The Comeback is ALWAYS Stronger Than the Setback

by Kristen Mellen Garzone

When I ran my 8th marathon at the Maine Coast Marathon on May 11th, my normal finish line enthusiasm was lacking. Not just because I completely blew my goal marathon race (plus another sub 4 attempt) after one of my most successful 16-week training cycles but because I knew another glaucoma surgery was in my future. Just four days before race day, it was confirmed that the very surgery I had had in my left eye (last October, days after my breakthrough race at Wineglass) would now have to be done in my right eye. With that, I would have to put my running life on hold once again. Sure, everyone needs a good break after a tough race of any kind but I wasn’t ready to give up my therapy (and a big part of who I was) once again.

I battle a rare disease -- uveitis, a form of eye inflammation. I’ve battled this for over 9 years with still no answers of what could be causing it; usually linked to an autoimmune or inflammatory disease. When I went in for a routine eye appointment last August and the doctor saw my eye pressure was in the 40s (60s can lead to instant blindness), I was rushed to a glaucoma specialist who found that I had lost 50% of the vision in my left eye and needed surgery to stop further blindness. My uveitis has caused glaucoma in both of my eyes, which has led me to two eye surgeries within a year... and unfortunately more to come. 

Eye surgery or not, Maine Coast broke my heart. I didn’t run the race I was meant to run and it most definitely broke my spirit. Prior to my first glaucoma surgery, I hit a PR (4:05) at Winegless and ran a marathon stronger than I ever had! I wanted that so badly this time around before the second surgery and when it didn’t come, I let those feelings of failure surround me rather than celebrate the big feats – another marathon finish and a strong [regardless of time] comeback from my first round of eye surgery.

So with that, I am now trying to keep things in perspective and see the good in it all. The month between Maine and my surgery, I made strength a priority. I joined Anatomie (which I absolutely LOVE and can’t wait to continue there while training through my next cycle) and concentrated on getting stronger – get stronger to run faster right? I ran a few races for fun (Freihofer’s 5k and Valley Cats Home Run Fathers Day 5k) and even got to run a kids race with my daughter Ellie. After the marathon heartbreak, my love for running was falling back into place and I was remembering why I run. Not for the PR’s or the finish lines but for the love of it all.

On June 19th, my surgery was scheduled for 6:30 am. I set my alarm extra early because even though I was exhausted, nervous and it would have absolutely no bearing on my fitness, I had to have my last workout be a run – just me and the pavement as the sun came up; so peaceful and all the feels. Always grateful for the miles. After my first glaucoma surgery, I promised myself I would never take it for granted. Never given, always, always earned, and just the sendoff I needed.

A long recovery ahead (surgery went great and already recovering better than the first time around thankfully!) but I will be back, running stronger than ever and chasing big goals once again! [Philly half marathon in November or bust!]

“The comeback is ALWAYS stronger than the setback” --- words to remember.

Kristen as Freihofer’s Ambassador Helps Denise Herman Come in for 41st Consecutive Finish

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