Choosing Not to Run: Why I Didn’t Run Mt. Charleston

I was ready, so ready.   

I had trained my body.

I had prepared my mind.

I was going to soar down the Mt. Charleston course.

Every sacrifice was going to be worth it when I crossed that finish line. 

The 3:30 am alarms.

The Saturday long runs.

All the miles.

All the work.

But I didn’t get to.

I chose not to run.

And even though it was heartbreaking, it was the right choice.

So what happened?  The short of it is I got an injury 4 days before the race. Here are how those last 4 days unfolded and why I decided not to run.

Tuesday, April 25th, 4 days before the Mt. Charleston Marathon, I had my last speed workout.  It wasn’t a challenging day, the goal was just to get my legs awake and alert for their job on Saturday.  I got the work done and although it was more efforted than I would have liked (totally normal for a taper), there was a distinct tightness in my lower back that left it feeling hot and inflamed.  Running slowly back to my car I think I told my friend Amber how sore it was. It made me nervous, but I still wasn’t that worried.  I had been dealing with a lot of inflammation in my lower back during this training cycle, all the speed and downhill running put a lot of stress on that area.

However as the day progressed, the tightness turned to pain, like real pain: pain standing, pain sitting, and pain walking.  I still wasn’t panicking yet because I had an appointment with my physical therapist for later that day.  When I met with my PT, we discussed the newness of what he deemed to be an SI issue and the treatment options that could be done in such a short amount of time.  While I was in his office, he called a sports medicine doctor that I had seen before and they discussed the benefits of a cortisone injection in my left SI joint.  We all felt like it might provide the necessary, short-term relief to get me to the finish line.

Wednesday, April 26th, 3 days before the marathon, I had 10 easy treadmill miles to get in that morning, I made it 6.23 and stopped.  My lower back and left SI joint area hurt and I knew it didn’t make any sense to push through 4 more miles.  I still wasn’t panicking, I had my cortisone shot scheduled for 1 o’clock that afternoon, and I felt confident that relief was coming.  The injection went fine, it honestly didn’t hurt as much as the dry needling I had experienced.  The doctor was optimistic about running the marathon.  He kept saying, it just depends how your body responds, and he cautioned me that cortisone injections can take anywhere from 24 hours up to five days to feel the full effects.

Thursday, April 27th, 2 days before the marathon, I slept in and did no running.  My SI joint felt better, but I didn’t.  I felt tired and worn out and even had a low fever.  I dismissed it as stress.  After school, I had my last adjustment with my chiropractor.  He did some cautious adjustments to the SI joint and my lower back, but he was concerned about doing too much to the joint after the injection.  That night, I put ice on it and planned on testing a few easy miles out the next day. I didn’t sleep very well that night.

Friday, April 28th, 1 day before the marathon, I woke up hopeful that I would feel the full effects of the cortisone.  I was hopeful that a few easy miles would give me the assurance that everything could still come together, but it was the opposite.  The joint was stiff and painful, and that was while running three, easy, flat, treadmill miles.  I began to wonder how in the world I would make it through 26 miles, down a mountain, as fast as I could, and most importantly, not risk further injury.  I called my husband in tears.

Despite everything, we decided to drive down for the race anyway.  I think my husband knew that I would have to exhaust every reasonable possibility or glimmer of hope before I would be able to give up on this race.  I was still clinging desperately to the idea that Saturday morning I would wake up and ‘poof’, the injury would be gone, and the cortisone would kick in like a magic potion-it didn’t. 

We arrived at the race expo and I met up with the We Run Social crew and some friends which was by far, the best part of the day.  I was still toying with the idea of running and taking the first 3 miles easy or just going out and “seeing what happens.” But, in the same breath, I kept thinking if hurts to sit, and walk, and lay down, running a marathon is going to make it much, much worse. By the time we left the expo, panic had set in, I was still so unsure and so conflicted about what to do. Plus, I think the stress of the previous three days had me feeling worn out, emotional, and just off-not the way you want to feel before a big race. 

Still undecided my husband and I headed over to Whole Foods for my normal pre-race rice bowl and a few other things.  As we walked around the store, I became so dizzy and nauseous that I had to go lay down in our car with a brown paper bag tucked under my chin in case I got sick. 

