To Run or Not To Run

11.04.09: And the verdict? Always to run


I have a half marathon this Friday and no foot to run it with.

Well, that’s not true exactly. I have a foot. It just hurts. A lot.

I have what I suspect is the beginning of plantar fasciitis, a debilitating foot problem that affects many runners (females in particular) and causes immense pain in the heel. It started developing after my first long run (15 miles) since the marathon and progressed to almost constant pain before I started treating it.

The other day I ran off to the local running store and bought a spiky massage ball and a Strassburg sock (basically a sling to keep the foot in a stretched position) while soliciting advice on inserts and icing and whether or not to run the half.

Most people who seriously run are familiar with the eternal question: just how injured am I? After all, running is one of the most injury-inducing sports out there. A friend’s father who was a cross-country coach once told me that if you were not injured at least twice a year, then you were not working hard enough. And even though I know amazing runners who have never been injured, I also know this has been true for me. Every time I pick up the speed training or endurance runs, I end up with an injury,

I have had them all: stress fractures, runner’s knee, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, sprained ankles, a broken foot, calf strains and pulled muscles. I tend to find that when one muscle group feels tight (in this case my hips), an injury follows soon after. And then the questions start.

Am I too injured to run my race even though I paid the fee, booked the room, made the plans and cleared the weekend? Should I continue training or allow myself to run a time I will not be proud to run? In this case, I had set a goal of 1:38, but my guess now (if I run it) is that I will be lucky to hit 1:45 (keep in mind I ran the half in 1:44 during the full marathon). Just how injured am I? Can I ice it/tape it/take ibuprofen enough to run the race and then take it easy next week?

Of course I know what the non-runners will tell me. Don’t hurt yourself further. Rest, ice. Take it easy. I also know what the runners who have run on injuries and made them worse (myself included) will say “officially.” Don’t run it. Don’t hurt yourself further. Take it easy.

And so it is times like these when I turn to my crazy runner friends. The ones who tear their piriformis and still manage to eke out 7:30s for most of a half marathon a few days later (hello Julia!). These are the people who know the pain it would cause me to duck out of a race at the last minute, to sit at home while other people warm up, stretch and eventually get to hear the starting gun.

No way. Sitting at home is not an option. Besides my foot is already feeling marginally better, but even if it were not, I can’t miss my race. I will amend my goals, allow myself to come in around 1:45 or 1:50 even knowing that time will be googleable, but I will be on that starting line next Sunday unless I am unable to walk.

Crazy? Maybe. But this is why I love running and the people who do it. There are those among us who would break a hip and still finish the race (true story).

It is that drive that compels me forward, that wakes me up from the nap I need more than a run in order to lace up my Asics. It is the same obsession that had me asking my midwife two hours after delivery how long I had to wait before my first postpartum run (7 days, by the way). Unless I am incoherent and feverish, I am not skipping a run. And even then, I am only skipping if my husband refuses to let me out the door.

And so I am icing. And massaging. And sleeping with the sock on and taking ibuprofen and wearing flats (just wait for my future post on the way my fashionable shoe collection has suffered thanks to my running obsession).

I am running on Sunday, rain or shine. Half a marathon awaits. Sore foot or not, here I come.

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.