Sometimes the hardest part about being an athlete is learning to listen to your body. Or more specifically, separating your body from your mind so you know for sure which one was talking to you.
I was signed up to do a triple marathon this past weekend, three marathons in three days. I’d signed up months ago before I was injured and figured it’d be a great training for a 6-day race I was scheduled to do in August. Fast forward several months, two nagging and slowly healing injuries later, with the August race already canceled, I was struggling what to do about the triple.
I did a marathon last month and I’d spent a chunk of the race crying because I was in so much pain from my injuries. I’d taken it pretty easy in the ensuing month and my knee in particular (the worse injury) was feeling less cranky. I couldn’t get a refund on any of the three races, so I was out the money no matter what. Finally I decided I’d do the first day of the triple and see how it went.
The Stars & Stripes Marathon on Saturday was the first race where I really held myself back. My main goals were to not aggravate my knee and to have fun. I purposely walked the entire first half of the race, moving at a brisk pace but not my fastest pace. I told myself if my knee didn’t hurt I’d start adding in some running the second half, and that’s exactly what I did. Small increments of running, 1-3 minutes at a time, testing my knee, moving myself along, but trying not to strain it. It was really super hard to go slower than I needed to, and my finish time was slower than I’d ever gotten, but I finished the race upright, with no pain, so I was very excited. And I had lots of fun. I even got my sister to walk the last lap with me.
The day of the second marathon I woke up with some stiffness in my knee but no other pain or soreness. I knew I could push through that, especially if I walked most or all of the second race. I had a huge debate with myself. My mind said, “At least do the double marathon, you’ll get more stars” (go up in rank in the Marathon Maniacs) and my body said, “Hey I was really good yesterday, don’t push your luck.” I thought of all my friends out on the course. I thought of the money I’d put into the race. But in the end I listened to my body. It was super hard but I knew I would not finish that second race feeling as good as I had after the first race. And there’s always going to be another chance to get stars.