Geraldine Tran

Running the Nike Women's Marathon

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The crowds of people, the challenges that lie ahead, the possibility that anything can happen may overwhelm an amateur runner as you enter your start carrel. However, once you start running, you realize that this race is ultimately about you. No one else knows the injuries, the sacrifices, the family issues that you’ve dealt with in order to be present at the starting line on race day.

The way I see it, making it to the starting in one piece is a bigger accomplishment than crossing the finish line. For me, the Nike Women’s Full Marathon (NWM) was not only an athletic win, but also an emotional achievement.

I went into this race without any expectations. My right IT band and knee have been hurting on and off since the San Francisco Marathon last summer on July 28. Just ask my roommates. I would come home after a morning run brimming with pride because I didn’t feel any pain for 16 miles. Other runs were discouraging, like the 12 miles I could hardly finish, a week before the Nike marathon.

So, I told myself that I would just try my best and see how far I got. Surprisingly, I ended up running 22 miles before my IT band flared up. At that point, I couldn’t keep pace any more, since bending my knee in a normal fashion wasn’t going to happen.

The good news was that I was only 4.2 miles from the finish line and that the Tiffany’s necklace and Nike finishers’ shirt would for sure be mine! After walking, jogging, limping and skipping to the end, I managed to finish in the top 30%. Although I didn’t reach my goal time, I finished a race I thought I had no chance of surviving.

Think 26.2 miles by itself is a long way? Now, imagine worrying throughout each and every mile about when your injury will manifest itself. During the first couple of miles, I felt stressed because I couldn’t predict when I would start hurting. Would it be Mile 4 or Mile 24? The possibility of having to drop out was scary too. However, I let go of fear to enjoy every pain-free mile I could get.

With this new attitude, I embraced my surroundings: the beautiful San Francisco coast, funny signs and T-shirts, and the energy all the runners exuded. I wasn’t embarrassed to high-five crowd-members, make eye contact and cheer people on. I just wanted to make the most out of every step my body would allow.

While people-watching, I was reminded of how much love surrounds the sport of running, from the recreational to elite levels. I can tell you from my first marathon experience that having loved ones at the finish line gives you tremendous motivation. (This time, I went at the race solo but celebrated with my roomies when I got home!)

Although I love running, and am so proud of myself for keeping up with marathon training while starting medical school, I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter in my fitness life. First and foremost, I’m going to take time to heal properly. Then, I can finally do sports with side-to-side movement again, like tennis, without feeling scared of obtaining an injury that would jeopardize my marathon ambitions.

I don’t know when my next marathon will be (maybe Oakland in March), but I learned that when a runner steps to the starting line, he or she doesn’t just bring athletic abilities to the race, but the months of life, personal struggle and breakthroughs that surround training.

Upcoming Bay Area Running Events:

Oct. 28: Great Highway 4M, San Francisco

Nov. 4: US Half-Marathon, San Francisco

Nov. 11: Embarcadero 10K

Nov.  18: Men’s Health Urbanathlon, San Francisco

Nov.  22: Turkey Trail Trot X- San Francisco Thanksgiving Run and Walk

Nov.  22: Turkey Day 5K San Francisco

Dec.  9: Golden Gate Park 10K

Dec. 30: Golden Gate Bridge Vista 10K

Feb.  03, 2013: Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half-Marathon

March 24, 2013: Oakland Running Festival (half- and full marathon, four-person relay, 5K, Kids Fun Run)