I signed up for four races this fall, and I had to skip two of them (including the one with finisher socks, which was heartbreaking, to be honest). Bronchitis had me down for the count, and that count lasted nearly six weeks. I signed up for the Youngstown Marathon (half), the Aruna Run, Youngstown Peace Race, and What We’re Thankful 4 Miler.
When I was running the Peace Race, I started to get a scratchy throat. I attributed this to all of the very beautiful, but very sneeze-inducing, foliage in Mill Creek Park. The day was gorgeous: Lots of sunshine and crisp, cool air.
Apparently, I was wrong about the foliage thing.
A day later, I came down with what seemed like a simple cold. When I saw sores forming on my hands and feet not long after my daughter was diagnosed with herpangina (same virus as HFM), I put two and two together and realized I had hand, foot, and mouth disease.
I let it run its course, but soon after, I lost my voice and developed a wicked cough. My doctor confirmed the HFM as well as a bacterial upper-respiratory infection. Ten days of meds. I thought I was on the mend, but 48 hours after finishing the prescription, I noticed a terrible chesty, croupy cough. I went back to the doctor and left with another prescription and a bronchitis diagnosis.
At this point, I wondered if I should even continue trying to run at all. When I visited my doctor once more, he ordered a chest x-ray and bloodwork just to make sure I was in the clear. When he told me I was finally better, my first question was…you guessed it…”Can I run an outdoor race on Thanksgiving?”
With one hand on his hip and a crooked smile on his face, he paused for a few seconds, tilted his head, and said, “Courtney, just do whatever you want. You’re a healthy 33 year old.” This, my friends, is code for, “I would like to tell you to rest more and not breathe in cold air, but you’re a runner, so I know you won’t listen — so just whatever.”
So, I was in! I was finally able to get back to it. There was just one, tiny problem: I hadn’t run more than 3 miles total in the last month or so. I know that four miles isn’t a terribly long distance, but when you haven’t run more than three miles over the course of a month AND none of those miles (all three of them lol) were outside, it’s a little bit of a feat.
Still, I was determined. This was a thanksgiving race, and these races are a tradition for a lot of people — runners and walkers alike. I know several people who complete once race a year: The turkey trot. I knew this would be the perfect atmosphere to get back into the swing of things.
Race day weather wasn’t ideal. The night before the race, the wind was absolutely insane. Branches flew off of trees and my windows in my 1932 Tudor home were creaking all night as the the gusts ebbed and flowed and swayed. I thought about staying in and completing the race on the treadmill (after all, they gave me the swag and the medal the night before at packet pick-up), but I felt motivated and determined for the first time in weeks. Oh, and new Nike cold gear pants helped, too.
I arrived at the race around 8:15 and met my bestie and her kids. We hung out inside the Davis Family YMCA for about 40 minutes or so. When we lined up, the announcer said that this was a record breaking year for registration: Over 600 people registered. Hey — I guess that’s how it goes when you offer legit swag like a hat and finisher medal (this is the first year this race offered either of these!).
After the Chaplin gave us a blessing, we were off. Like most races in our area, the first half of the course is a breeze. The second half is…well, not a breeze. Add in some gusts of high-ish winds and it’s even more challenging.
I knew I took off too fast (typical). I ran the whole first mile, and at about 1.5, I took a short walk break. I picked it back up until about mile 2.5. At this point, my left IT band started to tighten up a bit. Some of this likely had to do with the uneven pavement (ProTip: Do not run on even pavement if you suffer from a whiny IT band), but I’m sure a lot of it had to do with going from running a total of three miles in one month to running four miles in one race.
Honestly, if I hadn’t complete the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to go run four miles without training. I would have thought is was “too risky.” Well, few things are riskier than running a distance that someone died running the first time (whaddup Pheidippides?!), so I was down for this.
When my IT band started acting up, I took walk breaks. The people in front of me had the “when we get to X, we run” method, so I followed their lead: running when I got to stop signs, street signs, the top of hills or grades, etc. I was just happy to be out there.
I did more walking than running during the last mile, but I picked it up when I heard the music. Whether it’s a 50k or 5k, there’s not feeling like hearing the DJ and realizing that you are, actually, almost done (not to be confused with the lady at mile 1.8 who is yelling “you’re almost there!).
The best part of this race is that I felt good when I finished it. I walked away without limping or coughing non-stop. I didn’t have one coughing fit during this race, and I was told to be prepared for that considering the cough from bronchitis can last long after the infection or virus clears the body. Granted, I took my prescription suppressant before heading out, but who cares? I didn’t hack up a lung!
This race was my turning point. It was after this that I was finally able to get back into somewhat of a routine. It was this race that kick-started my thinking that I could, indeed, train for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon in 2020. It’s on like donkey Kong (I just annoyed myself by saying that).
This year’s training isn’t just for me. I’m running to support Steel City Greyhounds! These adorable rescue pups were waiting for a round mile 19ish and made me cry happy tears when I wanted to cry sad ones. You can support my fundraiser HERE! #retiredrunners #rungreyt