I ran along the night-darkened Chester Valley Trail alertly watching the path illuminated by my headlamp for ankle-breaking walnuts. It is early fall and these little round land mines are everywhere. I was doing my usual Friday morning run with a local group of running friends. Truthfully, this is my favorite morning of the week. In a few short years this group of men and women have become some of my closest friends. We discuss everything during our runs and afterwards as we enjoy a reward of coffee.
Being mid-September, the discussion revolved around fall marathons. Some had already completed their fall races, most still to come. Lauren and her dad, Mike are doing Chicago with Jamie and another Mike. Karen is preparing for Wineglass in New York. (She’ll kill it, by the way.) The list went on. Others are doing the Philadelphia RnR Half-Marathon. Fall is peak race season for runners. The excitement builds as training winds down and the madness of taper begins.
I’ll admit to feeling a bit lost in the conversation. For the first time in seven years, I do not have a fall race planned, or a long distance event on my radar. In fact, with the on-going athletic pubalgia and hip labrum issues, the idea of nearly any sort of racing in the future is questionable.
This particular morning, I was running with 3 fastish friends. We were certainly not running a hard tempo run but the pace quickened a bit as we went along. At mile four, I was still feeling pretty good. I began to think that maybe I could just ignore the injury and train through it to get back to racing again. It really isn’t that bad. But then it never is for five or six miles. Shortly before mile seven I was forced to drop back a bit. The adductors and core muscles in my left side began to tire as they always do since this injury occurred. My left foot began to shuffle as it became harder to pick up my leg. I had to focus and concentrate to properly lift my foot and run.
Meanwhile, 2018 Boston Marathon sign-up is in full swing. The way it works is that you have one year to clock a qualifying marathon time to be eligible to apply for the Boston Marathon. If you run a fast enough qualifying time, the Boston Athletic Association offers you the opportunity in September to apply for the Boston Marathon the following year. Running a qualifying time and sending in your application and fee does not guarantee you a spot. The BAA accepts the fastest runners first, and works their way down the list of qualified applicants until the race is full. The end result is that as I scroll through my Facebook feed, my healthy and fast running friends are rightfully proud to post screenshots of their submitted application. Soon to follow will be confirmations and some disappointments.
I am excited for all my friends that get to go experience the amazing thrill of the Boston Marathon again or for the first time. Selfishly, it is hard to see knowing I may never be able to run a fast 5k again, let alone a 1/2 marathon or marathon. Over Labor Day weekend a large portion of my local running friends participated in the Downingtown Loop marathon. I had every intention of spectating and cheering especially since at least one of our Friday morning runners would be doing her very first marathon.
When the morning arrived, I stayed home. I should have gone to be supportive. I should have been there to cheer on my friends.
Watching a race is inspiring. It makes me want to run home and sign up for the next one. I want to dive right in and run along with those that have completed the difficult training. I want to go out for those long runs at 4:00am. I want to run hills and do focused track work. I want to toe the line on race morning anticipating watching 26.2 miles tick down to single digits culminating in crossing the finish line completely spent. I want to experience the chest-pounding thrill of a sub-twenty minute 5K, collapsing in the nearby grass after the finish. I want to know I earned my right to be there. To go and watch others race knowing I may never do that again . . . I just don’t know if I can and I sincerely apologize to my friends for not being there.
It was still dark on the trail at mile seven. I watched the red flashing lights of my three fast, healthy friends recede into the distance. I would be the last off the trail this morning. Later, as we sipped coffee, discussing life and laughing I wondered how my appeal to my insurance provider was going. It had been at least two weeks since I had submitted it and I had no word yet, although I was pretty sure I already knew the outcome. I decided to call later in the day.
It turns out the call was not necessary. I received the following letter from my insurance. They are resolute.
Where do we go from here? The short answer is, I don’t know. Our benefits feature a guidance hotline to help find care. I may call them, go through the situation and see what they recommend. I suspect they’ll recommend nothing. While insurance is quick to deny the only known successful treatment for athletic pubalgia, they have no recommendation for an alternative. “We don’t have the medical knowledge to give you guidance”.
Meanwhile, for the first time ever, we have hit our maximum out of pocket for medical expenses. Interestingly, this is almost entirely due to this same injury. The vindictive side of me wants to start going to the ER for every hang nail, or splinter. Perhaps I can sign up with a pain management specialist through the end of the year or maybe get that heart transplant I always wanted.
Oddly, hitting my maximum out of pocket gives me a new hope. I do have a plan. Stay tuned.