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What Running Injuries Can Teach Me About Climbing - Jess Taverna

 
What Running Injuries Can Teach Me About Climbing - Jess Taverna
What Running Injuries Can Teach Me About Climbing - Jess Taverna
What Running Injuries Can Teach Me About Climbing - Jess Taverna
 
December 03, 2012 - 
 

Yesterday, I was supposed to run my first marathon. Over the last few years, I’ve run a bunch of half marathons and a 17 mile mountain race, but I’ve never gone the full distance. Having grown up in Boston, the allure of marathoning has been strong since before I ran my first race; with an inherent competitive fire and nostalgia for my hometown, running a marathon is always framed within the context of running fast enough to then go run Boston.

 

Yesterday, I was supposed to run my first marathon. Over the last few years, I’ve run a bunch of half marathons and a 17 mile mountain race, but I’ve never gone the full distance. Having grown up in Boston, the allure of marathoning has been strong since before I ran my first race; with an inherent competitive fire and nostalgia for my hometown, running a marathon is always framed within the context of running fast enough to then go run Boston.

Yesterday’s race had been on my calendar for over six months; for most of the year leading up to it, I’ve had great running success—PRs, pushing new boundaries on trails, logging consistently higher mileage. While conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t really “race” your first time at the marathon distance, with three months left to train, I was no longer in it just to finish; I wanted to see how well I could do. Unfortunately, my body rebelled—it’s not unlikely that I did a little “too far, too fast, too quickly” with my training. A stress fracture put me out of commission for most of the fall, and by the time I got my legs back under me, I was less than six weeks from race day and lucky to battle my way through five miles.

And so I took the marathon off my calendar (literally, off my calendars—the physical ones hanging in home and office, the virtual one accessible from any number of devices, the training plan I methodically organize and tick off) and tried to put it out of my head—to help with that task, I unsubscribed from the race’s Facebook page and told the organizers, as nicely as possible, to please stop emailing me updates. And when race weekend approached, despite the fact that Rick and I already had been out of town almost every weekend this fall, I insisted that we had to go somewhere, anywhere.

We ended up in Zion National Park, where the “off” season meant nearly empty campgrounds and even emptier routes, and a peaceful quiet. We put in a full day on Saturday—long approach, long route, lots of raps, long walk back to the truck. The approach included some bushwhacking, some meandering and backtracking that normally would have driven me nuts, but somehow, on this weekend, I took it in stride. How could I complain when those off-trail “mistakes” led us past an incredible icy-toned blue spruce and a calcite-covered boulder that looked like a home improvement tiling project waiting to be finished, the calcite chunks shimmering and perfectly fractured. Over the course of the weekend, we climbed many perfect pitches and witnessed amazing sunrises and sunsets; we also had a mini-epic with twisted ropes on a long rap that necessitated jugging lines (Rick) and leg-numbing time at a hanging belay (me). And I smiled and laughed through (nearly) every minute of it.

Losing two races to the stress fracture—only the latest in a run (ha) of injuries that have taken me out of running for months at a time over the past four years—was frustrating, but my oft-interrupted journey in running has helped my climbing in ways I would never have imagined. When a running injury strikes, while it might be ignored for a bit, if it is serious, ignorance can only persist for so long; eventually, it will insist on being noticed. And when it does, you can throw all the training programs, all the race day goals, all the plans for next week and next month and next year out the window. For this Type A planner, list-maker, structure-seeker, the disruption caused by those injuries has forced a kind of reckoning, not only with each specific instance, but overall with how I view my relationship with running (and, by extension, climbing), how I measure success and track progress, how I find happiness and fulfillment and growth in these things I do ostensibly for fun. Over the next few blog posts, I’m hoping to explore this shift more—how I’m evolving from constant frustration at every failed send or lack of traditionally-measured progress to trying to find the “little” victories in every day out. This weekend in Zion, I didn’t climb any harder than I have regularly before, didn’t send any projects or push any (conventional) limits. This weekend, the “little” victory was finding joy in everything—gorgeous splitter hand cracks and grovelly chimneys; deer snacking their way through our campsite and sliding down sandy scree gullies.

 

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