So I'm Not Running the Marathon This Year

Today, I decided not to run the 2019 Chicago Marathon.

Yeah. It was a big decision…but it wasn’t a hard one. Or at least it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The decision came from one major place (a tearing/sharp knee pain), and was finalized by my deciding that I wasn’t in love with running enough to risk blowing out my knee.

Let’s start with the physical issue. My right knee has that awful pinching pain again. It’s the same issue I had in 2017 following my first marathon. It’s complicated to explain, but it stems from the fact that my alignments are off from the hips down. The alignment has been like this my entire life, but started causing me issues only after I was pulling 20+ milers. Basically different tendons and muscles pull and pull all the way to my knee, where the pulling ends at my meniscus. Which is decidedly not an issue I want to deal with.

I can possibly, with lots of expensive PT, negate some of this. But the risk for a torn meniscus is definitely there, and I had to decide whether the risk was worth it…which made me realize I didn’t feel that it was. Given that two years ago I’d thought the opposite, this realization made me reevaluate whether I even really enjoyed running anymore at all.

Woof okay. Let’s start by talking about how I started running. I played softball as a pitcher for almost my entire life, from age 6 until the end of Junior Year of high school. Heading into senior year, I was told that I would ride the bench senior year, due to an impressive 8th grader coming up to high school. This was upsetting, especially after all the work I’d put in (though those days pitching with my dad are some of my favorite memories of high school, so not all is lost) so I wanted another outlet, in addition to band. So I joined Cross Country.

Man was it different than the catty softball team. It’s no shock that I’m a weirdo, and while that’s “quirky” now (#ManicPixieDreamGirl) I was teased a lot in school. I had my friends in band and other places, but they weren’t on the softball team. However, the cross country team did have a lot of my friends on it already—they were chill girls. Very. They were accepting, fun, relaxed, and honest to god I wish I had done Cross Country all four years for the support I got from that amazing team, our coach, and his wife. That lead me into track, where I was MEDIOCRE, but damn it I loved my team! I loved sucking.

End of senior year, I saw an Orthopedist who told me to stop running unless I wanted to end up with a blown out knee. Since I was heading to college where I would be in Marching Hundred, I decided I would listen. That was it for my running for the next five years—I wouldn’t start again until 2014 when I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k, and even then I wasn’t really doing much. Moving to Chicago is what reinvigorated my interest.

In 2015, I moved to Chicago into a small but cute apartment in Gold Coast, on Lake Shore Drive. My first weekend there I went for my first real run in 6 years. I ran because it was beautiful out and I was in love with my city. I ran because I was so happy and I felt free when I did so. And so soon after, I joined Nike Run Club thanks to my friend Jenn, and I felt that community I loved so much that senior year in high school all over again. I was in love with running. I cancelled plans to get to run club, even when I didn’t feel like I really wanted to go.

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When Nike decided that NRC wasn’t worth the cash it was throwing at it (#Salty and also, lies, because I bought a ton of Nike stuff as did everyone else once I joined) and the group fell apart…so did my running. I tried 3run2 four times over the next two years. All four times I was left in the dust (apparently 9:00/mile is slow) and while people were nice, I felt like such an outsider. It wasn’t going to work, no matter how I tried to force it, and the fact it took me an hour to get there (they meet in Logan Square) just made it harder I stick with them. And so I was adrift. I liked running with a team, and running solo wasn’t doing it for me after such great experiences in high school and at NRC.

I found EDGE in 2017 for the marathon and had a pretty great time with them that year. I enjoyed the team…but running was my stress relief, and it started to feel like a chore. I was constantly checking my pace, checking my mileage, and panicking about whether I could actually finish the marathon. When I finished, I felt unstoppable and in love with running again…and then my meniscus started to hurt and I panicked. I saw a PT and got an MRI—no tear, but that’s how I learned about the complicated series of circumstances that led to my knee being in frequent pain (like not when I was running. Sitting, lying in bed, it was constant sharp pain). So I drifted out of running and fell more in love with other fitness.

This is a really long winded way to say that over the years, I’ve lost my magical love of running and I think it has a lot to do with two things: pain that comes with intense training, and feeling like running is a chore or a job now. When I was chatting with my mom about it, I admitted this: I just wanted to run a couple of times a week for fun with a group again, pain-free. Namely, I’ve been wanting to run with Heartbreak Running Co, because they just came to Chicago. But I keep feeling like I need to be with EDGE since I’m group training with them…but I’m not sure I want the pressure that comes with running with a lot of people who are after a PR. I started PR’ing just by maintaining a steady schedule and challenging myself in my own time.

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FYI, I love EDGE. LOVE IT. When I was trying to PR my half, they got me there…a 7 minute PR at that! I love Coach Robyn—she’s the tough love type I sometimes need, is completely brilliant, and her sense of humor is hilarious. Her husband, Brian, is awesome as well. Their recovery facilities are top notch and the community is awesome. It’s just not what I need right now, at this time.

I will still be fundraising for Dare2Tri! The company I work for does employee charitable donation matches up to $1000, so I am collecting on my own, and then donating myself (so Publicis will match). If you’d like to donate, email me at brittany@britness.com . My goal is $750, as Publicis will match that to get to my $1500.

So anyway, I’m trying not to sound like a whiner or someone who isn’t dedicated. In the video game world, they’d call me a “casual.” In that world, it’s an insult. I’m trying not to let it feel like that to me now. I’m fighting with myself over whether or not I’m a “quitter” for throwing in the towel over sharp knee pain and burnout. (Having a doctor’s “I can’t talk you out of it, but you probably shouldn’t” advice helps) But whether I like it or not, I’m not running Chicago this year…and I’m making peace with that.

—B

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