of the 13 weeks I spent training. It definitely sucks that I don't get to run 26.2 in October. But! I lost about 10 lbs. over the course of training and am in better shape than I was at the beginning of training. I ran my furthest distance ever--16 miles! I learned discipline in following a training plan and running set distances. I feel stronger physically and mentally... and I have learned the value of patience. This has been such an important experience for me on so many levels and I am so lucky, so happy, to have had the journey of 13 weeks of training for the 2016 Chicago Marathon.
Here's to taking it easy, finding new ways of being active, and my ultrasound (and eventual, hopeful, diagnosis) at the end of the month. Eventually, I'll start running again, and I'll come back even stronger, even more determined. I will make it happen, I will run that marathon next year. Until then, I'll keep getting better, keep improving myself. Here's to being active and enjoying the last of Summer, fall in Chicago. Here's to 2017, and wherever the road leads to get there!