I went into the half marathon well prepared and feeling good. I was looking for a personal record (PR) and excited to begin training for my first Chicago marathon. I arrived extra early, got a great parking spot, and noticed the sun was shining, not too warm not too cold at about 55 degrees. This was much better than last year’s 85 degree temperature.
I sent my husband a text letting him know where I parked the car, so that when he and my son arrived by bike to the race to see me finish, they could store their stuff in the car. I texted that it was going to be a beautiful day as the threat of rain seemed to have disappeared. I hung out in the car a while longer, to stay warm and continue drinking my tea.
Within minutes of my sending the text, a dark cloud appeared, wiping away the sun. Hmm, I thought, bummer, I guess it’s not going to be as nice after all. I got out of the car to warm up on the sidewalk with some strides. After warming up I gathered up my hydration belt and headed to my corral. I put my headphones in to hear the music I just downloaded the night before. I gradually moved toward the starting line. By the time I got to mile marker 1, at the exact race pace that I planned, I realized my phone was repeating the song I just heard.
Rule #1: Don’t use new equipment on race day
I proceeded to stop to fix my phone, even calling my son to help me out. Five minutes later I was on my way, but 5 minutes behind my race plan. I had never used my phone for a playlist before. I should have made sure it was set up appropriately and tried it out before setting out to race day–the same goes for new clothes, shoes, and nutrition.
Rule #2: Don’t go out too fast
Many thoughts swirled in my head how to make up the time, in addition to the little voice, saying “save it for the marathon, you could get hurt”. I chose not to listen to the little voice and opted to run faster the next four to five miles hoping to make up the 5 minutes I lost and get back on track. Running at a faster-than-half-marathon pace for which I had trained, could cause me injury, early fatigue, or inability to keep up with my original pace for the last half of the race. The best solution would have been to continue with my trained race pace and then if I felt good at mile 7 or 8, approximately halfway, I could increase my speed a little bit at a time, with the hopes of making up at least half the time lost or better.
Rule #3: Don’t change race plan
When going in to a race it’s always wise to have a race pace planned. If something goes awry have a backup plan already prepared. Changing up race day plans can often lead to injury, either during the race or showing up days after the race, which it did for me.
Rule #4: Have fun
In my attempt to make up the lost time, I forgot the primary reason I run, because I love it, because it’s fun. I was so concerned about not making the PR I planned on getting that day, that I did not enjoy the moment. I just kept looking at my watch to see if I had made up any time. Not only did I not make up that 5 minutes, I lost an extra 5 minutes as I probably wore myself out and was not even doing my race pace anymore.
The final consequence of my rash decision during the middle of a race, was an ankle injury, peroneal tendonitis, which of course didn’t materialize until a few days later, like most overuse injuries. I took a week and a half off from running and resumed training off and on for the next 6 weeks, when I finally pulled the plug on doing the Chicago marathon this year and stopped running. I began physical therapy, as therapists have difficulty healing themselves, to figure out my weaknesses and imbalances which led to my injury. In addition, I am now swimming to maintain fitness and take the pressure off of my ankle. In fact, when I return to running I plan to continue swimming, as it will help me maintain flexibility and range of motion in my trunk as well as use my core muscles to propel me forward. Apparently my poor trunk mobility coupled with weak core musculature at the faster pace, for which I wasn’t prepared, were major contributing factors to my injury. Runners need good trunk mobility/flexibility and core strength to promote good counter rotation between the pelvis and trunk while running
Remember these rules when lining up for your next race and most importantly, have fun!
For more information on race day strategies please follow these links.