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by: Matt Fitzgerald

Not again…

So, I think I have a tear in the lateral meniscus of my left knee. I haven’t had it medically diagnosed, but I have all the right symptoms. This is not a situation that a runner wants to find himself in at any time, but least of all five days before he’s supposed to run a 50-mile ultramarathon.

Sadly, I have been in this type of situation many, many times before. Almost never in my entire history as an endurance athlete have I made it all the way to the start line of a major goal race without suffering a significant injury. In most cases, an injury has kept me from racing at all. (Over the years, I have registered for five Ironman triathlons, started one of them.) In other cases, an injury has not prevented me from toeing the line but has compromised my performance and taken a lot of the fun out of the experience. I can only hope that the current contretemps turns out to be one of these cases.

One week until race day…

Currently, I am unable to run a single step without severe pain in the afflicted knee. This does not bode well for my chances of running 50 miles in five days, but I’m not entirely without hope. Miracles have happened. A few years ago, for example, I was unable to run a single step without severe pain in a strained left calf muscle just one week before I was supposed to pace my younger brother Sean through a sub-three-hour marathon attempt. To my great surprise and delight, however, I was able to run the whole thing with only minimal discomfort.

I’m doing everything I can to nurture another miracle: icing, gobbling ibuprofen like candy, and, of course, not running. My highest realistic hope is to be able to run on Saturday not without pain but with a manageable level of it. Fortunately, I am able to draw upon a vast reservoir of experience in gutting it out in this fashion.

Am I disappointed? Sure. But one silver lining of having suffered as many athletic disappointments as I have is that you get used to them. The twenty-fifth such disappointment doesn’t sting as much as the first. Also, I have come to appreciate that the athletic life is really more about the journey than the destination. Yes, it sucks to miss races and to race hurt, but it does not ruin the whole four to six months of preparation leading up to such a painful anticlimax. Whatever happens (or doesn’t happen) on Saturday, I have enjoyed my “becoming ultra” journey tremendously and will always remember it very fondly.

Matt Fitzgerald is an author and runner who is chronicling his journey to become an ultra runner in 2016.


Scott is the founder of Becoming Ultra and spends most of his time with his family and ideas to get people moving!