Nicki Anderson: More to marathons than crossing finish line
By Nicki Anderson email@example.com October 30, 2012 12:10PM
Robert Delara after his finish and injury at the 2012 Chicago Marathon. | Submitted
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:39PM
The excitement of the Chicago Marathon and awe-inspiring finishers has quieted. Runners are back to their normal training, perhaps preparing for their next big race. But through all the excitement and praise of the finishers, what about those who don’t finish? What about those who train for months and are sidelined with an injury that dramatically changes the outcome? Two local marathoners, one a novice and one seasoned, share the other side of marathons.
Robert Delara started running after becoming unemployed in 2010.
“I was transitioning from a career in IT toward a medical degree, as I have always been into fitness and health,” Delara said. “I am currently studying to receive my doctorate in physical therapy. After seeing my sister-in-law finish the 2010 marathon as a rookie runner (35-plus, mother of two, full-time worker), I was inspired to sign up for the 2011 marathon.”
Anna Eich is a seasoned runner, and has completed nine marathons.
“This year I actually did not train for the Chicago Marathon, but for the Smuttynose Marathon in Hampton Beach, N.H., which took place one week before the Chicago Marathon,” Eich said. “My husband and I, along with several good running friends, go somewhere to run a marathon once a year. This past marathon would have been number 10.”
Despite the camaraderie and hours of focused training, there is never a guarantee that you will finish a marathon. The hope is to finish strong and without injury. That was definitely the goal for both Robert and Anna.
“My goal was to break four hours,” Robert said. “This year, I made the decision to run with a friend the entire way as well as joining a pace group. I ran with the NIKE pace team to go for a 3:55 finish. I stuck with them all the way, until I hit mile 25.0.”
That’s when Roberts’s calf started to cramp. His pace went from 9 minutes, to about 11 minutes.
“All I could think at that point was 1.2 miles was nothing,” he said. “Though the reality at that point was 1.2 miles might as well be 10 miles. I know I could have easily walked the last 1.2 miles, but I’m just stubborn. My entire year of training had been about breaking four hours. So, there was no way I was going to walk.”
Unfortunately, at mile 26 Roberts’s calf completely locked up just as the course started to incline. He was in pain and could literally feel the muscle bellies lock up and twist. At this point, he fell forward, and tumbled. From behind, two marathon spotters picked him up and asked if he was OK.
“The first thing I wanted to say was, ‘Thank you,’ but what I actually said was an angry word, I realized I wouldn’t be breaking four hours,” he said. “The last mile was the most grueling thing I have physically ever done.”
Robert ended up hopping 0.2 miles to the finish line. It took him eight minutes to hop 0.2 miles. He came across the finish line and finished at 4:02:49.
For Anna, her marathon ending was a little different, mainly because she never made it to the starting line. Anna’s injury happened while at work. An unfortunate odd turn at her desk caused her right foot to slam into a metal Logitech box beneath her desk.
“I knew right away that I had broken a bone,” Anna said. “It was a major disappointment. It was three weeks and two days from my marathon. After confirming the fractured bone with X-rays, I spoke with two doctors who advised me not to run the race or I would re-fracture the bone. It’s a major let-down to have trained all summer long and not be able to run the race.”
For now, Anna is only biking but thinking ahead.
“Right now I’m focusing on the next race. Most of us have the chance to go on and do other marathons. The training is not only about the one race, it’s about staying healthy, engaging in a sport you love, and about community and friends.”
As for Robert, though he was initially frustrated that he wasn’t going to hit his desired time, once he crossed the finish line, his thought process changed.
“When I crossed the finish line, I felt amazing, because so rare is the experience of pushing yourself to the limit. For us amateur/rookie athletes, the opportunity to “leave it all out there” is far and few between. So I just felt grateful and proud.”
Whether you’re a seasoned runner or new to marathons, the process is a challenge in both mental and physical toughness. Understanding that there are two sides to preparing for a marathon is vital, training to finish healthy, or dealing with the frustration of an unexpected injury. Most train to finish, some even to win. But it’s important to note that just the effort of training and perhaps finishing is a solid win!
Do you have an inspiring story about your journey to fitness? Share it with Nicki Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.