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Confession: I Didn't Run a Marathon

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Early this year, I shared a goal with you: I would run my first marathon on May 1.

Guess what? I didn't run it.

My training went well until I hit the double digits. I read up about marathon training, selected a plan for beginners and rose early several mornings a week to run. I did everything right, or so I thought.

I struggled to keep myself hydrated and fed properly while dealing with stomach issues on long runs. I fell 10 miles in to a 15-mile run, scraping and bruising my knees. I bonked during my 16-mile run, which is when I talked to Nancy about fueling and pace. (I was running too fast to sustain my pace over long distances, and I wasn't eating enough during my runs.)

I rebounded, had a wonderful 15-mile run, followed by a half-marathon in D.C. There, I pulled my hamstring and couldn't walk properly for three days. A sharp pain in my left tibia, which had been diagnosed a year ago as tendonosis, returned and worsened. After a few days of rest, in the midst of moving, I caught a sinus infection, which left me unable to run for a week. When I finally got back out there, my leg wasn't fully healed.

That day, as I hobbled home, I made the decision to drop from the full to the half marathon, and later, to defer my entry until next year. Friends who had also run marathons encouraged me through the tough times. One said she had only run as far as 16 miles before race day; another said he couldn't walk up stairs for two weeks after his first marathon.

Truth be told, I still could have run, but I likely wouldn't feel great today. There will always be another race, and I am accountable only to myself.

Last week, I met with an orthopaedist. After an X-ray and an exam, he determined I have suffered chronic stress fractures in my left tibia. They have mostly healed, which means I can still run shorter distances, but it's only a matter of time until I get another one. We're working to find the root of the problem. Until then, I'm doing a lot of walking and yoga. Truthfully, it's a great reminder to slow down.

Four weeks from now, I'll board a plane for Honduras, where I'll spend a week at a raw, vegan yoga retreat. It's my 30th birthday present to myself. That is a priority to me. What if I had run the race, injured myself more, and been unable to go on that trip?

Remember that quote I shared with you earlier this year? The one about not making a big deal about things?

"We don’t have to make such a big deal about ourselves, our enemies, our lovers, and the whole show." --Pema Chödrön

Over the last few weeks, I've returned to that quote. I've refused to get angry, sad, or even frustrated about not being able to run a full marathon right now. I didn't defer because I was scared, weak, or uncommitted. I did it because it was the right decision for my body, and no one gets to judge me for that.

Not running a marathon changes nothing in my life.

I am still a runner.

I still respect myself.

I am still a fit and healthy woman.

I see this not as a failure but an evolution, a chance to learn more about myself and my body.

Life gets in the way sometimes. You have to roll with it. Just because I cheered on my fellow runners yesterday instead of running 26.2, does not change who I am. I won't let it affect how I feel about myself, just like I won't let the number on the scale affect my self-worth. It's just a number.

To everyone who did run the full marathon, congratulations. I wish I could have been there with you. I someday hope to cross that finish line after 26.2 miles. This is not that time.

I have another confession for you: I don't like racing. I am not a competitive person, I don't like crowds, and I don't like to run with other people. I like the meditative aspect of long runs, the feeling of accomplishment when I'm finished, and the internal and external strength that running awards me.

I'm giving up racing for now. I'll still do the occasional 5K or 10K for charity, but I would rather save money and pursue other things that make me happier.

Without a training schedule, I'm free to hike, take long walks, and ride my bike. I can join friends for a Spinning class or deviate from my normal fitness routine. I can even take rest days without worrying that I'm jeopardizing my progress.

Let my "failure" be a reminder to you: Small goals are worthy of celebration. Walking a 5K, running a mile, exercising for 10 minutes a day--those are all accomplishments of which you should feel proud. You don't have to run a marathon, cook everything you eat from scratch, or bench press your own body weight. I won't feel like a quitter for deciding to change my goal and listen to my body, and neither should you.

No one judges you but yourself, and really, cut yourself some slack! Whether you need to lose 100 pounds or you're just trying to maintain a 5-pound loss, we're all fighting the same fight, taking the same journey. We're in this together. My body is unique, and so is yours. What works for me won't necessarily work for you, and what motivates you might not be what inspires me to get off the couch and lace up my sneakers.

Love yourself.

