Bish, I Be Running Week 9: Crying? There's No Crying in Training

This leg [along with my other leg] will get me across the finish line!
Photo: Felice León

During last week’s long run, I cried.

For those who are unaware, I’m a sensitive person, but I’m tough. As “tough as nails,” per my mother. Abrasion (like, within people) doesn’t really bother me—I can dish it out and take it. I have a high threshold for pain—menstrual cramps have nothing on me. As a person who was born and raised in New York, I would say that I have a bit of that rhetorical grit under my nails (no real grit though, ya girl likes to keep a nice manicure). While I am no stranger to tears (give me a good Disney movie, and it’s a wrap), I never expected to find myself alone on a bench in Central Park, crying.

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It was a cold, brisk Saturday. Tons of folks were in Central Park running (presumably getting a last long run before tapering). I was right along with them. By the time I entered Central Park from Astoria Park in Queens, I was already at mile five of what was to be a 16-mile run, and was making good-ish timing (about 09:30/mile). All of a sudden, I felt discomfort on my patella (knee area). As y’all might remember from a previous post, I had issues with my knee after a spin class in September—and my knee has been in-and-out since.

Around mile eight, I stopped, stretched and kept running. A few minutes later, the discomfort traveled down the side of my right calf. My leg felt tight. I stopped once again and did a longer stretch. While I could run, I didn’t want to continue running and chance injury so close to race day. It felt like my only decision was to cut the run short. I walked through the park, and many runners passed me by. The discomfort continued as I completed the park’s loop—by the time I decided to stop, my brisk walk had turned into a slight limp. I started bawling. The tears just wouldn’t stop.

To be clear, I wasn’t crying because of any pain caused by my run (that descended into a walk). I was crying because at that point, I was less than two weeks out from the New York City Marathon—that I’d begun training in July for—and for the first time (in any of my previous seasons of training for a marathon), I did not complete a run.

A wave of emotions came over me. “What the hell is happening to my knee?” I said. “How am I supposed to run this race?” But, mostly I was telling myself, “Suck it up.”

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I got on the phone with a mentor and close friend (who randomly texted me during the beginning of my run) and cried (again). She was channeling Iyanla and reminded me that this marathon training is just a small part of my greater journey. Then she got all deep and started to talk about how this experience is a metaphor for life: Run, walk, or crawl, just get to the finish line. She reminded me that I will make it to my goal, and not to worry about the timing (or the prestige). While deciding whether or not to share this experience publically (i.e. on this blog), she encouraged me to be vulnerable. “Someone needs to hear your story, FF” she said. (She calls me “FF” which is short for “Fearless Felice.”)

After an hour-long call, I dried my tears, picked up my head and limped to the nearest Starbucks for an almond milk latte.

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I reached out to my run coach, who was out of town for the weekend. It is easy to fall into a place of inertia so close to the race, and just quit. But I decided to find a physical therapist, who I’ve been working with for the past week. Apparently, it’s very common for women to have issues with their IT band, due to muscle imbalance. Now, 10 days out from the marathon, I am sharing this story with you all—for whoever needs to hear it.

My last run (before the marathon) is this weekend—and it’s happening.

I am running the New York City Marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of loved ones who have fallen to cancer. To donate, click here. I’ll see y’all at the finish line!

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About the author

Felice León

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.