By Dr. Katie Zimmerman
I hadn’t run a full marathon since October of 2011, but when I got accepted into the New York City Marathon it was a no brainer that I was going to run and train for it. New York City is one of favorite cities and the opportunity to be able to run through all five of the Burroughs was amazing to me. I knew going into it that it was going to be a challenge. It requires much sacrifice in both your time, body, and energy. I knew it might be harder than a few years ago since I am a few years older and my body was pretty beat up after the last full marathon that I ran.
Running is something that I have always had a passion for and it is an amazing form of exercise. I made a few changes while beginning my training for the marathon. The biggest change was that I altered my diet to a Vegan diet for several months starting in May of 2014. Almost immediately after altering my diet to a plant based diet I noticed a change in my energy levels. My energy increased so much that I was much more awake and alert in the mornings which was a change for me as I am not a morning person. Changing to the Vegan diet also helped me to lose a little bit of weight that I had put on over the cold winter months where I had been more sedentary than I had been in years.
The change in diet and energy levels really helped me to be able to spur on my training. Although, during my training I did encounter several different pains besides the normal muscles aches. Initially when I started increasing my mileage I was having some lower back pain and left hip and leg pain and some numbness which was unusual for me because I rarely have lower back pain. To help get back on track I increased the frequency of chiropractic adjustments and I had a few treatments on the decompression table which really helped. Later on in my training I had quite a bit of foot pain which made it uncomfortable every time I took a step which then also altered my gait and caused spasm and a lot of pain in my right calf. So not only did I have foot pain but also calf pain. The calf was so tight and uncomfortable that I could barely walk up and down stairs. I took almost two weeks off from training to let my calf and foot heel up a little bit. During this break I iced my foot and calf, wrapped my foot and calf, stretched, used a foam roller and used cold laser on the areas. I also then got a new pair of shoes. All of these things helped to make it feel better. It wasn’t a hundred percent but it was a great improvement and continued back into my training and running my long runs which were now up to 18 and 20 miles.
About two weeks before the marathon I went out for an easy 7 mile run and I felt fantastic. This run made me feel so confident and ready to run the marathon since I felt like I wasn’t running as fast or as well as I was a few years ago. After this run I was so excited and ready to run. Unfortunately the next day I woke up and I had significant pain in my right knee. I could barely get dressed because I couldn’t lift my leg up enough to put my socks on or pants on without having a lot of pain. I was panicked knowing the marathon was so close. I knew no matter what that I was going to complete the marathon whether I ran it the way I planned on or if I had to walk a lot of it. I was going to do it. I had invested too much time and energy not to compete and enjoy this marathon. So I did all the things I could to help it feel better. I got an adjustment, iced my knee, rubbed arnica gel (a natural anti-inflammatory), stretched, used cold laser therapy. It started to feel better in a few days and it only really hurt when I went up and down stairs and when I rolled over in bed. Two days before the race, to my relief, my knee felt almost back to normal and the day of the race I woke up excited and feeling great.
The day of the race started very early. I was up and dressed and out on Madison Avenue walking towards the New York Public Library to pick up the bus that would take me to the starting line at 5:30 in the morning. The excitement and anticipation from all the other runners was in the air. Listening to people talk about their journeys to get to the marathon was inspiring. The run had over 50,000 people running 26.2 miles. This was the largest number of runners and finishers of any marathon ever and it was on a day that was quite chilly and had wind gusts of up to 40mph. To have people running next to you from different countries, with different body types and different abilities and knowing that everyone was running and enduring the cold and windy conditions and was working hard to finish was very inspiring.
Running along the streets of N.Y.C. lined with spectators the entire way helped to boost my energy to run. Running past a line up of N.Y.C. police officers and firefighters cheering you on is an indescribable feeling. It was a tough day and the bridges were rough with the strong winds either making it feel like you weren’t going anywhere or blowing you off to the side. At mile 23 is when I hit the wall. All the sudden all of my energy was spent. My legs didn’t want to move. I could barely keep my legs moving. I knew I had run the first half of the marathon too fast which I have a tendency of doing, so at mile 23 I walked for about a minute. What briefly ran through my head was that I knew I would finish but I might have to walk the rest of the way. Then I realized I was tired walking too so I might as well try and run the rest of the way. So I dug down really deep and mustered up the courage and strength to start running and keep running the rest of the way. I also knew that I was going to see my sister, boyfriend, Mom, Dad, and niece somewhere along mile 25 so that kept me moving. When I saw my family at mile 25 I waved and smiled and was so happy to see them. That spurred me on to the finish line. I finished in 4 hours and 38 seconds which was less then one minute slower than my last marathon that I ran in 3 hours 59 minutes and 52 seconds. I was just so happy that all the hard work got me to the finish line and I learned to just enjoy the run. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Running and training for a marathon is a large challenge and you do hit points where you aren’t sure if you can do it or if your body can hold up to all the training and pounding on your joints, but it is achievable. It makes you realize all the other goals and challenges you can conquer in your life. There are always going to be hard things and obstacles that come along in a lifetime and knowing how to handle the problems and achieve and accomplish goals with tenacity and fearlessness are true tools for life. Taking care of yourself along the way by exercising, eating healthy, drinking water, yearly appointments with your doctor, chiropractic adjustments, and resting your body when necessary are just great ways of living your best life possible. Whether its running a marathon or running a 5k or making a goal to lose weight or stop smoking if you stick with things and work hard you can accomplish your goals.