It’s 2020 and I’m Not Running in the Olympic Marathon Trials Like I Planned

A few weeks ago, watching the USATF Indoor Track Championships with my leg propped up recovering from surgery on my injured hamstring, I found it ironic that I was drinking a beer from my 2018 Houston Marathon Finishers mug. That was the last marathon I ran fully healthy, where I “shoulda, coulda, wish I woulda” qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon coming up this weekend. Instead, I crashed and burned both physically and mentally before I even hit 10 miles. I was left reeling for months, pondering the end of my competitive running career.

After months of laying low, I decided I couldn’t leave on such a bad note. I put in the training and got back into shape. Races were not great; it wasn’t due to fitness, rather unfortunate circumstances and what seemed a comedy of errors that derailed every effort. But I was very confident in my training and as I approached the Twin Cities Marathon in October 2018, it was only fitting that my race plans would yet again be derailed. A few weeks before the race I developed an injury, but thought I could run through it with a quick fix from the chiropractor and PT. Shockingly, the race did not go as I had hoped. Later, my non-runner husband broke out a calculator and observed, if only you had been running in those new springy shoes that make you faster. 4% and you would have been pretty close to the standard and probably would have been able to push harder if so close to goal pace.

After lengthy time off and multiple opinions before I felt confident in the diagnosis, I started physical therapy. I was aghast when they told me it could take up to six months to heal! So long! But not impossible. My immediate thought was I need to go buy myself a pair of CheaterFlys before they are banned. Six months recovery, I’ll still have time to train for a fall/winter marathon and have a shot at qualifying.

Six months later, there was little improvement to the injured hamstring. I ditched my PT and found a more aggressive one. We tried everything in addition to regular exercises, stretches, Graston, ART, scraping, needling, you name it. We also focused on making sure connecting areas were strengthened. Like Shakira at the Super Bowl, these hips don’t lie.

Still no improvement. I went to see a sports specialist up at the University of North Carolina. More MRIs. More scans. More tests. Same diagnosis. With time to actually train for and run a marathon quickly running out, I was approved to pursue more invasive treatments since nothing to that point had worked. Scheduling a timeline of Cortisone shots with the doctor, my first thought was like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber:

I wore this shirt to my surgery for motivation. Unfortunately if I have learned anything throughout the past 18+ months, the only thing that seems unstoppable is my hamstring injury.

So you’re saying there’s a chance. I need to go buy myself a pair of CheaterFlys before they sell out, since they clearly give a distinct advantage but they’re not banned yet.

Unfortunately I failed to respond to the cortisone treatment. Next stop PRP (platelet replacement protocol). With the protocol the doctor set up for me, there was now no chance to even start training before the qualification window closed. I can’t say I was crushed, as this was more of a slow squeeze ordeal. My insurance doesn’t cover PRP, so at first I needed to decide if I was willing to pay so much for something that wasn’t guaranteed to work. Fortunately, I got lucky, and found a way to have it covered through my primary care provider. The therapy supposedly has an 85% success rate. I still didn’t respond. At least I didn’t shell out $2K to find out it didn’t work.

Back to UNC and the only option left: surgery. If you had asked me at the beginning of this ordeal if I would ever consider surgery, I would have given an emphatic NO. But this is what it’s come to. And about those Cheaterflys? If everyone else is now wearing them, would I go against my own moral judgment and beliefs and wear them just to start on a level playing field? Just ask Lance Armstrong why he started using PEDs.

So here it is over 18 months after I tried to qualify at Houston, and instead of running the Trials in Atlanta, I’m watching them on TV. But some things are still the same: I still can’t run, my hamstring is still damaged, and the Cheaterflys are still unfairly influencing race results.

I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. Former competitive runner (3 x marathon OTQ & trail marathon national champion) currently working through a lingering injury. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids and moving into a new post-competitive stage.

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