One Month

In April, I registered for the New York City Marathon.

I’m in…to put my body through hell!

At the time, I wasn’t running on account of nasty shin and hip pain.

By early May, the time I took off from running helped: My shin and hip pain had let up, and I could ease back into running again.

Two weeks later, at my best friend’s wedding, I found myself again taking time off from running — this time because I was having a Crohn’s flare-up.

Sorry I Crohnsed so much at your wedding, Becky. Love you.

I went on a high dose of steroids, but they never fully helped. I eventually started running again, but each run was plagued with bathroom stops and stomach pain.

June had its highs and lows. Some days I felt fine, other days I was fatigued and Crohnsy. But overall, I got to do some running in June.

This isn’t “running” so much as it is “cowbelling,” but it accurately displays my happiness, so I think it works.

Still, the New York City Marathon seemed a lifetime away. I was hopeful, though. The injuries were behind me, the flare-up seemed to be on its way out, and the road to recovery seemed just a few stop signs away.

Then July came.

I planned to start training for the marathon in July. I’d build up some base mileage at first, working my way up to 40-mile weeks, and eventually I’d add in speedwork and hill training.

I was sick for almost all of July…and then all of August. This flare-up was probably the worst one I’ve faced, and it completely knocked me out. I was out of work constantly, I was in nonstop pain, and when I did go running, my attempts were weak and stop-filled. I got a new doctor who put me on a higher dose of steroids, but they didn’t help.

I was miserable.

Finally, over Labor Day weekend, I was admitted to the hospital.

Don’t be fooled by the dancing and the happiness. Things got real bad real fast.

At this point, I had done a lot of thinking about the marathon. My initial goal was to run 26.2 miles in fewer than 4 hours. Lofty! Ambitious! The way I like to be!

But while I was in the hospital, and in those recovery days immediately following, I knew I had to alter my plans. A sub-4:00 race would be lovely, though unlikely. For two months prior, I’d done my best in regards to training. I tried to get the miles in, but it’s hard to count a set of “quality” mile repeats when the miles are interrupted. I remember going for one “so awesome” 15-mile run in mid-August. I was so excited to cover the distance — my longest in a while — and to “only” have made five bathroom stops…in the first four miles.


That was a huge accomplishment, and I remember coming home and using my special mango soap that day.

Still, for two months my “training” was essentially ineffective, or at least it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

By the time I left the hospital and started quickly feeling better, I was excited to get back in my Brooks and onto the Central Park roads. I was eager to get back into a training plan and to do what I could — all the while monitoring my health and how every single part of my body felt. I didn’t want to move too quickly, because I didn’t want to find myself injured again. I also didn’t want to shock my system by going from hospital bed to 20-miler too soon.

As I got back out running, I was discouraged at first. I felt slow and easily fatigued, but I knew not to beat myself up too hard. I kept reminding myself: “You just got out of the hospital. You are taking it easy and that’s OK. Don’t be crazy. Act cool.”

Each time I went running and didn’t have to make a bathroom stop was — and still is — cause for celebration. I found the joy in running again. I appreciated every run, and I loved being back in Central Park in the morning. Life seemed to be returning to whatever “normal” used to be.

Less waving. More running. Nice strategy, Feller.

All the while, though, the marathon seemed really far away. When I got out of the hospital, I knew I still had two months until Race Day. It’s not the ideal amount of time to train for a long race, but I told myself I’d do what I could, whatever that meant each day. I’d be smart and, as much as I hate the dang phrase, I’d try to “listen to my body.” Or at least kind of tune into it from time to time.

I ran a pretty decent amount in September, all things considered. I started off running slowly every few days, and then working my way back up to 4 to 5 days of running per week. Some runs were tough. I traveled a lot and was super busy at work, and I was definitely getting tired far easier than I used to — but I considered it a win overall. I felt like I was back.

It’s not September anymore, though.

The marathon isn’t a cushy two months away anymore.

I know math is hard, but let’s try to work through this together:

Today is October 3.

The New York City Marathon is November 4.

The next time I flip my big desk calendar page, this is what I’ll see…

October 3 + November 4 – 2 months of training / Crohn’s disease = Holy shit, the race is in a month.

A month and a day.