Have you ever set a goal for yourself, only to discover that it wasn't the right goal for you? Are you too hard on yourself?

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CECELW 7/20/2020
Great story. I'm so proud of her Report
SHOAPIE 7/19/2020
Thank you. Report
HOLLYM48 4/5/2020
Good for you. That was a really good decision. I did a few 5k's and 1 10K that I ran and then after a few years, realized it was really too hard on my body to run so I decided I really enjoyed walking those distances more. I wasn't in a competition with anyone else, I proved to myself I could do it and now I am content with a slower pace in walking! I think you made the perfect decision for yourself! WTG! Report
FITWITHIN 2/25/2020
I needed to read this today. I'm glad that I chose to click on the article. Report
Great story and you should be proud of what you did accomplish Report
So relate, I entered a 15km race. The course is a tough one that I had done before. I showed up but knew I wasn't trained enough to do it. So I volunteered, since I was there anyway. I think I had more fun as a volunteer than I did running the race. Report
Thanks for the great blog! :) Report
Just getting out there and running a mile is a fantastic thing. Don’t be so down on yourself! I have run 7 marathons and still hit that dreaded wall sometimes wondering “why am I doing this again?” .... I honestly don’t know why. Crowds don’t bother me, well the start line shuffle sort of is annoying, but overall I enjoy it. I think you’re a ROCK STAR for getting out there and giving it a shot!!! Even if you train for a “marathon distance” in private and run your own (secret) marathon. Be proud for lacing up and heading out!!! :) Report
I did not a marathon either. I trained for it 2007 but. I got I hired 2-3 weeks from it, running the 20 miles. I switched to the half marathon and although I felt a little defeated, I am glad I did. The day ran late to the point that I missed the team picture, I ripped part of my number and I could not find my teammates. It was humid in the morning which it slowed me down. It was very hard but I limped to the finish line. Got it done. I am disappointed at myself but when I look back, I am proud of myself for completing the half with an injury. Since then, I run/walk the 5k in the Hartford Matathon yearly. From time to time, I ran/walk a 10k. I can't do more. I don't suppose to run because of my arthritic knees. I still would like to complete but I know, I can't. I am content with run/walking 5ks. Report
I'm not setting any more goals. I'm going to let my body do what it will and be happy with it. I DO like running with a crowd more than by myself, so I'll do 5Ks because I love the camaraderie but probably not more. Who knows? If someday my body says "let's do 10K" or more, I'll listen. But I'm letting it call the shots, not my crazy brain. It's too unreliable! Report
Awesome blog and SO needed! There is no shame in not meeting a goal - you had a great reason (stress fracture - yikes!) and now you know yourself better having learned you don't LIKE racing! Sounds like to me you have achieved a much better balance in your life - and balance my friend is an amazing thing! Report
Thank you for this! I've been training for a half marathon (my first) since April. It's less than 2 weeks away and I now have plantar fasciitis. No matter how much I do to make it better in the next 2 weeks I'm likely kidding myself that I could actually run 13.1 miles and not injure myself worse! I'm having trouble letting go...and I'm still not letting go till race day comes in case by some miracle this pain is gone tomorrow...but when I finally make the decision I will cheer on my friends if I can't run. I wanted to just sulk and hide that day but I've decided I won't do that! Report
I needed this, thank you. I've been sick with the flu or something like it for a week now... it's been really disappointing/discouraging not to keep on doing what I've been doing so religiously for so long. I keep my head up by telling myself that it's worth it to focus on feeling better first so I don't work too hard and feel worse in the end. On the topic of goal-setting, having something to aim for is great, but I've learned the worst goals I've ever set for myself are weight-related. I remember how much I wanted to weigh 130 pounds on my 18th birthday -- I spent 5+ hours a day in the gym most days of the week and ate less than 1000 calories on those days (and when I had a day "off" from working out, it was often less than 500 calories). I dropped about 30 pounds in 3 months and finally reached my goal, but when I passed out twice visiting my grandmother in the hospital ICU, I finally changed that goal; it changed my whole perspective and my priorities. I'm happy to not even own a scale anymore, I know that my weight isn't going to get any lower than 140 (at least not by any healthy means) and I'm fine with that. Report
Wonderful blog. The first 5k race I wanted to run, I had horrible problems the day before in my legs. I decided it wasn't a good choice. I felt horrible at first but, a few months later I was well enough to run my first 5k! I like how you stay positive in the face of failure. You turned failure into something beautiful and rewarding. Thank you! Report
A great blog, I've run 2 Marathons in the last 2 years and am planning on doing my third next year and how I finished that first one I'll never know!! A catalogue of injuries hampered my training and meant that I was definitely not fully prepared for the heartbreaking 6 hours or so I was out on the course. In hindsight I probably shouldn't have done that first Marathon and was very lucky not to seriously injure myself. I learnt my lesson for the second one and was much better prepared and even managed to convince my Wife to run the second one with me and we motivated each other through the tough winter training (not nice!!) and stayed healthy and finished the race in a better time.

