I started this blog when I fell running and broke my elbow in 2012…
I live in the great white north and the winter of 2015 has probably been the toughest winter I have ever run through. It got cold in January and it stayed cold. I don’t recall another year where I did multiple long runs needing a face mask to prevent frost bite. The sidewalks were a mess and the running was miserable. I also succeeded in re-spraining my ankle in February.
Fast forward to April…It finally warmed up. The snow melted, the Boston Marathon was only three weeks away. Final long runs were on solid ground with good footing. I was actually able to start riding my bike outdoors. It felt like we had all paid the price for running Boston in training this year but we were ready.
On April 12th (8 days before Boston) I did a final long run with the group. We all felt pretty good. As we were running we came to a chain across the road, someone suggested jumping over it and I said not me I would probably break something, we all laughed.
I had to work that evening but it was a beautiful day so I tagged along when my husband went for a bike ride in the afternoon. I turned around early so I could get home and take a shower before I went in to work. About one km from home I pulled up on the right of a car to turn left. The car was also turning left. The driver was rocking out big time to some heavy metal which I could hear clearly even though the windows were closed. I am a bit foggy on the details but as I started to pull out into the intersection the car hit me and I was knocked off my bike. I ended up on the ground in the middle of the intersection. Luckily for me all the other cars were paying attention and no one ran over me. A total stranger stopped and came out to make sure I was OK while her husband drove off after the car that hit me to get the license plate. Maybe she and her husband were some of Sister Madonna Bruder’s angels (if you have not read The Grace to Race she attributes all the good things people do for her to angles).
I had bumps and scrapes and bruises and at first I thought that was it but as I picked myself up I knew in my heart of hearts because I have been there before, that my elbow was broken. Because the accident was hit and run I called 911 and as a result of that, although I kept saying I did not need one, they sent an ambulance (actually they sent two which seemed like overkill to me). For the record it is really weird hearing a siren in the distance and knowing they are coming for you.
The paramedics were very nice, very helpful and once they got there it was pretty obvious that they were going to take me to hospital even if I did not think it was needed. They looked at my elbow and said it was probably dislocated. They looked a bit surprised when I told them that if my elbow was dislocated I would be the happiest person in town.
X-rays confirmed what I knew all along an Olecranon Fracture which would require surgery to fix. At least it was my left arm this time. One day later, one week before Boston, I spent 90 minutes in the OR and came out with a big heavy plaster splint and an arm wired back together.
Before I went into the surgery the doctor came out to talk to me. He was a cyclist and his sister had run Boston. I told him I was supposed to be running Boston in a week and it was to be my 11th consecutive Boston. I also told him I might consider walking it if I felt Ok and I could make the cut off. His response was it’s a really long way but you have been though this before you know what this is going to be like. I took that as not a “no way you can do this”.
Because I have done this before, I knew it was going to be a long haul and that I was going to have to take it one day at a time so I set myself some goals. Goal #1 was to get off the serious pain killers. I was on morphine and they gave me a ton of it. They gave me 120 pills. I used 5 and that includes the one I dropped down the sink by mistake at 4 am (people with broken elbows should not get medication in containers with childproof lids). I switched to Tylenol and Goal #2 which was to get down to only taking Tylenol at night. That took a bit longer but I was pretty well there by Friday.
I coach, my sister was running her first Boston and I had a hotel booked so I had plenty of reasons to go to Boston even if I did not run. I felt well enough to go so I packed a pillow for my arm and off we drove to Boston. (Susan did the driving I am not that crazy). I left the racing flats at home but I did bring my running clothes.
We went to race kit pick up and as Boston has a no deferrals, don’t even bother asking policy there was no reason not to pick-up my race kit so I did. I was still not sure what I was going to do with it at this point. I was also half expecting someone to stop me and say “hey you can’t run like that” but no one did.
By Saturday I was definitely leaning towards at least going to the start and maybe even crossing the start line. I was still taking it one day at a time but I did have a dilemma. If you have ever run Boston you know that it’s all about the jacket. When you run the Boston Marathon you buy the jacket. I would also argue that you have to finish the race to wear it.
I have run the Boston Marathon 11 times. I do not have 11 jackets but I have to admit that I have way more than one. Every year I say I will not buy another jacket and then something happens to convince me otherwise. The jackets tend to sell out so if you want one you have to buy it before the race. If I was going to cross the finish line with a broken elbow I wanted a jacket but if I did not cross the finish line I did not want one and I would never put one on. I did not buy one.
