For 17 weeks, I had been training for a half marathon. It was going to be my first race, and I couldn’t have been more excited. The new challenge, the long distance with nothing but my thoughts, the thought of crossing a finish line… it was everything to me.
But yesterday, one week before the race, I had to face reality. Not even two miles in to my recovery run, the injury that didn’t usually nag until mile six was back, and worse than ever.
In my collegiate and professional athletic days, I picked up some bumps and bruises, including damaging or tearing every labrum in my body. Well, my hip doesn’t care if I’m playing softball, running, walking, or sitting. It just doesn’t like me anymore.
To prevent any further damage, I made the decision not to race next weekend. While I’m still trying to get through the heartbreak, I know deep down this was the best path for myself. If you’re thinking about a future race, consider these things before you make the decision to drop out.
Aches and pains versus injury before the race
It’s natural to pick up some bruises along your training path. I’ve bruised some toenails, strained muscles, ached after a long run, and even thrown up along the path (in fairness, I had a migraine before I started running).
The difference is knowing what is minor and major. Often, my hip was a minor inconvenience. I knew of the injury before and was typically careful how I prepared myself to run. It would start to bother me and I’d slow my pace to accommodate.
Injury was the reason I didn’t try to race in the first place, and should be a deciding factor on whether you are in or out before the starting line. Part of me wishes I could have decided this sooner, but training up until recently hadn’t been a huge problem. Now I will need to take more time off to recover.
Discomfort during a race
Say you’ve made it to the starting line. It’s natural to feel some things along the route. Depending on the weather, you might have to deal with extreme temperatures, wind, rain, snow, or sun. All of these can be uncomfortable, but aren’t necessarily a reason to drop out (though you should be careful running in any weather condition since they do pose some dangers).
You’re also going to feel discomfort with longer distances. Muscle aches and dull pains are typical as you continue to run. However, when those aches turn into sharp pains, you should reconsider. If you start experiencing pain that isn’t typical, or you haven’t felt before, you need to take a hard look at what could be going on. By choosing to stop in the middle of the race, you could be avoiding a more serious injury. I personally think a Did Not Finish tag is better than a trip to the ER for something more serious. I’d think the race price tag would be an easier bullet to bite than a huge hospital bill.
Not properly prepared for the race
Life gets in the way, it’s inevitable and it’s okay. Sometimes we can work around this, but sometimes we need to take a look at how much our schedule has been impacted. If you didn’t have the time or energy to get the proper training done beforehand, trying to run in a race is not going to be fun. You’re more likely to injure yourself and that recovery will take a long time. Make sure you’re set up for success.
I am by no means an experienced runner, trainer, or medical professional. If you think you have injuries, you need to seek an expert. Listen to your body and your mind and determine what you are willing to put up with. For me, this injury was enough to not only slow me down, but stop me completely. I wish things were different, and I know once I am healed I will appreciate my decision to step away from the starting line. For now, I am still heartbroken that I am physically unable to run.