Week 32: The last of the German Silvas

When Coach Scott announced last Saturday that many of the pace groups, including the one to which I belong, were undergoing name changes I immediately invented my own explanation for the switch.

You may recall that last fall I wrote about our my pace group's namesake, an Olympic marathoner from rural Mexico named German Silva whose claim to fame was his navigational confusion during a New York marathon.

While in the lead he strayed from the designated course, was forced to retrace his steps, and still managed to win. For at least the past decade and possibly longer, Silva's name has graced the pace group to which I was assigned last fall.

As the name "pace group" suggests, one is technically assigned based on one's running pace.

But over the course of these many months of training, I've come to believe that my running mates and I were assigned to the German Silvas we embodied the Silva spirit of stick-to-it-iveness.

Thus my invented explanation last weekend for the switch: as is customary in competitive sports when a team retires the number of a player so superlative that no other player can wear that number, so the trainers at AIDS Marathon deemed our pace group so exemplary that it was time to give the German Silva name a much-deserved rest.

The truth is not nearly as flattering to us. "The organization just thought it was time to honor some of the more recent runners," Coach Scott explained.

Oh. You mean it's not because of our extra months of training? It's not about our remarkable development as runners, and as a pace group?


I'll stick with my modified reality. Whatever the reason, our group is the last of the German Silvas, which means we have a legacy to uphold, or create.

There's no way I'll have the chance to get lost during the marathon by running so far ahead of everyone else, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that, with my bum knee, I may be so far behind the other 25,000-odd runners that I'll stray from the designated route. (Note to self: bring a map.)

Speaking of my bum knee, when I described my injury (searing pain that appeared around mile ten, originated on the outside of my right knee and traveled up to my hip, becoming progressively worse until it caused my knee to buckle), everyone I spoke to identified it as an inflamed illiotibial, or IT band.

It's one of the most common running injuries and there are numerous websites with suggestions for stretches and strengthening exercises to combat it.

But, just to be on the safe side, I went to see an orthopedist. The first thing I noticed in the doctor's office is that everyone who worked there looked like an athlete. I guess it makes sense that if you're active in sports you might get interested in sports medicine.

A nurse who looked like a basketball player took me to see an X-Ray technician (football) who took me to see a doctor (golf). When he saw my X-Ray he got very excited. "Take a look at this," he said to the internist at his side (swimming). He walked over to the examining table, picked up my leg as if it were a treasured nine iron. "Feel this," he said to the intern as he handed her my bent knee.

"The fibblabla and the tibblabla are mortocorturalbla and extendo malto bla bla bla," he said. That's not really what he said, but I hadn't thought to bring my notebook and that's what I remember.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"It means everything is perfect," he said. "Your joints are in perfect shape."


The doctor assured me that running 26.2 miles in the excruciating pain caused by the inflammation of my IT band would do no permanent damage.

"So when my knee buckles that doesn't mean there's something terribly wrong?" I asked.

"Nope," he said. "That's just your body responding to the pain."

Oh, is that all?

"There is one thing to keep in mind," he said. "That buckling might cause you to fall down, and then you really could injure yourself."

Lovely. But now that I have the Silva legacy to uphold I'm going to have to stick it out, collapsing knee and all. Even if I wind up not only the last of the German Silvas, but the last of the LA marathoners.

4:01 PM Friday, May 8 2009 • Link •  
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