Thank you to everyone for your kind messages this weekend about deferring my place in the Berlin Marathon. Anyone who knows me will know that I hate giving up on things and deferring definitely feels like a cop-out. The decision not to run is a considered one and I think definitely the right one, but that doesn’t really help when you’re stood on the side lines feeling like a failure.
So, how did I reach the decision not to run? Last year I ran the London Marathon and came down with a knee injury at Mile 15. I’ve never had issues with my knees before and the pain came on in an instant during the race. I did the less than sensible thing of finishing the race (walking, limping, crawling…!) and couldn’t walk properly for a month afterwards. A MONTH.
This rather traumatic episode taught me to respect the distance. I am not one of the amazing natural runners who can run a marathon at the drop of a hat – for me, achieving the distance takes a lot of time and effort. Leading up to the race I’d been busy with work and moving back to London from Dubai, and in the midst of all the madness I’d neglected my strengthen and flexibility training. I am 99.99999% sure that this is the reason for my injury.
Fast forward to Berlin Marathon 2015. I actually had a ballot place in the Berlin Marathon 2014, but after getting injured in London I was not in a position to race in the autumn. I was pretty gutted about losing my chance to run the marathon in Berlin, as you never know when your luck will come up in the ballot again. I’ll also admit to being stuck in injury gloom mode and burying my head in the sand about organising deferring my place, which I also heavily regretted. So, when adidas miCoach emailed and asked if I’d like to be involved in their Berlin Marathon project, it felt like a second chance to run this amazing race. Yippee!
Due to the timings of the project the training cycle was a little shorter than it would have normally been for me (14 weeks or so I think) but I was so keen to take the second chance that I decided I would just commit to the training and do my best in the time I had. I signed up for weekly yoga classes, to make sure I was doing at least one session a week, and chose a miCoach strength and flexibility plan to complement my marathon training plan to make sure I stayed strong enough to take the mileage.
Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out that way for me. The past few months have been some of the most stressful of my life and I’ll admit that in the last fortnight or so I’ve reached breaking point. In the past couple of months I’ve experienced some serious life events – Dayve and I bought our first home, we got engaged, my sister and best friend had her first baby (after a MONTH of false labour – she is my hero), and I’ve been busy at work and haven’t taken a break since February, which has left me feeling exhausted. While all these things are amazing and exciting (and I really don’t want this to come across as first world problems) I think it’s easy to underestimate how time consuming and emotionally exhausting they are.
Fitting in my runs became very difficult – I am constantly busy with something, travelling somewhere or doing something. Moving out of our shared flat in to our own place coincided with Dayve being on the other side of the world for work for a couple of months, and the loneliness of living alone along with Dayve being out of contact 80% of the time feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I started to feel quite low and finding the motivation to do anything (including go running) became increasingly difficult. I’ve been stuck in a bit of a downward spiral – feel sad and don’t feel like running > eventually force self to go running and run is terrible because I haven’t really been running > feel sad about terrible running > avoid going running because it makes me feel like a failure > get even worse at running. I couldn’t even bring myself to share my runs or talk about them on here – who would be interested in hearing about my mediocre training efforts? All the more ironic given how this started as a story all about how running lifted me out of depression.
Anyway, given this whole mess my training has not been on point. I’d done the miles, but they’d been bad quality runs without purpose (like me generally then). I’d not been able to do all of the strength training on my plan. I kept staying up late in to the night, pottering about, and missing my 7:30am yoga classes because I’d had two hours sleep. In the few weeks leading up to the marathon I’d noticed some twinges in my knee – no doubt symptoms of my lacklustre strength and flexibility regime – and started having flashbacks to London and how devastating a full blown injury is. The added complication is that less than a week after the marathon I am due to fly to Ethiopia for a fundraising trek with work (leaving this Friday!) – a once in a lifetime opportunity that has cost me a small fortune and has a large amount on sponsorship riding on it. If I were to injure myself in Berlin as I had in London then the whole trip would be blown out of the water and everything would go to waste.
I called adidas to explain my concerns about my injury and the proximity of race day to the trek. Luckily for me they were really kind and understanding, and totally agreed that health has to come above anything else. They also very kindly said that, even if I didn’t run the race, that I was still very welcome on the trip to Germany to soak up the experience and visit adidas HQ. I felt a bit awkward about this (if I wasn’t running I definitely didn’t deserve the same experience as the other girls) but I am so glad I went. Spending the weekend with Susie, Annie and Kelly and the miCoach team was just what I needed to lift my spirits and inspire my running again. A full post on our amazing trip will follow very shortly!
While I was in Germany I was still entertaining thoughts of running – I so desperately wanted to be part of the race with the others and didn’t want the training that I had done to go to waste, but the idea of injuring myself and jeopardising my trip to Ethiopia felt reckless. I decided to leave it in the hands of the marathon itself – at the expo, I would see if I could defer. If I couldn’t then I would run, but I’d run slowly and promise to pull out at the first signs of any funny business in my knee. If I could defer then I’d commit to being the best supporter at the Berlin Marathon 2015 and I’d return in 2016 to do the race justice. As you’ll have gathered, they let me defer. I was kind of relieved – the risk of injury was gone and I could come back to Berlin next year to run the race I want to run. I was also sad. Deferring felt like a failure and I felt like a fraud being part of the crew when I wasn’t even running. Everyone was very supportive and the ladies reassured me that I’d made the right choice. Sometimes you have to be sensible.
Watching all of the others do so well was so inspiring – Susie and Kelly both ran PBs and Annie ran her first marathon, battling an ankle injury and epilepsy! It made me feel even more determined to go back next year and make them as proud of me as I am of them.
I guess the point of this post is to show that deciding not to run is not a failure. Doing the sensible thing is usually the best thing you can do for your running, even if that means not running at all. I know it’s much sexier to risk it all on a wildcard race, but sometimes that will be more damaging in the long term. Also – do not underestimate the physical toll of your emotional burdens, and don’t push your body to achieve something that you’re not prepared for, whether that’s physically or emotionally (or both!).