If you've met me in person, though, you know I'm not built like a runner. I'm tall and weighty (and unfortunately getting weightier as I age), which absolutely excludes me from ever being (or even enjoying being) a sprinter. But twelve years ago, after discovering the joys of running for fun and fitness on Chicago's 17-mile trail along Lake Michigan, I noticed that longer distances were getting easier and easier to run ... so I took a deep breath of trepidation and registered to run the Chicago Marathon. The experience was supposed to be a bucket-list one-and-done, but I was so moved to tears by what I'd worked to accomplish just to cross the starting line that I vowed I'd keep doing it until I got too bored or too injured.
Well, duh. Injured. You can't spell marathon without injured. And though I'd survived my first marathon from my first official training run all the way through to the finish line -- which I did pretty much cluelessly all by myself with no official training program and no running buddies -- without a single injury, I started falling apart regularly every year after that. Especially in my feet. Oh, and in my ankles. Oh, and in my knees too. But -- unlike every endurance runner past, present and future -- I thankfully never had to endure the misery of chafed, bleeding nipples.
I just said nipples.
Anyway, Facebook just reminded me of a particularly troubling injury I had eight years ago -- mere days before I was due to run my fifth Chicago Marathon -- where the top of my right foot suddenly grew a painfully tender ostrich egg. I got an emergency appointment with one of Chicago's leading running doctors -- named-for-the-wrong-body-part Dr. Chin -- and learned that I had stress fractures in all my metatarsals; my body had built up a gelatinous goo of cartilage to protect it; and the muscles, tendons and fatty myelin sheathing around the nerves in my foot had started to swell in reaction to everything as though I'd had a sprain. And there was no way it was going away before the race.
But! Apparently it was a not-uncommon injury, and Dr. Chin showed me how to take care of Mr. Foot by icing it day and night, popping ibuprofen like Rush Limbaugh at a rave, saying words like analgesic and ouch, and lacing my right running shoe across my toes, up the sides and then across the top to minimize pressure on my precious baby ostrich while still maintaining a locked-in fit that would keep my foot from slipping and flopping as I ran.
And it worked! I was miserable for the entire four-plus (but still not five, because five is just embarrassing in the cool running circles) hours I ran, but I finished, I got my medal, I did my traditional walking-backward-down-the-steps-because-I-didn't-trust-my-knees-to-bend-forward-without-an-ugly-topple to find a cab on Michigan Avenue, and I went home to whimper. And stink. And shower. And keep whimpering. And then eat four pints of Ben & Jerry's in alphabetical order according to flavor name. Seriously. Because that's how I rolled after I ran each marathon. Or limped. Whatever.
The 2017 Chicago Marathon is tomorrow. And while I feel injured just from typing that sentence, I'm still thrilled that I was a part of it for so long. And I'm even more thrilled for all my friends from across the country who have trained all summer and are running this glorious -- and gloriously flat -- race this weekend. And whether you're a first-timer or a veteran and whether you're injured or in perfect working order, I hope you all enjoy every moment of the experience -- from the enormous expo to the cheering Boystown throngs at the best water station on the entire route to that cruel, cruel hill on Roosevelt Road at mile 25.9 to the mountains of free bananas in the finishers corral. You rock, I'm already proud of you ... and get ready to start blurting out your bragging rights in song to every stranger on the street.