I wish that I'd listened to my body like you have and whilst its a shame for you that you can't run the full marathon distance you absolutely should be a proud runner, a half marathon is also no mean feat and I wish you all the best in your running and hope that the injuries you've had don't impact on your enjoyment of your running. Report
Stepfanie, I LOVE this blog!

I admire people who run marathons. The elite athletes that run the NYC Marathon every year, like Paula Radcliffe, make it look effortless but it's not. Running 26.2 MILES is a feat and it is not for everyone. It takes a great deal of commitment, stamina, steely resolve to take the punishment to the body and keep moving forward. It requires a high degree of training. I think marathoning has lately become an obsession, almost a "fad." Recognizing what is and what isn't for us, as individuals and as athletes, is the most important thing we can accomplish. I don't have the mettle for a marathon. I don't think I have it for a half-marathon, either.

Shakespeare wrote, "To thine own self be true." He was on to something... Report
I'm proud of you! way to stick to what you love no matter what!! Report
A reminder to all of us to listen to our bodies. Sometimes I get grief for doing this from certain friends. The older I get, the more I know to respect what my body is trying to tell me. And always, tomorrow is another day.

Best wishes and thanks for sharing. Report
You made the right decision by pulling out! Your health is more important than some race! :D Report
It is the the pursuit of your goal... the journey forward that is important and what really matters. The final outcome is just a dream to be imagined, but not finalized until the journey's end. Report
I do admire those that run marithons. I know that that is not for me. That is what is so nice about the choices we have. You may be surprised when you find that one thing that motivates you. It might be something that you would not expect. Mine is kettlebell training. I didn't know what a kettlebell was until Sparkspeople. I like hiking and yoga too. But I find that I have been kettlebelling more than the others lately.
Liked your blog. I am sure it hit home to a lot of people.
Have a nice time on your Honduras trip. The yoga retreat sounds great to me! Report
Due to nagging health problems that kept me from training well, I just withdrew from an upcoming race for the first time. I thought it would be depressing but now I feel like I really looked out for myself instead of trying to live up to everyone else's expectations. Now I'm back in training for another marathon feeling healthy, excited and more relaxed than ever since I know I'm doing it FOR myself instead of TO myself. Report
I loved this blog. I am fit and work out several times a week, but have never felt the urge to want to run a 5K or marathon, etc. or any sort of race. It's just not my thing. I almost feel like there is too much pressure put on everyone to try for these goals, when the truth is, it just may not be the thing for everyone. Thanks for sharing! Report
I totally agree. As a competitive person, it was hard to come to the realization that I do NOT have to compete with anyone else, but need to set goals that are right for ME! Report
Thank you! We sometimes will hear messages that are close to this. This just seems to me to be more personal because you are sharing your personal story. So thank you for remind us or telling maybe some of us for the first time a wonderful message. Report
This may be the most inspiring post I have read to this day. Thank you for sharing this with us, for loving yourself, and for standing for ME to love myself. Report
I have set goals that I didn't attain well. It was not fitness related, but last year I worked seven days a week from May until the end of September. Two jobs-one the regular Monday to Friday and the other on weekends with long hours usually starting immediately after the first job on Friday afternoons and returning late on Sunday evenings. I also thought I could pull off not one but two independant study courses on line during this same time frame.
I did finish everything, but I didn't do any of it well or to the best of my ability. The fact that the quality lacked so badly has taught me that while I can accomplish this, it means nothing if I can't be proud of my accomplishments. I am embarrassed of the quality of work I turned out last year ... I only did it because I was feeling pressured by one of my employers and I thought that it would be worth the enormous sense of achievement. That sense of achievement and accomplishment never came to be, which is why I will learn to work within my own bubble of best productivity and never stray from it again. Report
Great post. I especially liked the "you are only accountable to you" part. Report
"Not running a marathon changes nothing in my life. "

"Small goals are worthy of celebration."

