Spring training had been going splendidly. I was running relaxed, happy and strong through February... And then I encountered a number of different obstacles as outlined here. Long-story short, what originally appeared to be a flair up of IT-band/piriformis chronic over-use type syndrome turned out to be more acute, and more serious. Unfortunately, pin-pointing the etiology of pain is not aways straight forward, and less than two-weeks before Boston, I came to learn that mine was due to an acute back injury, likely disc-related and likely resulting from my treadmill fall in late-February. I started with physical therapy and maintained high hopes that with the rest of the taper, I'd be fine to run on race day. Unfortunately, I continued to have some pretty significant impairments in my left leg secondary to sciatic nerve impingement. As I began to better understand the nature of my injury, the reality set in that the risk of further injury by running the marathon was quite high. Initially, I opted to highly downgrade my expectations to "take things very easy" yet still run. However, after seeking a third opinion from a spinal specialist and swallowing my pride, I made the grueling choice in the 11th hour prior to the race to focus on my long-term health rather than attempting to start and finish the marathon at all costs. As much as I thought I might regret not starting, I knew I would definitely regret injuring myself even further possibly risking the remainder of the season ahead. It was a tough and heart-wrenching choice but one I knew I had to make.
Despite my decision not to start, my husband was still set to run, my family had already began their trip north to watch us and our flights had already been paid for. A big part of me would have rather just stayed home this past weekend to avoid the blaring reminder of what I was missing out on. The hubby said he would skip the race if I didn't want to go, but I could not allow him to do that. He too had worked very hard for this race and deserved the opportunity to put that work into action.
We flew into Boston around noon on Sunday afternoon and were in and out of the expo and back to our hotel by 3:30. The expo was fun, but crowded, and we did not stay too long this year. Understandably so, I was not to "into it" or the other pre-race festivities and we were tired from traveling. It's a hard position to be in, to be at the expo, pick up your packet, race number and race shirt, to breathe in the excitement of the pre-race vibes all while wondering whether I had made the right decision regarding my personal race, but I never doubted my decision to be there in his support while also enjoying some quality family time.
Race morning was an early start. After a low-key breakfast, I drove the hubby to Hopkinton State Park and dropped him off for the shuttle for the race start. This was the hardest moment of the day for me and I shed a few tears before making the short drive to back to the hotel. After picking up my family, I continued the role of chauffeur and we made our way towards the finish line to spectate. Driving even short distances has been painful for me in the past few weeks, so I was thankful to be able to serve my family in driving them around and to be pain-free at that.
Once we arrived downtown, we made our way to the Prudential Shopping Center off Boylston Street where we camped out the majority of the morning awaiting the finishers. Having arrived pretty early, all was relatively quiet as we walked the final mile of the course. Everything was in it's proper place and it was the calm before the storm (quite literally).
We hung out in the mall food court for a good two hours before heading outside again. It was quite ideal actually, as it provides shelter from the wind and rain which was slowly picking up and I was able to keep tabs on the elite race being televised at the Apple Store :) About 45 minutes before the hubby was predicted to finish, dad and I made the trek outside to try to find a spot to stand along the final stretch. Turns out, the police force closed all the security checkpoints in the area immediately surrounding the finish, so we had to walk a solid mile out of the way only to work our way back towards the finish line. Once we arrived, I found a small spot to squeeze myself into and waited on the hubby. Thanks to the stellar Boston Marathon phone app, which gave real-time race splits complete with projected finish times, I had a good idea of exactly when he would pass by and was able to spot him pretty easily and flag him down (him being towards the front of the pack where it's MUCH thinner also helped a ton). As planned, he swooped over to the side to give me a smooch before sprinting the final stretch to finish with a shiny new PR like the rock star he is!
While I had been waiting, the rain had begun to pour down steadily. After his finish, I found the hubby in the family meeting area and quickly got him into dry, warm clothes (see soaked post-race outfit shot above). We did not stick around, but instead immediately located the rest of my family and began the long-trip back to the hotel for the evening. And that was essentially it for our quick Boston trip.
I obviously have some unfinished business with this race that I will come back to complete, God willing, when the timing is right. I have no re-qualification attempts planned in the near future so it will not be next year. For now, I plan to take a break from marathons and focus on other things (i.e. triathlon) for a while. When it's my turn, I know I'll make it back to officially take that trip down Boylston Street and fulfill my childhood dream. For now, I take comfort in knowing that God's timing is perfect and He is leading me in the direction I am meant to go.
As for what lies ahead, I do not wish to dwell on this setback, but rather, put my energy into my recovery and making the most of the many opportunities that still await me in the season ahead. Last but not least, I want to offer my sincere thanks to all who have supported me in this process, including my wonderful coach, my husband, my family, my physical therapist and many friends and fellow runners. Your words of encouragement and wisdom are cherished and I am blessed to have such a strong support system around me as I continue to chase big dreams in the years to come!
"When you lose something, don't think of it as a loss; accept it as the gift that gets you on the path you were meant to travel on."
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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