Pulling out of a marathon due to injury is one of the hardest, most emotional experiences, which I just learnt first hand having had to pull out of Paris. You spend months telling yourself you can, you can — when your body is shattered on a cold training run and you have a couple more miles to go, “you can” — only to finally say “I can’t”, it’s pretty hard to stomach.
I signed up for Paris Marathon back in August, full of excitement, and signed Ed up for the ride too. It would be my third marathon, so I was well aware of the epic journey I was signing myself up for — believe me, I’ll never think 42km is a breeze. After struggling so much with shin splints last year, I was amazed not to feel even a twinge through training this year and felt strong running Cambridge Half Marathon in March and scored a half marathon PB (a first ever sub 2-hour half!).
Things went a little down hill from there. I ran Cambridge Half in new trainers (mistake) and it had a pretty bad camber the whole way. My left hip got a little twingy and I spent a couple of weeks assuming it was just a mega tight hip flexor, but after much foam rolling, it never really settled down. Add to that 'Beast From The East' which made training not as regular as it should have been, plus a bout of food poisoning, and with a month to go, I was starting to feel a little bit sick about the whole idea — though still, determined I could go the distance.
My hip got worse and worse, to the point I’ve spent the last 2 weeks limping, and running as much as 3km in Barcelona last week truly felt like a feat. With just 5 days to go, I woke up in tears with the realisation it just wasn’t going to happen. Going into a marathon with a ‘bearable’ pain is stupid, and never going to go well. 42km on, and I could be dealing with a far more long-term injury, not to mention a traumatic experience I’d probably never again choose to repeat. Though, that's a mindset I only have now in hindsight. At the time, I felt like a quitter.
I cried all morning when I made the decision, I felt like a failure. Yes, there’ll be other races but I wanted to do this one. I worked for this one, I had my sights set on this one, and even though it’s because of an injury and there’s nothing I can do about it, I couldn’t help but feel like a quitter. I think part of the emotion was also the underlying relief that I’d finally listened to my body and wasn’t going to put it through that trauma, but I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming sad.
I cried on my cycle, I cried in the gym, I cried in the shower. I’m well aware to anyone who’s not a runner, this probably sounds highly melodramatic, but to train your body and work for something for months, and then fall at the last hurdle, is, well, devastating.
When I shared it on social media, I felt like I made it ‘official’ to myself that I wasn’t doing it, and I know it’s stupid but I couldn’t help but think people would think I was weak. In reality, the very opposite. I’m still overwhelmed with everyone’s lovely words and messages of support, and it was that, all of my friends, and peers and fellow runners hammering it home that I was doing the right thing and listening to my body, that finally made me come to terms with not doing it.
Today is Paris Marathon and I'm here in Paris cheering on Ed (an absolute superman). Yes, it's emotional seeing everyone in their kit and at the start line, but in my heart, I know I've made the right decision. (Physio has told me it's piriformis syndrome — nothing serious but not worth running on yet). Fellow runner Francesca, said: do you want to run a marathon or do you want to be a runner? And that's exactly it. There'll be more races and more marathons, so long as you put your body not your stubbornness over sense first.
In the meantime, I'm here to be the best cheerleader I can be, and I'll reset my timeline and get a new goal in the calendar.