Last weekend, I went on my final long run of marathon training before tapering down. I ran 18 miles at Silver Comet Trail in Smyrna, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. I was so proud to have completed the distance. I was hurting and in pain but super happy to have run that far. I knew that if I could do that I would be fine to complete a marathon in three weeks.
But later that afternoon, I was sore. Unusually sore. My left leg hurt in the top of my calf and bottom of my hamstring. It hurt to walk and stretch and straighten my knee. I was so worried. I rested for a few days but the pain wouldn't go away. After a few very stressed phone calls to my mom and a visit to the Emory Sports Medicine complex, I found out I had strained my hamstring. While this may not sound very serious (and in the grand scheme of things it isn't), I was frustrated that less than 3 weeks out from my race I was injured. My doctor told me that I will be fine to run come March 17th but I probably shouldn't run until then. When I got this news, I was surprised that the physical pain of my hamstring was less annoying than the thought of not being able to run for two weeks. I've always been interested in sports medicine and the psychology behind sports injuries but it was especially intriguing experiencing the emotional effects firsthand.
I think it is pretty well-known that humans don't like not being able to do something. We are competitive by nature and our society tends to disapprove of failure. Most people always feel like they have something to prove and when others doubt them, they often make every effort to prove them wrong. However, humans also have deep desires for self-satisfaction and pride. For example, in the fitness industry, people like to push themselves to complete tough feats like a marathon or heavy squat PR because of the psychological feeling of accomplishment afterwards. I personally am running this marathon purely because I want to prove to myself that I am capable of doing something like that. If you had asked me two years ago if I would ever train to run 26.2 miles, I would have laughed and told you I hated running and couldn't understand why anyone would ever do that voluntarily. But now, I can't imagine not having running as part of my life. While I still wouldn't call myself a "runner," I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment it brings me when I complete a difficult course or finish a significant number of miles.
I think this might be why my injury is affecting me so much. There is a huge difference between not be willing or motivated to exercise and not being physically able to. It is even more frustrating when one small setback is inhibiting you from working towards your goals.
I understand that my injury is absolutely nothing compared to what some people are going through but it has taught me a lot. I have learned how lucky I am to have a body that is capable of doing these things. I have learned that as much as these physically tough feats bring me a sense of accomplishment they should also bring me a sense of gratitude. I should be grateful that I can exercise in the way that I do.
When I run my marathon in two weeks time, I know it will be painful. I know that I will have to push myself physically and mentally. But I am so thankful that I have the ability to do so. Right now, I am frustrated by my injury but it won't be long before I am fully recovered and ready to run again. I feel blessed and excited to keep being grateful for my body and all that it can do.