Training for the Cleveland Half: Disappointments & Set Backs

The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, during which I will be running the half marathon, is in less than a month. 26 days, 20 hours and some odd minutes to be exact. And I just had the worst week of training I’ve had since I began back in January.


My husband is not coming to the race.

If you know me and/or us together, you know that we are a team. We get all Jerry McGuire up in here and do that super cheesy thing of completing each other. Speaking just on my behalf, he pulls me back down to Earth when I get all lost in the space and anxiety of my head; he grounds me. He pushes me and encourages me. He supports me like no one else; he believes in me. He has been my rock through the dark days of training for this race, offering me encouragement and chocolate milk and, one time, a Bloody Mary. He rubs my sore legs and feet. He makes dinner when I’m running something ridiculous like twelve miles. He makes me snacks when it’s obvious I haven’t consumed enough calories in the wake of a long run. He tucks me into bed when I am just too tired to stay up past nine o’clock.


And he’s not coming.

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. It felt like a crushing blow to my self-esteem when we finally figured out that he could not be on the sidelines holding up de-motivational posters to make me smile as I ran by. He won’t be there to deal with traffic getting to the expo and the hotel. He won’t be there to walk through the busy expo with me. He won’t be there to help me wake up the morning of the race. He won’t be there to get the coffee or help me get some breakfast. He won’t be there to calm me down before the start of the race. And, most disappointing, he won’t be there after I cross the finish line to celebrate with me; to celebrate my hard work and the time I’ve spent out running on the road and away from him and the kids. He won’t be there.

Like a kick to the gut, I tell you.

The reasons as to why aren’t necessarily important but involve a mixture of work related issues and things involving children. Despite the fact that I rationally understand and accept the existence of conflicts in schedule as part of being a family unit, the whole thing still stings.

After a cry in the shower and putting on my big girl panties, I started to get used to the idea.

And then came the set back.

Set Back

I felt a twinge in my back on Wednesday. I shrugged. On Thursday, I woke up and couldn’t move.


For those who are newer readers, I had a debilitating back injury in 2010. In July of 2012, after treatments from a chiropractor, physical therapy, an MRI, and involving a neurosurgeon, I had a series of steroid shots in my back — and for the first time in a year and a half, I was finally pain free. In mid-August, I slowly started running again — and the rest is history, viewable on my Runkeeper account.

And so the pain wasn’t a mystery. I knew it well. I sucked in my breath and stared at the ceiling from my wrenched-back position in bed and knew: My shot had worn off. I had run out of time. The pain was back with less than a month until my first half marathon.

Devastated doesn’t cover it.

I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday wallowing in both pain and pity. Big time. I cried a lot, both out of physical and mental anguish. Any time I would have a moment where my lower back didn’t feel horrific, I dared to have hope… only to have it crushed shortly after moving to a new position. I didn’t run. I didn’t get on the elliptical. I didn’t walk. My husband and I agreed that I needed to rest. And so when I wasn’t working or sitting outside with the boys, I was on the couch or in bed. Moping. “After all this work I’ve done, I’m not going to get to run. I’ll gain all of the weight back that I lost that I originally gained when my back was hurt last time and I’ll just be a miserable human being again.” Yes, I was in that place. Possibly even worse, but we don’t need to go there.

On Sunday, I got up — still in a lot of pain. But I got dressed anyway. Feeling a little better, we went to church. On the sunny, warm drive home, I got over myself a little bit. Then after lunch, I took a short nap. Upon waking up, I decided to fully get over myself.

Yes, this stinks. Yes, it’s a set back. Yes, I’ve worked hard. Yes, I have pain. Yes, it’s unfair. But life goes on.