"No one judges you but yourself"

"Love yourself."

I simply loved ur Confession!! You are so positive!!

Stay this way!
Cheers! Report
I was training for a 5K and ended up with stress fractures in both my shins. When I stopped running I gained weight and am now starting to turn things around again. I still think about running on occasion, but I am happy feeling pain free. Challenging myself through other cardio activities has taken it's place. Report
I don't care much about races , I run because I like it. I don't think injuring yourself is a good idea. Report
I've never cared about running a marathon. Report
Serendipity... Yup, that's what this is. I just wrote in my latest blog that I was not going to meet my goal of losing 50 lbs by the end of June. I am disappointed that I have falllen off a reasonable pace for weight loss. At the same time, I DID lose 20 lbs so far. And I am thrilled with that! So I am trying to celebrate the success that I have acheived and not dwell on my disappointment over a goal that is now unachievable. Report
Great blog. Good work. It takes guts to do that, but you've got them. Fitness-wise, I'm still trying to recover from all the setbacks I experienced a couple of years ago. I could have bounced back faster, but life got in the way.

I have experienced tendinitis in just about every extremity, so I can really sympathize with your pain and the setback. I just want to share with you that I, too, used to see an orthopedist for my problems. It worked at first, but eventually the orthopedist didn't know what to do with me. My physical therapist at the time suggested that I see a physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist) for a second opinion, and I'm really glad she did. I didn't know what specialty that was at the time, but I'm really glad I took her advice. Their training is very different (broader, I think), and they are, imho, much better at dealing with soft tissue injuries (such as tendinitis) and chronic problems than orthopedists. They are not surgeons, so they don't get all excited about cutting things up, but they do have some good remedies. My former orthopedist never figured out that one of my legs was a little bit shorter than the other, and he never really examined my feet as a possible contributor to the problems. My leg issue and my extremely flexible flat feet turn out to be central to my problems, so it has helped to know about these conditions and manage them. Good luck with your recovery. Sorry I didn't see you in D.C. I've been preoccupied, and I forgot the date! Please come back soon!
Janet Report
Great blog. Yup, I set goal of running first 5K, after training for almost 8 weeks. Shin splints and a cold so I have to set things back a bit. Trying not to be hard on myself for pushing myself too hard, too fast. Thank you! Report
You hit on a topic that we mostly seem to skim over, the subject of what to do when the goals you've set for yourself are no longer feasible. I can't speak for others, but when I broke a couple of vertebrae in my back, I went through the whole grief process - denial, trying to cut a deal with God, and a long time later, reluctant acceptance. At the time of my injury, the doctor mentioned something about compressed and herniated discs, but frankly the diagnosis of a broken back took my whole attention. Through the rehab process I did everything I was told - the walking of short distances, the use of ice and heat and the flexibility training. Finally I hit the magic 5 mile walk mark. I walked that distance 6 days a week for three weeks, then decided to start jogging. Three steps and I felt like my lower vertebrae were packed in sand and pebbles - I could feel bones grating together, and it HURT! I called my doctor and when he called back he told me to look at the discharge sheet. It plainly said running was out of the question. The whole grief process repeated itself and I've finally accepted that I will have to content myself with walking, biking and swimming as my cardio.
The lesson I learned was that it wasn't necessarily what I thought I could or should be able to do, it was what my body was capable of doing.

Listen to your body. Stress fractures are one way our body has of telling us something is wrong, as are continuously pulled muscles, muscle strains, shin splints and tendonitis. Report
I'd like to read this kind of truth in Fitness and Shape magazines for a change!! Real people. Good for you for being realistic, and still happy, not having to follow the "crowd" in all of their endeavors. Report
Thanks for this great blog! Report
Thank you for sharing your story. I wanted to run my first 5K this spring. Still can't run much farther than 1.5 miles. Its a struggle. However, I am proud that I can run, even a little. I think I would have an easier time if I had a running buddy. Report
Proud of you regardless of any outcome!! Report
Don't sweat it Stepf!