On Sunday the forecast for race Monday turned ugly: Wet, cold and rainy. Bonus if you are considering walking 42.2km with a plaster cast that can’t get wet. I ended up buying a rather expensive long sleeved thermal top just so I could cut one arm off! Even with a broken elbow you would think I would know better than to go to a race not prepared for any kind of weather!
The alarm went off at 5 am race morning…I put on several layers of clothes and I headed out to catch the bus to the start in Hopkinton. I still was not sure what I was going to do next. I was going to cross the start line. I had a credit card, some cash and a cell phone. I knew that even in the rain and the cold there would be a crowd along the road all the way to the finish line and that if everything fell apart someone would help. I also knew that after mile two there would be a water station and an official way to bail out every mile. So I felt good about being able to stop anytime.
It was cold and wet in Hopkinton but I am very lucky to run with a great group. We huddled together in a very crowded tent and with some help I wrapped my cast in a garbage bag, added a couple of layers of quilt batting to absorb vibration and put it all in a heavy duty sling which wraps around and holds your arm against you so there is almost no movement. Fun Canadian fact: our health care covers everything, doctors, surgery, hospital costs but I had to pay $30 for the sling.
I was in the last coral of the first wave. It was cold and I had a jacket on over my arm so it was not obvious that I had a cast. I was still waiting for someone to stop me on the way to the corals but no one did. In fact there was another runner in the coral with a sling! He had had shoulder surgery 5 weeks earlier.
The gun went off and I slowly made my way to the start line. Boston has a four wave start with 20 minutes between waves. I was in the back of the first wave and although I knew they would leave me behind I started there. The course cut off is 6 hours but it’s based on when the last runner crosses the start line. Starting in the first wave gave me an extra hour and if I was walking I figured I would need it.
I started walking but it was cold, wet and painfully slow so I started to run as slowly as I could. The first wave quickly left me behind. It was just me a woman with k-tape all over her legs who looked to be in terrible pain every time she took a step and a couple guys who were walking. I expected the second wave to catch us anytime but it took them almost 9 km to pass us. It was really odd running 9 km of the Boston Marathon almost alone. There were still spectators and water stops along the course but they were cleaning up cups, picking up clothes off the road and chatting. They were still supportive and they cheered me on as I went by. I had my arm under a coat so it was not obvious that I had a cast. A few people noticed and were nothing but supportive. The kids looking for high fives were a bit confused when I had to use the wrong hand. At 10k I felt Ok so I kept going. The next few km were a bit difficult as I watched an entire wave of runners pass me. I always knew it was going to happen but it was tough anyway.
I ran the whole of the first half at a very conservative pace. Crossing the 13.1 mat at 2:05 Even though I needed a BQ for 2016 I made no attempt to run fast enough to get one. I took stock at the half way point: I felt pretty good not exhausted, legs were fine, arm was Ok but my shoulder was pretty sore from the weight of the cast and the odd position. I was also concerned about letting my heart rate get too high and increasing the swelling in my hand and arm. I walked from 13.1 to 14 miles and told myself I would walk a mile and then run a mile. I ran 14-15 but when I started walking again I started to get really cold so I went with plan B and walked up every hill on the second half of the course. Once I got through Newton I knew I was going to cross the finish actually who am I kidding, I knew I would finish when I passed the half way point.
All the times I have run the race I never realized how much of the last 10k is slightly downhill! I did not push the last 10k I walked, I ran, I wanted to get it over with and stay warm but 4:10 vs 4:50 did not make a difference at this point. By the time we were past the 32km mark I was actually passing people. I passed one woman who was obviously very pregnant with a sign that said six weeks to go. I did not see them but other runners told me they saw a guy with a neck brace and a guy on crutches. I don’t know if they finished.
I did and as always I was very happy to see the finish line. I finished in 4.28 a PW and as it happens my 30th marathon finish. I went back to the hotel took a shower and then headed out again in the pouring rain. I had crossed the finish line but I had one more goal…that jacket I did not buy. I went to the nearest store that sold them and bought the very last one in the correct size. I still can not wear it or the race shirt but once the brace comes off it will be the first thing I put on.