So that happened. I spent weeks thinking “I’ve got time,” and now it appears as though I really don’t.

I have two long runs left before I’ll start to taper. I’m doing an 18-miler tomorrow before work. My alarm is set for a terrifyingly early hour, and then I’m running 18 miles in the dark with the raccoons before attempting to make it to work by 8:30 AM, locking down a full day at the office and then flying to Las Vegas at night for my friend Lauren’s bachelorette party.

After that it’s three festive days in Las Vegas, followed immediately by three working days in L.A. I’m on a late-night flight back to NYC next Wednesday, and then I’ll try to rest, recover and be ready to run 20 miles next Saturday. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll taper.

Ideal training this time around, huh?


But that’s OK. Sometimes you plan for things — like a marathon — and life just gets in the way. Work gets busier than you ever thought possible, you have personal demands outside the office and then your body decides to attack itself from the inside. That’s just life I guess.

This “training cycle” has taught me many things. Perhaps most importantly, it’s taught me that one marathon, one race, does not define who I am. Running one marathon doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, and if I don’t run a 3:59:59 in NYC next month, my world isn’t over. Right now, my health, my family and my friends are so much more important to me than a PR.

If my choices are going for a run or big-screen Skype-ing with Tyler and Puff the Magic Dragon, I’m going with the kid and the pot-smoking stuffed animal. Sorry, marathon. You can wait.

I ran a great half marathon this past weekend. I ran strong, I didn’t give up and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

I HAVE A MEDAL! Good day.

Overall, am I feeling confident about running NYC?

No. Not at all, actually.

My “marathon goal pace” has been an 8:45 pace, and right now I don’t realistically think I can hang on to that, especially on a hilly course, for 26.2 miles. We’ll see what happens in the next month, but I’m not going to waste time beating myself up over failed mile repeats (yesterday morning, ouch) or way-slower-than-they-probably-should-be mid-week runs.

It’s just running.

And it’s supposed to be fun.

So for the next month, and especially on November 4, my goal is to have fun with it.

See you soon, Staten Island!

TALK ABOUT TRAINING: It seems like every runner I know is in marathon or half-marathon mode right now. Are you training for a race? If so, how’s it going?

AND TELL ME ABOUT RUNNING IN LAS VEGAS AND L.A.: I plan to run while I’m in both cities, and I know places to run while I’m in L.A. (Santa Monica! Beach path! Who’s in?) I don’t, however, know where the heck to run in Vegas. Last time I ran out there, I remember getting frustrated on The Strip because of all the stop lights and stairs you climb to cross the street. Tell me what to do. Tell me about a secret, safe path. Thanks.



40 Responses

  1. I freaking love your blog. I found it a few weeks ago after my bestie and I started a running blog. Anywho, we are training for the St. Jude half on December 1st. It’s my first and I’m flipping excited about it. Come visit us at

  2. Hey Ali! I live in L.A. and do love the Santa Monica Beach path. It is beautiful! It’s also pretty crowded though. Another place I love to run in on the equestrian trails at Griffith Park. There are lots of other runners/walkers but it never feels packed. It’s beautiful and feels very freeing!

  3. Ali, you give me hope. I was diagnosed in March and am still working down the medication path…I pulled off a 10K today and PR’d the course, so that made me happy. I extremities and breathing was great and I wanted to run faster but the faster I ran the more painful the cramps in my stomach became. I am hoping this goes away at some point…Until then I will keep pounding the pavement. Good luck in NYC!!!!

  4. So true, one race does not define you. Just the fact that you’re still running this marathon after months of intense personal health struggles is pretty dang incredible. You are so strong! I’m running a half tomorrow (just because someone offered me their number and I’m too competitive to say no) even though I literally haven’t been on a run in more than five weeks. Plus I just got a bad cold, an awful stiff neck and super horrible cramps .. not the most ideal race conditions! But of course I’m going to push through it anyways and challenge myself. And honestly when I was considering not running this race yesterday I thought about all the runs that you made it through with horrible stomach pains and compared to that a little head cold is nothin’.

