That’s how long it took me to cover 26.2 miles in Frankfurt this past weekend. It’s my second fastest marathon to date (after my PB 2:12:28 from Berlin 2015). “Not bad, after everything you’ve been through,” “That’s awesome, all things considered,” people keep telling me. Yes, I’ve been through a lot in the past two years, as you already know if you’ve read some of my past blogs or follow me on social media. I tore both of my adductors, I tore my rectus abdominis on both sides, I tore both of my pectineus muscles, I severely damaged my pelvic floor, I partially and then later completely tore my labrum, I had severe osteitis pubis, and I even broke a toe just a few days before the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon, all of which required me to fly to Philadelphia to undergo 3 surgeries in 2016 – one in April and two more in December.
So, yes, all things considered, my race in Frankfurt was a personal victory. A few months ago when my coach Ben Rosario and I added Frankfurt to the calendar, it was with an asterisk. *If everything goes well and I don’t have any setbacks, I’ll run Frankfurt.* To be completely honest, it seemed a little unlikely to me. I know a few other runners who’ve had their labrum(s) repaired, and have struggled to regain their pre-surgery levels of health and fitness. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from trying. I woke up every morning with fresh ambition to make myself just a little bit better that day, at times I was actively cross training up to 8 hours a day, almost entirely by my lonesome. Once I started training again, I thought setbacks would be inevitable – I just kept waiting for the injury to rear its ugly head again, but much to my surprise, I was prevailing workout after workout after workout.
In total, between February 2016 and the Frankfurt Marathon on October 29, 2017, I missed 9 months of running. And with the recoveries from each surgery, I had an additional 2-3 months that I’d be hard-pressed to call serious running, let alone actual training; rather, I took a painstakingly slow approach to building volume and intensity to avoid re-injury. In fact, the only segments I’d really characterize as “training” would be the 4 months before I ran the NYC marathon last Fall and the 4 months before Frankfurt this year.
All of these things considered, I understand why the people around me think Frankfurt went so well. I suppose I could objectively agree with them, yet I still found myself unsure of how to respond to the barrage of congratulatory messages I received after the race. I was extremely disappointed with my result, and it felt ingenuine to respond with my usual fervor. Nevertheless, I tried to be gracious in my defeat.
I recently read an Instagram post by Kate Grace that sums up how I’m feeling pretty well. She said:
“…the neat packaging of a perseverance story can make it easy to forget the pain of a defeat along the way…It gets tied in a bow later…the obstacle…but that doesn’t make it easier in the moment.”
In the grand scheme of things, all things considered, the Frankfurt Marathon was a win for me. I was only a little over a minute off my personal best in the event, in conditions that were definitely less than ideal (it was super windy and the roads were slick early). In addition, I ran most of the race without feeling any discomfort in my hip at all (though it did start bothering me a bit in the last 10k), and while it was sore later that night and for the next few days, I’m sitting in my Airbnb in Florence, Italy writing this blog on Wednesday night and my hip feels great. I haven’t gone for a post-marathon run yet, but I’ve walked 10-12 miles each day since the marathon, and so far it feels pretty much just like it did before the race. While I wanted to run 2:12 or faster in Frankfurt, the bigger goal was to finish this marathon and be able to get right back to training after a short, planned break, and it seems like I’m on track to do that.
I persevered. I overcame (or, perhaps more precisely, I am overcoming) this obstacle. Maybe later I can look back on this 2-year stretch of my life and say, “Look at all of the obstacles I faced and yet I still ran 2:12, finished 6th at the US Olympic Marathon Trials, finished the NYC Marathon (even though I probably should have dropped out), and ran 2:13 after having 3 surgeries.”
But that’s not making it much easier to accept the defeat right now. I think I keep trying to convince myself that I did fine and that I should just focus on the positive and blah blah blah, but I’m not there yet. And I think it’s okay to be disappointed in yourself and in your performances. I’m really hard on myself, but I think sometimes that’s what helps you to get back up and get back to work. I still haven’t really come close to a number of the goals I’ve set, and frankly it pisses me off, but more importantly, it motivates me.
I’m determined to remove “all things considered” and “considering what you’ve been through” from my narrative. Those phrases don’t earn you Olympic berths or sub-2:10 marathons. I’m determined to free myself of the shackles into which my injuries have forced me. And while this weekend ultimately wasn’t what I was aiming for, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.