And that was it.  After everything, laying in our car was the moment I had to accept that no matter how much I wanted this race, it wasn’t going to happen.  It wasn’t even just the injury, if I was too sick to eat and fuel then I was too sick to run. When my husband got back to the car, we were both quiet for a minute before I said, “I can’t.”

Then I cried.

Disappointment.

Frustration.

Heartache. 

All of it.

This one will probably sting for a bit.  It was the maybe-could-have-been-dream-race that never was.  It was months of solid training, sacrifice, and hard work without even a finisher’s medal to show for it and that hurts. 

Despite all of that raw emotion, I know that not running was the right call.  I still don’t have a full picture of what’s wrong with my lower back, I’ll get a post up when I do.  I’ve seen my chiropractor and I’m meeting with a different doctor this week.  My chiropractor told me, based on his assessment, that if I had run this race (and I wouldn’t have gotten the goal I had trained for), it would have set me back months with an injury. As far as the fever and the nausea goes, I’m not sure, maybe it was the stress, maybe it was something else, I just don’t know.  I feel confident that my body was trying to tell me something, a lot of somethings actually. As athletes, we are very in tune with our bodies, and when they are giving us feedback, we have to listen, even when it’s hard.

On Saturday morning I thought about staying in bed and a big part of me wanted to.  I thought about drowning my sorrows in peanut butter and outlet shopping, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  Instead, my husband and I drove to the bottom of Kyle Canyon, about mile 20 of the marathon, and I got to cheer my heart out for all the runners.  Marathoning is a tough sport and I saw so much grit and spirit, it was impossible to not feel inspired. 

When I saw my friends, I teared up a bit, it was such a bittersweet day.  I wanted so badly to be out there with everyone, battling for those goals and dreams.  Charleston didn’t end up being my race, but it was certainly a day worth celebrating.  I had many friends who got the PR’s they’d been working for and my friends, Sarah and Kristen, both WON! 

Part of running our lives is knowing our limits.

Part of running our lives is cheering for others.

Part of running our lives is learning to listen.

Part of running our lives is finding the strength to overcome obstacles. 

And I will.

Happy running friends. -Katie

Have you ever had to choose not to run a race?

What’s a running injury you’ve overcome?

Have you ever gotten a cortisone shot?

10 thoughts on “Choosing Not to Run: Why I Didn’t Run Mt. Charleston

  1. Jennifer says:

    This made me absolutely tear up! But I know you absolutely made the right choice! I honestly think a finisher’s medal that you had to force your body to run for and sustain more injuries would have been worse than no medal at all. And it totally sucks. I think it was so brave you went to mile 20 to cheer too. You are truly a class act and an amazing runner. You have big things ahead my friend! I have never doubted that for one second. Sending you all the love and healing thoughts!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Jennifer you are so sweet! Thank you for all your support! It was such a bittersweet day, I was so happy for my friends but so sad to miss out. My heart just wanted to get to race that one! Each day I can feel my back issues improving and I even get to run 2 miles on Saturday. It might be a long road to my next marathon, but I’ll get there! Happy running! -Katie

  2. Sarah says:

    Katie this made me tear up. I still can’t understand the reason why this happened when it did. Tout inshore me and I can’t wait to hit the pavement again with you 😙love you friend!

  3. Regina says:

    Thank you Katie for sharing your emotions and thought process with all of this. How amazing for you to work so hard and then to be so wise to listen to your body. I’m so glad that you didn’t push it only to compromise your future. I pray that you will be able to figure it all out and how to move on slowly.

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Regina!
      Thank you for your kind words and understanding. Having the doctors reaffirm my decision has helped me come to terms with not racing Charleston. Running is not a short term goal for me, I want to still be doing this 30 years from now. Happy running! -Katie

  4. Angela C Boonstra says:

    You made such a tough but such a smart decision. Whether you used it or not, that training cycle happened and you made progress on your longer-term goals as a result (even if you don’t have a race to prove it). I’ve been struggling with the weirdness of SI joint issues and the associated hamstring “pain” on and off for about 6 months. And I FINALLY said enough is enough I’m taking time off. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Angela! Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to read this post. I’m so sorry that you’ve been struggling with SI issues, I wish you a speedy recovery. I think you’re right, the work showed me that I can get faster, next time I just need to be smarter. Injuries teach us that and running always teaches me so many lessons, even the lesson of taking a little break. All the best to you! -Katie

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Kristen you’re the best! I’m so proud of you and everything you worked for! You inspire me!

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