Overcoming an Injury and the Comparison Trap

I crossed the finish line of the Utah Marathon in June limping and in pain–but happy. This was by far the best marathon I had run, and I finished exhausted and exhilarated.

Coming down the shoot

Coming down the shoot

I didn’t achieve a BQ, which was my Plan A, but I did achieve an 18 min PR and it was the first marathon that I didn’t stop to walk (VICTORY!). When I crossed the finish line, I felt a rush of emotions. In my head, I felt great, (despite a weird shooting pain behind my knee that occurred mere feet from the finish line), exhausted, slightly disappointed, but also, proud. I found Jeff and Rudy waiting for me and after double checking that I did not manage a BQ Jeff said to me, “Don’t worry. We’ll keep going until we get it.”

By the time we got back to the hotel and I had given him a play-by-play of the race, I knew he was right. I wanted another chance at that BQ. Which was huge for me. Every other marathon I had run before this, I had crossed the finish line saying “Never again”. And then inevitably, I would get the itch to do another one 6 months down the road. But not this time. I was hungry for another the minute I crossed that finish line. I even had started to think of possible races I could run within a few weeks for another shot at it before registration opened in September. Alas, it would not be so.

Enter: The mysterious foot pain.

You know when you spend a whole day walking around in flip flops and you get that soreness on the bottom of your foot? Somewhere within the arch at the heel? I had that for several days in both feet after the marathon. It started immediately after I ran 3 slow, painful miles two days after the race. I got back to the house, and my feet were sore. I figured it was race related, of course, and that it would be fine in a few days.

Fast-forward a few days and my left foot felt great, but the pain persisted in my right. It stayed there, taunting me, for six miserable weeks. During that time, I did what I could to maintain my fitness. Barre workouts, strength training, yoga….all stuff that I could do without a lot of impact on my feet.

In the beginning of September, I was back at it. I could run without pain and felt stoked for a new season of running.

Now let’s focus on what I’m facing now: The Comparison Trap.

I don’t really compare myself to other runners. Sure. There’s always that one person during a race that you pass and then they pass you and you continue to play leap frog until one of you kicks at the end of the race and beats out the other. I’m always going to want to be the one who wins. Duh. But. There are people that I’m faster than, and there are people that are so much faster than myself. There are stronger, more talented and more determined runners then me. I’ve been an active lurker in the blogosphere for a long time before starting this little space, and I’m in awe of the amazing comebacks I’ve read about; the woman who run race after race and seem to never fatigue; the women who bust out 100 mile weeks like its nothing… Those women are inspiring, and maybe a smidge intimidating, but never truly a standard I feel any pressure to live up to.

Instead of feeling inadequate when compared to other runners, I fell into the trap of comparing myself to…myself.

I was in the best shape of my life before running Utah Valley. I was running better then I ever had before, training was stellar and I felt good. Six weeks after knocking out that race, I was struggling to run three miles. And don’t even get me started about running at MGP.

I’m a competitive person. I played organized sports. I have two brothers. I have it in me to compete. The great/crappy thing about running is the only person I’m really competing against is myself. And when I got back out there, I got frustrated. I got upset. I got annoyed that my legs felt like they ran 18 miles when it was barely three and my mind wanted to go to 18.

But, here I am. On the cusp of training for a half-marathon that I’d really like to PR at. And the only thing I can do is start again at zero. Utah Valley Nona is in the past. I may, or may not, live up to that again. I may even surpass it. But right now, I’m nowhere near where I was four months ago. And truth be told, I’m nervous. What if I can’t get myself into PR shape in 8 weeks? What happens if -*gasp* – I don’t PR?

I can sit here and say “Big deal. I get to run. I get to RACE! I’m not sidelined by a foot injury, or suffering from burnout. I get to be out there doing what I love”. And it’s really and truly the truth. But the other truth? I want to PR. I want to run fast. I want to surpass my last half-marathon self. I want this race to be a jump start for the next bout of marathon training and another step closer to getting that BQ.

So, I’m going to work hard. I’m going to run hard, and smart, and take care of myself. And when I can’t say I’ll won’t still be jealous of UVM Nona, I want to be at the start line in eight weeks, feeling strong and healthy, and ready to run the best race I can.

Do you ever fall into the Comparison Trap? What do you do to overcome it?

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One thought on “Overcoming an Injury and the Comparison Trap

  1. Pingback: Fueling. What the F$#@?! | Running High

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