Seven Mondays: A Set Back


Marathon training reaches deep into the furthest places of the mind, body, soul, and heart and courage and endurance and patience and tenacity and whatever it takes to get to that day where you wait to start running and hope that all that you did — all of the woven pieces stay together long enough to get to the finish. 

I feel like I’m careful about everything. Careful about sleep, food, cross training, weight training, stretching, timing runs, shoes, pace, sunglasses, cool downs — all of it. I try to remember to not go barefoot outside during training and I definitely wear shoes that won’t mess with my feet. 

I’m not sure what happened, but something happened. The second toe on my left foot is angry. It is so angry that I feel it when I sleep, when I’m awake, when I walk. It is red and purple and weird. It is tingly and tender. It is swollen and huge. I can’t fix it. I’ve tried to rest. I’ve tried ice, heat, oils, balms. I tried digging into it to see if there was a splinter. No splinter. If there is a suggestion, I’ve tried it. 

I can’t run.  My entire body I’ve minded. I’ve taken care of it with enthusiasm and consistency and discipline, but I didn’t know my toe was going to do this. I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to do anything but wait. 

This weekend was the weekend to take it up to 17 miles. I am already feeling the pressure to get the miles behind me. I can feel I’m losing the edge that I held just 10 days ago. 

When training started, the biggest concerns were failing knees or hips. I was aware of injury. 

Marathoners are super self controlled and super disciplined. You can’t get out there and run for miles and miles without this capacity. Sometimes we depend on that too much. We think if we stay controlled, we are in control and can stay strong. But this toe is totally out of my control.


A second toe flared up! When I woke up Sunday morning with another swollen toe, my first reaction was to stay in bed all day. What in the world was wrong? I had already decided my toe must be broken and resigned myself to consider how that would alter everything if not the good bye to race day. Instead, I was rotting away and it was starting in my left foot with the second and fourth toe. 
Well, I know that we are not supposed to google symptoms, but I had called my doctor friend 5 too many times and sent him at least 10 pictures of my toes and thought I would give him a break from this terrible toe conundrum. Googling symptoms is choosing to turn down a long dangerous road named Mental Death and Destruction Drive; however, this time, there, on the long lists of gross swollen toe images, I saw something.

There, among the photos and the wonderful gross words underneath them, I saw a word and that word was underneath a toe that looked most like mine. I googled it. Chilblains. And there it was: the answer. Basically, running in cold wet weather conditions without properly warming up and warming down decreases the blood flow and leads to this lovely condition called chilblains. Swollen, itchy, weird feeling toes that swell up and turn purple. And it often happens when the foot is restricted in a shoe that is too tight. I immediately informed my sister who immediately knew someone that had chilblains. She checked with her about the symptoms she experienced and it was a perfect match. With this wonderful diagnosis, I was elated!  And I'm sure my sister is relieved that she doesn't have to look at another 25 pictures of my gross toe. 

Fortunately when my new shoes arrived last week, I tried to run in them but it was too uncomfortable. I had already decided to order a half size larger to see if that would help, they arrived today. This move to change shoes is huge because it is NOT in the plan to change shoe sizes right now! Read last week's blog. I wrote an entire blog LAST WEEK about shoes! 

This morning the sun came out and it was warm. There was no wet or cold weather around. This morning, new shoes were ready to go. This morning, after stretching and warming up my body from head to toe and keeping on gloves and a long sleeve shirt to keep my body warm, I took off for a seven mile run. It was glorious! It worked. My toe didn't hurt and the shoes felt right! I should have switched months ago.

I am beyond relieved that there is not a break in my toe. It is frustrating to think that moving to a cooler climate is going to change the way my body responds to runs, but there are ways stay on top of chilblains. I'm learning that this race is still not in my control. There are thousands of factors that can keep my toes away from that starting line. But, I want to enjoy the process. It is looking different than I imagined. My calculations are off. But, now, it's time to press on. It's going to rain for the next few days so this means no long runs. This means waiting even longer to get in a much needed long run. 

A dear friend reminded me that we never know if these little set backs are actually the thing that is taking us forward - the thing protecting us from something that would knock us off course entirely. This little set back pushed me around mentally and physically and emotionally. I'm not as strong as I want to be in these places. The good news that we all can take with us is that we are NOT in control and we don't have to be. It is important to practice discipline while training for this race. It is good to be ready, but in the end, God is in control. God is the one that has all the stars and planets aligned. He has all the days counted out. And one thing I know for sure. God is good. He is good if my toes are rotting and he is good if they are crossing the finish line. 


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