I called my pain doctor this morning and left a message. I’m hopeful that I won’t need a brand new MRI as it hasn’t been a year since my last series of shots. I’m hopeful their response won’t be, “Well, go see your neurosurgeon first,” because my neurosurgeon just retired. Two weeks ago. I kid you not. I’m also hopeful that I’ll wake up tomorrow and my back will feel like it did two weeks ago: just fine. Some of these things seem doubtful, but hope in the face of adversity is really the only option.

And so, back to training for this half marathon.

I ran last night. Three slow miles. The only time my back doesn’t seemingly hurt? When I’m running. At least when I’m running slowly. Maybe it’s the stick-straight, Forrest Gump type posture I have learned to run with because of my back injury. Maybe it’s the endorphins. Maybe it’s God. I don’t know, but I’m not complaining. That said, last week was a recovery week, so I only missed one four mile run. This week was supposed to be a normal week (2, 5, 2, 11) — the last of such before the race as my taper begins next week. I am ditching this week’s training plan and hoping to run another recovery week (3, 3, 3, 4) with total rest days in between every run, more than one if necessary. I am now approaching my training from a “Day at a Time” point of view. I have to; I suppose it goes back to the lesson of learning to be flexible. I don’t quite know if I’ll be able to get any long runs in before the half. I don’t quite know if I’ll be able to run the whole half at this point. I’m pretty sure that my mantra of “don’t worry about speed, just concentrate on finishing” is even more true this week than it was when I first began. I do know that I will be there, giving my best — whatever that is at the present time.




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9 Replies to “Training for the Cleveland Half: Disappointments & Set Backs”

  1. You can do this, Jenna. You’ve trained hard. Hard and long, and you can do this. I am so sorry you have these struggles to contend with, but I believe in you.

  2. I totally believe in you. You can do this. You’ve been such an inspiration and I just know it’s going to get fixed, it’s going to work out. I’m so glad you’re taking some time to just sit in the disappointment, because it’s there, it’s real. It’s hard. For sure. Sending so much love and hope and light and all good things to my most favorite half marathon trainer!!!

  3. You’ve got this. Also, since hubby isn’t going to be able to make it, do you have any running buddies to meet up with? Races are fun with friends too. Hang in there.

  4. Dude I love you! And I will be there with my foam finger and my very funny signs cheering you on with my big loud mouth. If you need me to be your husband that day I can totally do that. Plus I am 1000 times cuter than he is.

  5. I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented before, but I’ve been reading you for years. Just wanted to let you know that I feel your pain, as I’m in the same boat. After suffering a stress fracture in my foot in December 2012, in January I started training for my second half marathon, the KY Derby half, which is this coming weekend. About 2 weeks ago, I started having twinges of pain in my groin area (related to some other ongoing hip pain), but I was able to carry on with all of my training runs. However, last week I was running an easy taper run, and my groin seized up and I suddenly couldn’t even walk. My doc said to stay off of it for a few days and then try again, which I did yesterday. I couldn’t even make it a mile before it happened again. I just turned off the treadmill, sat down on the belt, and cried. My race is in 5 days and I can barely walk right now. I’m so mad at myself for getting hurt and frustrated that I probably won’t be able to do the race at all. I hope that you have enough time before your race to maybe be able to address your pain and still be able to run. Sending positive, healing thoughts your way!

  6. My heart was breaking for you during the first half of this post. Not having your rock there will be such a huge bummer :(

    But then as I read on I was blown away by your determination to get up and get dressed and get out and run. For someone like me who has a lower back injury, is at the beginning of a huge weight loss journey and wants to try and run a simple 5K, you inspire me. You really do.

    I’m rooting for you, Jenna.

  7. Jenna, I’m so sorry you’re having back troubles. You’ve really been diligent with the training, though. Even if you miss a run here or there, your legs are like, “Damn, we’ve got this.” Sending good vibes that your back will make it to the party (and behave!).

    I dream of the day when my kids will be cheering me on from the sidelines and waiting at the finish line of one of my races (hasn’t happened yet due to logistics). Stay strong! I’ll be rooting for you from Michigan!

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