  5. I find this so inspirational! I’m a runner and have only done half marathons and lately I’ve been thinking of doing a marathon. Your preserverence has really motivated me to look further into doing a 26.2. I really hope it gets easier for you! Keepmtruckin girlfriend! We’re all here for you 🙂

  6. It really does seem like everyone’s in full or half marathon training mode right now. I’ve been focusing on 5Ks and I have my first ever cross country meet a week from Sunday (college club running). I can’t wait!

    Does Vegas have any sort of suburb or residential area? I imagine running there would be less of a nightmare.

  7. I was sick all summer (May – August) with the most severe Crohn’s flare-up I’ve had in 16 years. I ended up at Mayo Clinic. I was able to run twice during that time but most days it was painful to walk. I’m getting back into running now and training for the Thanksgiving Day Pie Run. You get a pie at the end of the race! 🙂 It’s a beautiful thing to feel good and be able to run again. Thanks for your motivation and entertaining blog. I can definitely relate!

  8. Keep this in mind when you’re out there on 4 Nov: I’m running NYCM! It’s not something a lot of people can do.

    All the best Ali.

  9. Express marathon training is the way to go. I am on that plan. Well, ask me on Nov 4 how I like it.

    Anyways, I’m glad you’re healthy and can run it! Hope to see you soon.

  10. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you to have an awesome race! I am running the San Jose Rock n Roll half marathon on Sunday. I found out today that I tweaked a nerve in my back giving me pain in my hip and down my leg. Hope I recover.

  11. This post was a rude awakening. I was doing well with my training; the school started…and I went from running 5 days a week to MAYBE 4, more like 3. Now I’m being blessed with an AWESOME cold during peak training. Resting, red wine, vitamin C, cough drops and Cold Eeze are my new BFF’s. Have fun with your travels!!!

  12. First marathon is November 11 – Richmond. Training had been going great. Then I went on vacation to Hawaii. No regrets on the actual vacation (best trip EVER) and I got some runs in. BUT – the last run I tried was meant to be 10 miles, gave up at 2. Missed two LR – most importantly, my first 20. Mental stuff. Fighting through that; came back yesterday, ran 7 this morning. Race this weekend, then next two weekends will be 18 and 20!!!

  13. I am in the totally taper mode!! Chicago Marathon SUNDAY!! Love the post. I’ve had ups and downs on the training cycle. I started while ‘flirting with injury’ (down) but never became injured (up). Now, a mere four days away from the marathon my three-week injured swollen piece of poop foot is not happy (DOWN). We’ll just see Chicago , we’ll just see : )

  14. Thank you for this post, I needed it!! I suddenly have a medial left knee pain and was planning for a long run today and am now panicking!! Ugh!! So I will ride my bike instead so I feel as though I have done something towards NYC!

    Also I sent you an e for bar suggestions for a group setting in midtown, any suggestions?! I was eyeing Sessions but honestly it’s like a random pick since I know nothing of NY!! 🙂

    Thanks Ali! And congrats on your great half this past weekend!

  15. Right now I’m on a ‘get stronger!’ kick before I start training for my 2nd marathon. I’ve decided that eating frozen yogurt after working out at the gym makes the workout go by much faster!

  16. I wish I would have had your mental toughness 3 weeks ago when i decided chicago would be a no go and just stopped running completely (like an idiot). I decided last night, after running for the first time in a week and a half, that i am going to run, walk, or crawl 26.2 miles on Sunday. I may be the world’s biggest idiot. and will prob die some where in Chinatown (aka mile 22).

  17. The NYC energy, from what I hear, will carry you through it. If you haven’t already, you should pick up a copy of The Long Run. It’ll pump you up, bring you down, and then pump you back up again. Plus it took me all of 5 hours to read, which is essentially how much time I’ve spent reading total in the last year thanks to a crammed schedule.

    Right now, I’m in a total training/racing hiatus in order to let my body reset. Injuries suck. It’s tough running 3-5 milers ONLY, but I’m hoping it’ll ultimately make me stronger … if I don’t break down first, that is.

  18. “And it’s supposed to be fun.”

    That’s what you’ve got to remember…just have fun with it. NYC is an experience in and of itself, so don’t lose the joy of that experience worrying about hitting splits and making time. Just enjoy the people, enjoy the race, and enjoy the scenery.

