I Ran 26.2 Miles One Day

I had faithfully trained for 4 months prior. Beginning with 15 miles over 4 days per week, I increased to 40 miles per week before finally tapering (dropping back to 20 mpw) 3 weeks before my big day. It was an unbelievable experience – and one which I thoroughly enjoyed as I had never displayed such discipline as in my training runs (perhaps even during school). On that fated day in 2005, I ran my 26.2 miles in 4 hours 25 minutes, averaging a little over 10 minutes per mile.

As my running habit had formed, I had developed an appetite and an addiction. I supplemented my 3 large-sized meals per day with 3 bowls of cereal. I ate cheesecake for breakfast everyday. I craved steak on a regular basis. And 3 days after I ran the marathon, I was itching to run again. So like any other day, I put on my Brooks and set out. Only 3 blocks later, my right knee experienced a dull pain. I continued, and the dull turned to sharp. I turned around and walked home, sad.

When you train for a marathon, you traditionally run a maximum of 20 miles in the long run before the actual race – while saving the full 26.2 for race day. Theory says that the full distance is too taxing for the average body to run as a training distance, to be done again a short time period later. It turns out that that was probably true, given my knee pain was a new occurance and never experienced during training, or even during the marathon.

At the time, I took it as a sign that I should give running a break. And so I moved into yoga. It was a natural decision since running builds, thus tightens, muscles. First, it was Bikram in a heated, 110-degree room. Concurrent with snowboarding in which I sustained a torn shoulder labrum, I decided it was too intense the day my shoulder dislocated yet again during practice. And so I moved into Anusara. It is not so militant nor conforming and gives the mind the attention and evolution it deserves. 

Through Anusara, I’ve learned so much about my body – the importance of its balance and alignment. Also, just the importance of listening to it instead of ignoring it. Being in tune with it and living in harmony with it instead of beating it into submission. I’ve also come to love inversions (upside down poses) and while I have 3 titanium hooks in the front of my left shoulder, my shoulders can now support the weight of my body. Last week I was ecstatic to kick up into handstand without the support of a wall.

But, the running itch hit again. I had come to terms with it enough to order an updated pair of Brooks online. And so I set out. I trusted that maybe the right knee pain wouldn’t return since I was stretched out from all that yoga. And it didn’t.

Well, for a mile and a half.

I visited my orthopaedic surgeon, the one who performed my shoulder surgery. An X-ray later, he set my leg in different positions as he tested whether I felt pain or not. None of them made me exhibit pain or tenderness, which made him conclude that the pain is isolated in the patellofemoral joint – that is, where my patella and femur come together. It’s common in runners and athletes – and there is no cure, no quick surgery that can be performed. The only way to make the pain go away is to “essentially stop what you’re doing.” He recommended no-impact cardio to condition and strengthen my quadriceps and afterwards to begin lightly running. But to start up suddenly, running a few miles “will not work.”

It’s been said quite often that humans are just not built to run 26 miles in a row. I guess there’s some merit to that. But I’m not giving up quite yet. I crave the runner’s high that I used to get. I crave the efficiency at which my body used to metabolize. Running, for that time, was like therapy. It cleared my head, it gave way to meaningful thought processes and forever changed my diet. I have not tasted any frozen dinners which I thought tasted good since then since my palate has become sensitive to preservatives and additives. To me, this is a good thing.

I’ve quit the gym since my running days, so I think I’ll be visiting the L.A. Fitness down the street this week to see about a membership. Ellipticals, biking machines…all that no-impact goodness. As there’s no overnight cure and as I need to put in time to see if I can rehabilitate on my own, I’ll see. There still may be a 6.2-miler in my future, if not a 26.2.