In the months leading up to 2015’s Fall marathons, RunWashington will follow several local runners as they prepare for their races. We’ll chart their progress as they train their legs, lungs and minds for the challenges they’ll race on race day. Each week, we’ll catch up with our runners and see how they’re doing. This week, it’s Meghan Ridgley of Reston, Va., who is hoping for a chance at the Philadelphia Maraton. Read the first article about Meghan Ridgley here.
Meghan Ridgley has been churning out marathons at just over a six minute mile pace for a decade. Take a moment to consider your twenties vs. your thirties. Recovery time, ability to function on less sleep, general level of responsibility, metabolic function – all these things get a little bit stingier as the decades pile on. For those who were elite athletes in their teens and twenties, maintaining the peak shape they held at that age gets harder every year.
Ridgley won’t let go of running fast just quite yet. But she’s become far more willing to adapt.
Injury, motherhood, work, coaching and getting older have all forced her to reevaluate her approach to running. The flexibility she’s had to cultivate to continue to run at her level through all these elements has served her as life throws each new curveball her way.
Ridgley is a different runner than she was years ago – then, she said, “if I couldn’t get eight miles in, or I couldn’t get a run in the morning, then it wouldn’t get done.” Now, if she has time for four miles, she takes it. “I fit it in wherever, maybe I’ll shower when I can.”
She senses a shift in herself mentally, where she’s becoming willing to run for fun. She’s begun spending time with other runners who just enjoy it. “I have a friend who doesn’t have a watch,” she said, shaking her head in wonder. “I haven’t run without a watch more than three times ever.”
“I’m not like I was in 2009 when I missed qualifying by 32 seconds – I was devastated for a couple of months. No one could console me, I just kept replaying it – how could I have let that happen?” she said.
She knows her competitive side will always be with her, so is considering trail running and ultras as a next phase – a way to stay challenged and engaged, but with a different mindset.
Shannon Scalan, Ridgley’s friend and manager at Potomac River Running, has seen Meghan become more open as a runner, “I don’t think before that she would ever have gone to do a Ragnar trail race – because the risk of injury, that it might take away from road training. She grew up a competitive runner, while some of us came to it later, so now, she’s finding that there’s another type of running.”
Meghan still prefers a morning run, making sure to catch the sunrise over her shoulder when she can. But, if she can squeeze in a half hour between work and camp pick-up, or whatever else she’s doing, then she will. She appreciates is when she’s healthy, recognizes a run that goes well, and takes the run she can fit in, even if it’s not on a plan.
Now, she squeezes triceps dips on the edge of the tub during bath time, push-ups while coffee is brewing, foam rolling during reading time. She grudgingly rests when it’s needed.
After becoming a Mom, coaching has probably made the biggest impact on Meghan as a runner – “I walked a week ago,” she said, “I would have never done that before I started coaching.” It has brought back some of the sense of community she missed by being out in the front of the pack so much. She coaches groups in fall distance training, and also does one-on-one coaching. It’s more than just the running for a lot of her clients, she knows.
Scalan was transitioning out of coaching as Meghan started and said that right away, the runners she coached liked her and were able to relate to her. “Everybody loves her. Even though she’s a fast runner, she never makes someone who runs a 13 minute mile feel like they don’t deserve to be there. She understands that running is hard for everyone.”
When RunWashington checked in with her, Meghan was sidelined by a nagging injury. Up until two weeks ago, Ridgley had been feeling good. “I was doing 60-70 miles per week, I was just getting ready to hit an 18 miler. My speed was coming back quickly, I was right where I wanted to be picking up from. I felt really strong, I was recovering really well.”
She was rolling out easy miles anywhere between a 6:50 and 8:00 pace, and her tempo days were measuring between 5:45 and 6:10. She was clocking her speed work at 5:40 and faster. She’s planning on getting to get 4-6 runs of 20+ miles in. “I feel really strong when I do that,” she said.
But then, once more, Ridgley’s plans have been disrupted. Right after her Friday run a few weeks ago she started to feel pain in her hip adductor. That Saturday, as she was bringing in the runners she coaches at their pace, the pain shot down her leg and was followed by numbness. She had to slow to a walk. The discomfort didn’t go away, and then moved into her IT band.
She was hopeful that rest, good nutrition, and the trusted tools of her chiropractor were going to see her through the injury. “I’ve never foam rolled like I have the 4 days,” she said.
Ridgley, like most athletes, especially runners, is uncomfortable with rest. But, listening to the demands her body is making, she recognizes that she’s become much more patient with it than she would have been years ago. “At a certain point, you gotta stop fighting it,” she said, “I’m accepting it.”
Scalan said she can tell Meghan is worried, even as she’s staying positive and looks at it from the perspective of “let’s find out what it is and conquer it.”
She was filling the time not training with baking Paleo treats, encouraging her co-workers to stay healthy when all they want to do is eat cupcakes. She’s squeezing in end-of summer activities for daughter Miranda, who is supporting Mom through the recovery process (when she can spare a moment to look up from her new iPod).
Miranda, dubbed Meghan’s “mini-me” by friends and colleagues who see Mom’s outgoing, humorous, and encouraging personality in a pint-sized package, has been asking about the pain, is curious about how the different stretching and treatments work, and encourages Meghan to take an extra day when she’s hurting.
Unfortunately, rest, foam rolling, positivity, and dark chocolate coconut bars haven’t yet solved Ridgley’s injury. Meghan is scheduled for an MRI this week. She has come back from injuries, personal setbacks, and even a brief stint where she lost the love of running. While she and her supporters are hoping she’s back to her old self right away, if this injury is bad enough to knock her out from the path to Philly, history says she’ll get right back up soon enough.
Meghan’s injury was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in her left femur and a torn labrum, forcing her to take six more weeks off and put off her marathon plans for the fall.