I've always said the toughest part of marathoning is getting to the start line. By that, I mean it's so difficult avoiding the minefield of injuries, sicknesses, weather calamities (hurricanes come to mind), and anything else that forces you off your training schedule. Downtime is especially deadly to a goal time.
Kurt is a perfect recent example. He's already suffered through a kidney stone and suspected chronic shinsplints, although we now have a correct diagnosis after a bone scan -- four stress fractures along both tibia bones. His orthopod recommends eight weeks off the roads, two of which are completed. He can't run until early June, at which time he'll be fitted with a custom orthotic and hopefully that fixes the biomechanical problem causing the fractures.
So what now? Six weeks off the road, with this 3:59 time goal looming, is tough to overcome. So do we give up Chicago (Oct 9)? Move to another marathon down the road -- NY (Nov. 8), Palm Beach (Dec. 4), or Disney (Jan. 8)? A later run makes a lot of sense to sensible people, just ask Kurt's orthopod -- but my first question is, is Chicago salvagable? And still run 3:59.....
Maybe -- and a wild and fascinating experiment it could be. The first key is that Kurt spins on the bike like a maniac for the next 6 weeks (improving his oxygen uptake, effectively substituting the bike for hard speed runs), then acclimates to the road during June (run and walk on soft surfaces, continues spinning) , then starts a 14-week program in July that builds to three 18-22 milers and includes two weekly speed and marathon pace runs. Total mileage tops off in the high 30s to 40. Doable?
"I have to be perfect," Kurt says this morning. "There's no margin for error."
True enough. Of course, any hope of success rides on the custom orthotic. Kurt's body is not efficiently distributing the stress of his footplants, hence the fractures. But I'm optimistic. I had a suspected stress fracture a year ago after not wearing my custom orthotics. After months of battling what I thought was a shinsplint, I took a couple months off, then trained and ran Chicago in my orthotics without another problem. Good chance a custom orthotic for Kurt will do the trick too.
No, it's anything but an ideal situation, but if successful, Kurt's second marathon will be that much more powerful. And I'll have someone to run with.