    Running is about the journey…so enjoy every step!

  19. I think you’re so right…sometimes we runners get so obsessed and forget that it’s not really important, this running malarkey. It’s fun, we love it, it’s good for us…but as you said, health, family, real life is so much more important. I’m going for my first ever sub two half marathon next week and I’m going to do everything I can to make it happen…but if it doesn’t, there will be a few tears, a glass of wine and then i’ll go back to my husband and toddler, who are REALLY important!!! GOOD LUCK with the dark 18 miler, you brave, crazy lady!! And what an exciting week you’ve got planned!!!! The most exciting my week will get is potty training!!

  20. I can’t belive NYC is almost here! My goal is to have fun with it also. I am finally running pain free from plantar fasciitis,. I also had a good 1/2 this weekend that seemed to have boost my confidence enough that I will be able to cross the finish line in one month and one day!

  21. Hi Ali – saw your post from Twitter this am. I faced a similar dilemma last year. I had a terrible summer of training – I could not breath and was told that I had pneumonia and then exercise induced asthma and nothing seemed to help. I was even winded walking up the stairs… long story short – I had a blood clot in my legs and some small ones in my lungs. So, I decided to defer NYC. Then they changed the guarantee rules for time/# of times run. I completed 12 NYC marathons (need 15 by 2015 for guaranteed entry for life)… so I asked my doctors if I could run. They cautiously said yes (if I promised to go easy). My “training” was 3 half marathons and 2 15 milers. Basically a wing and a prayer.

    I ran the marathon and it was my slowest of the 13th NYCs that I did but it was the most fun. I ran with a friend, took in the sights (wrote a recap of 26.2 great things about it) and even stopped to walk some when I knew I was overdoing it.

    My advice to you – start at your goal pace, enjoy the sights, take it in, high five kids, make some friends out there and have fun. You never know – you might surprise yourself time wise. And, if not, you will have had a great day.

    Good luck! I’ll be out there too for #14!

  22. My training has finally started to get better in the last few weeks and I feel pretty good about PRing in NY even if only by a few seconds. I’ve gotten pretty good about running one speed workout and some hills at least once a week. Nothing seems to stop people from smirking and saying I should know by now that NYC isn’t a PR course, though. I know it might end up being a long shot, but it’s not going to stop me from trying…

    I”m glad you’re back to your old running self now! But you, my friend, better practice the QB at least once before the big day! 🙂

  23. I think revising your goal to “have fun” is the best thing you could have done. Because this race WILL be fun. Until I got sick during it, I was having the time of my life! Enjoy it and if you happen to be feeling great and fast, go with it. If not, then just run for run and know there will be other marathons (Richmond is awesome, you know, and non-hilly).

  24. so remember last year when I asked you how early was too early in central park…? Since I have a feeling you’ll be approaching (if not beating) that avoid before time, consider this my reciprocating the “please be careful or live tweet your run so people won’t worry” message.

  25. I’m training for my second half.

    Well, at least I would be if I weren’t currently nursing a small pain in my achilles tendon. Grump. It’s not bad, but I’m afraid of it, since it’s a totally new problem for me. Boooo. I had gotten to a 10-mile run at half pace, and now this. Race is November 10! I’m nervous and scared I won’t be able to do it. 🙁

    Thanks for posting this. I really needed to read something like this today.

  26. Half the first weekend in December and it WAS going great until my IT Band starting acting up. Running 2 miles without pain yesterday was an accomplishment so that tells you how it’s going 🙁

  27. holy smokes thanks for reminding me how close it it!

    training had been going well for me – and then i had a little knee flare up this past weekend. i’m ‘taking the week off’ from running (and doing some pool jogging) and hoping that i can be back on track to squeeze in another long run before tapering…

    trying not to freak out 🙂

    1. So taking a week off won’t totally kill a training schedule? I’m always afraid I’ll take a week off and lose everything and have to start all over.

      Which is probably totally alarmist, isn’t it?

      Happy healing for your knee!

  28. Don’t know about Vegas, but in LA, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach are awesome. Also, they are not as touristy so less people to trip over.

    I am sort of training for a marathon in January. We’ll see though. I’ve had less than stellar training and base building. By that, I mean I have no base.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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