On March 18, 2012, I completed the LA Marathon. 26. 2 miles from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica. On foot. In a city noted for its cars and traffic, making that trek, especially sans car, is quite an accomplishment. It was my first full marathon.
My training for the marathon started seven months before the actual race. I signed up with a group called the L.A. Leggers (they offer different pace groups depending on one’s level and goals) and the first Saturday we met, we ran one mile. Every Saturday thereafter, rain or shine, we’d meet in Santa Monica and run. And run.
During the week, the plan was to do a couple of short runs and some cross-training – I would spin, swim or hike. I really worked to stick to the plan — especially the Saturday long run. The consistency provides both the physical and mental preparation for the ultimate 26.2 miles.
Two weekends before the marathon, I was out of town in Ojai: a small, picturesque town about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles. Come Saturday morning, I suited up for my weekly training run. At this point, my longest run to date had been 22 miles. Now, I was “tapering,” which is the competitor’s term for “winding down,” and resting up for the big day. I needed to put in about 8 to 10 miles.
It was perfect running weather: sunny yet cool, no wind. Ideal for a not-too-fast workout. At this point in my training, I was really as ready for the race as I was ever going to be. I just had to stay healthy and not let my fitness lapse. Around 8:00 a.m., I took off up into a beautiful neighborhood of rolling hills, oak trees and Spanish-style homes north of the main road through town. After about four miles, I decided I’d head back across the main drag to tour the sites to the south.
When I run through neighborhoods, I tend to run in the street, heading towards traffic, near the curb. It’s easier than having to navigate sidewalks, driveways and pedestrians. My run that morning was going great – it was nice to take a break from the familiar Santa Monica to Marina del Rey route. As I was running along, I decided make a left deeper into the neighborhood. To make the turn, I ran up onto the sidewalk. The corner was shaded by a tree and I remember looking across the street at a sign that announced the “Art Center.”
One second I was running, the next second, I was flying. My left toe had caught on a two-inch raised section of sidewalk. I thought, “I can save this.” But I couldn’t. I went into a full “slide into second” pose and made an eight-point landing: hands, elbows, knees and ribs. I’m sure I made some horrendous grunt when I hit. I was thinking of getting in touch with a personal injury lawyer such as Valiente Mott considering the uneven sidewalk was due to someone’s incompetence when laying the slabs, I was too focused on making sure I wasn’t extremely hurt though.
Of course, I fell right in front of two men walking towards me across a driveway and a woman who was trying to pull her car into the parking lot. “Are you okay?” everyone gasped. I hadn’t hit my head and did a brief inventory of everything else. “Give me a minute,” I said, and I sat up. Then I stood up. I had to get out of the way of the woman trying to get her car into the lot. And I really wanted to get myself out of there, too.
I have to say, I had told myself it was only a matter of time before I would fall down while running. Others had fallen on our training runs; friends have fallen during races. I wasn’t immune.
At this point, I had two choices: I could call for some help – a ride back to the motel. Or, I could walk a bit and see how things felt. It is not in my nature to give up easily. After walking a couple of blocks, I decided to see how it would feel to start running again.
Turns out, it felt okay and I found a wonderful trail that ran under oak trees and next to a stream. I would have missed some beautiful scenery if I’d given up.
I continued to run another five miles, which of course gave me plenty of time to think. Participating in an endurance sport like running, cycling or swimming — it’s easy to draw analogies to life and work. We’ve all felt the satisfaction of finishing a long, difficult task. Of going above and beyond what we would have thought was our limit. Of tackling mental and physical challenges, that when overcome, teach us that we can face even greater mental and physical challenges.
Most people don’t look forward to falling down; I know I don’t. It’s scary. Luckily for me, I didn’t break anything and I recovered from my scrapes and bruises in a couple of weeks – just in time for the marathon.
But what falling down did teach me is that I can get up. I can overcome some pain and fear to go further. If I’d called for help when I stumbled, I might have doubted myself the next outing.
Completing my first marathon, a lifelong “maybe,” is one of my greatest personal achievements. But somehow that fall really stays with me. I don’t want to fall down again, but I will. Literally or figuratively. And, barring any truly devastating effects, I know I’ll be able to get up again.
Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based small business marketing, branding, social media and content marketing consultant. Could you use help with your content marketing strategy and execution? Click to find out more about Martha Spelman. If you don’t subscribe already, please sign up for Martha’s Blog: Marketing Musings and Tips du Jour.