I wondered what happened when I didn't get any splits for you on Sunday; I was concerned. Pushing out past the 13.1 is a territory of great differences. I bonked in Pittsburgh back in March; thought my stomach would eat itself. That's when I realized I needed to EAT something during the run besides honey; my fuel of choice. I've also learned that just because the 20 mile training run didn't go great it doesn't mean that the 22 won't be awesome; it was. Now I'm into taper mode awaiting that starting line on May 15th in Mississauga, Canada. I'm trying to stay focused on the goal while ignoring all the aches and pains that have accumulated. I do better when things are structured, training or classes, but it would be nice to have an evening where I didn't "HAVE" to go run 10 miles. I miss my bike; it's still filthy from the fall. I'm ready to change things up, but not for a couple weeks yet.

Enjoy your trip to Honduras; you've earned it.

Namaste! Report
I ran my first marathon in Portland on 10/10/10. I'm REALLY busy...I work full-time and I teach two online classes for the community college on top of maintaining a home, a marraige and the world's sweetest Golden Retriever. Though I followed the training plan 80% of the time, finished the race, and had a great time, I haven't really run since (MAJOR time suck...about 5-7 hours running each week!).

I had planned to do the half Ironman last year. I can kill at swimming, I know I can run a half marathon (though I'm fabulously deconditioned), and I hate biking, so about six weeks into the training plan when I was supposed to start doing bricks, I threw in the towel. It was just too much work. I already work two part-time jobs, I don't need a third. I found I was approaching each workout with resentment and dread, and that's not what it's supposed to be about.

I'm much happier and more sane doing short (10-30 minute) workouts like the Spark 28-day challenge. I'm more likely to stick with something if it's not a huge time committment like endurance races are. I wouldn't trade my first marathon experience for anything, and I haven't ruled out doing another some time in the future, but it'll be a LOOONG way off.
You are not a failure! A few years ago I had decided to run a marathon. I was having some pain in my knees, as I have a neutral stride and do not displace the stress, so it was going straight to my knees. I put new insoles in my shoes for more arch support right before a 15 mile training run. Not such a good idea. I felt some pain in my ankle, but kept running. I completed the training run, but had incurred a stress fracture in my foot. Nonetheless, I did not run the marathon. I have staid away from any distance running since. I think this year I am going to run a half marathon. I have a lot of friends that have run many marathons. That's there thing and I love cheering them on. Report
I agree that you made the right decision. Our bodies have a wonderful way of telling us when our brain has over-reached its enthusiasm. Fortunately you were "woman enough" to acknowledge that running a marathon is not the best use of your time or your body at this time. Congratulations!
I was wondering if you have heard of virtual races. My understanding is that you choose your course and run your race when you want to. It seems to me that it might be something for you - no early morning wake-up calls, no crowds (but then no party afterward). Just a thought.

The sheer number of responses should tell you something! Everyone finds where they want to be and should be. I am not sure I will ever even aspire to a marathon OR half, but I am one of the happiest solitary 5K-ers around. Report
Thanks for sharing this. I wanted to be a runner but you know, I just don't love it enough. I am with you. the 5k and maybe a five miler once in a while is all I need to challenge myself. I rather weight train, work with my trainer and jog through my neighborhood just to get away from it all for an hour or so:-) Report
WOW......what a great blog! You did the absolute best for yourself.......I applaud you! Report
You did the only smart thing you could do - bravo for sharing you story. When you get injured sometimes the best decision to make is to live to run another day. I've been disappointed by race deferrals, but I've never regretted my decision. Report
I too have set a goal that I was not able to succeed at. As long as we keep trying our best we are making progress! Report
I also changed a goal. I love to volunteer at state and national parks. There was an opportunity to do this in Hawaii for 6 months starting in June, oh how I wanted this.

First killer, cost of airfair and camping equipment. I stopped camping about 6 years ago and got rid of my gear.
Second deal breaker was I have only been walking as an exercise. You have to hike in with 20 to 30 pound pack and back out each week.

So I have started walking. Found out I can do over 4 miles without too much
pain but I will not have enough time to get in shape and get my application in and approved. I am also looking into slowly purchasing used equipment.

So I have changed my goals, this year will volunteer in June closer to home.
Next year I want to go for Hawaii.
Walking Guide