In less than two short weeks, some of you will realize the dream of finishing your first marathon. The San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon ( is set for Sunday, Dec. 7 and it’s been the goal for many of you who have trained for months to accomplish something many people never achieve in their lifetime.

But this message is aimed at the people who will, through either no fault of their own or very little fault, fail to complete the race. Even before it begins, some of you will be sidelined by injury. Knee and foot pain, hairline fractures, a twisted ankle or sudden, severe swelling all can occur without warning.

During the race, pain you never thought you’d experience can come washing over you in the form of cramping, side stitches and seemingly gallons of lactic acid building up in your quads and calves. Pushing through is part of the marathon experience, but for some first-timers, the mental game is just not there to overcome the pain.
Perhaps most cruelly of all, a bout of flu may attack in the days before you are scheduled to hit the starting line. It’s not a bad idea to get that flu shot now if you haven’t already. Running with a 103 degree temperature is definitely NOT recommended.

All of these can be disheartening setbacks for the most dedicated of novice runners. Don’t let it stop you. If you are one of the unfortunate runners who won’t cross the finish line due to injury or unforeseen illness, this is the time to double-down and get ready to try again.

Remember, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is actually made up of several events including a half-marathon, a 5K and, for the first time this year, a 10K. If your marathon training got off track due to injury but you are ready to go for a run, enter one of the shorter races. It may be a bittersweet experience, but it will make you all the more determined to come back next year for your ultimate goal.

And you don’t have to wait a whole year. Unless you are married to the idea that the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon has to be your FIRST marathon, you can start looking at marathon events in the new year.

If you are recovering from injury, remember to do just that – recover. Too often I see patients who re-injure themselves or aggravate an injury because they don’t allow their body sufficient recovery and rehabilitation time. And if you are undergoing physical therapy, it’s important to keep up with that therapy as part of your rehab.

Just because you can’t run does not mean you can’t prepare your body for running. You can probably do core exercises to keep yourself fit and firm for the time you are ready to hit the road again.

Completing a marathon is a symbol of fortitude, perseverance and strength that may lead to a lifetime of fitness and health training. But it doesn’t come without sacrifice and the journey is fraught with pitfalls. Get encouragement from a running partner or running community to keep going.

When you do get across that finish line, all the setbacks will be forgotten. All that will remain is the earned satisfaction that comes from being able to say, “I am a marathon runner.”

Stay healthy, stay strong and stay focused. We’ll see you out there soon.

Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed in the WTC circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at