Monday, October 24, 2011

Running Through The Pain

As you’d probably suspect, the first thing people ask when they see me on crutches is “what happened?” Those who know I run assume it’s from running, which even though it’s right, it’s also annoying because non-runners often assume running is bound to injure anyone who attempts it. Once I tell them I got a stress fracture while running a half marathon, they’re stunned to also learn that I actually finished the race. I often got the same reaction after I ran the NYCM and finished with a broken foot.

There are two sides to this. 1) I’m stupid for not stopping as soon as I realize the pain is not normal, and 2) it takes a lot of perseverance, strength and focus to run miles with broken bones.

I thought about this the other night as I rode home from work on the bus. It was a particularly trying bus ride home for several reasons and my leg was hurting quite a bit. It was really bothering me and I was dying to get off the bus and to the safety of our apartment. How could this bus ride be bothering me so much while I could run 3 miles on a stress fracture?

Well, it took a few days but I figured out why I can do it. And I bet you wouldn’t guess this.

Marching Band. To be exact, the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band.


As a freshman each member of the SMB is introduced to the band through 8 days of pre-season drills. The first few days are just freshman and squad leaders – then the rest of the band shows up. The days are long. Usually 8am until 10pm or after. Hours of drills, running, music rehearsal, more drills and then a few hours after everyone else has gone home to learn Series. A grueling and intense series of horn moves choreographed to the drumline Series, performed while marching to and from the Stadium on game day (and any parades throughout the season) with breaks to play the fight song. Band members and fans of the band take this insanely seriously. It’s part of game day tradition in East Lansing. Crowds line the street every game day Saturday to watch the band march to the stadium. If you miss a horn move, fall out of line, or yell the wrong thing at the wrong time, you know you’ll hear about it for days to come from your squad leader and probably others as well. As a freshman, you spend hours each night during pre-season drills after everyone else has left, being drilled by the Section and Squad leaders in a stuffy hot room until you’re doing the series in your sleep. I still remember every element to this day.


At the end of the week, while our fellow freshman were getting to meet other students and hopping between house parties, we were being marched around campus for hours by the veterans to make sure we could do the Series up to their standards before you earned our band jackets and were allowed to march along side them on game day. It was a particularly hot and nasty night when I went through Freshman Dress. My arms, like those of my fellow alto freshmen, were covered in bruises, my legs were heavy and tired; I was busted before it even began. But I was more excited (and scared) about what was to come. After being yelled at for hours, the feeling we felt at the end of that night was the closest thing I can think of to the feeling I got when I finished the Detroit Half Marathon last weekend.

As a member of the SMB we learn to push through. We march through 3 months (hopefully 4) of 90 degree heat, rain, sleet, and then snow. All in heavy wool uniforms. We march 5 days a week, plus game days which start off with 8am rehearsals. We’re part of a team that becomes our family. You can’t let them down. So even if you have an injured wrist, food poisoning, whatever it might be, you suck it up and get through it.

I’m convinced that’s why all these years later, I can suck it up and finish a marathon with a broken foot and a half marathon with a stress fracture. I suck it up and keep heading to the finish line. It’s definitely not the smartest decision to keep running, I’m sure it makes things worse, but that’s just who I am. Once I start, I don’t give up*.

And some people think there’s no value in having band in schools.

*If I had been running the full marathon in Detroit, things would have turned out different. No way I could have made it through 26.2 miles.

  • If you’re not feeling right in a race, do you push on? What would make you stop?
  • Do you have a SMB in your past? Some experience that taught you to push past your (perceived) limits?
  • How was your weekend? What was the highlight?


Today’s workout -

none. still on the injury list.


misszippy said...

That's really quite interesting! I'm guessing it did teach you quite a bit. I don't have anything to draw on like that, except to say that I have a dogged determination and once I set out to do something, I'm going to do it (stupidly or not!).

Raquelita said...

I'm sure that marching band has impacted your mentality and your tolerance for pain. I think one of the reasons that I can push through pain running is because I did 8 days of walking the Camino de Santiago across the north of Spain on an injured and swollen ankle that I had got from an injury during the first two days of walking. I might slow down and I might walk some but if I start a race, I really try hard to finish it.

J said...

Intense! That sounds like our preseason in basketball for college. It was not as crazy as yours but definitely taught you to push through things. I am sure that helped you to become stronger and have a higher pain tolerance.

Susan - Nurse on the Run said...

This brought back a lot of memories for me! Our early week was somewhat similar...a week of rehearsals from 8am-9 or 10pm! Marching and playing all day, and we had our version of the "now you're OFFICIALLY" in the band thing too. Love it. Love the tradition, love going back and seeing things be the same.

As for stopping in a race...I'm not sure how bad it would have to be for me to stop. I probably should have stopped in one marathon, but I didn't want to quit and somehow told myself it wasn't that bad. Adrenaline must kick in at some point...

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you were a Spartan!! I am too! Was not in the band, but LOVE the band.
what a game on Saturday, huh?!?!! GO GREEN!

Barbara said...

Our seats are in the 2nd row , West Upper Deck, South 42. I thought we were going to go over the side for a second ! Spartan Stadium Exploded ! Go Green !
We hate to see you hurting, Lisa.

Joanna said...

Oh, do I miss marching band. I wasn't in the Pride of WV, I didn't even go to WVU (I'm from WV), but their pre-game is still enough to make me tear up.