Jalene Cruz will be involved in the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon this weekend, whether she is fit to run or not.
She is registered for the full marathon, but has been hampered by a bad case of iliotibial band syndrome (knee pain), which she has had treatment for over the last couple of weeks.
Of all of the injuries that can beset runners, this one is one of the most common and one of the most frustrating.
It usually affects relative novice athletes like Cruz who, just when they are really getting accustomed to training on a regular basis, begin to experience lateral knee pain during a run.
The pain becomes severe and forces the runner to stop. By the next day the pain is gone. However, each time that the athlete tries to run again, the pain returns.
That is what Cruz is experiencing, but she is determined to line up outside Breezes by the Bay on Sunday and complete the 26.2 miles, even if it’s at a pedestrian pace.
“The injury is being particularly stubborn at the moment and it’s preventing me from running,” Cruz said, who is resigned to not running a personal best this time because of it. “I would be really happy just being out on the road. I am worried that I might have to withdraw from the race at the last minute if the pain does not subside.
“It’s really frustrating but there is nothing I can do now but hope for the best.”
Her worst case scenario is that she withdraws and volunteers at Jerome Ameline’s water station and cheers on the runners instead.
Even if Cruz has to pull out, she reckons it’s been an “amazing” sporting year, highlighted by a couple of surprising podium finishes.
A smoker and couch potato not so long ago, Cruz’s transformation has been dramatic.
“It’s been a very humbling year and I hope my injury does not stick around for much longer as I look forward to an even more exciting sporting year ahead.”
This year she participated in several 5K and 10K charity runs, the Stride Against Cancer half-marathon, Mercuryman relay (half-marathon), 50K Off the Beaten Track ultramarathon (third female), Duathlon (third female), 100-mile Feed Our Future Ride, Kiwanis bike-athon, Stroke and Stride, Halloween 30K Solo run (third female), Wednesday Night Running Club handicap race (third overall). “Are you starting to see a pattern here?” she laughed. Only a handful of seasoned locals are capable of beating her now.
Then she did the New York City Marathon, and last week Pedal to the Point bike ride from the Turtle Farm to Rum Point.
The New York City Marathon was definitely the highlight for Cruz, her second big run, following the Cayman marathon last year. Wearing her Wednesday Night Running Club vest, Cruz ran a personal record in the Big Apple of 3 hours, 50 minutes, improving her Cayman time by 12 minutes.
“New York was such an amazing, inspiring day, running through the five boroughs of the city amongst tens of thousands of runners of all abilities across the globe. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”
Apart from the knee injury, Cruz had a cycling accident at Pedal to the Point. She needed treatment but sees it as a badge of honor. “At least I can now call myself a proper cyclist [laughs]. It could have been a lot worse. I have seen and heard of a lot worse biking accidents in Cayman so I am glad I only ended up with a popped chin.”
Her sporting aim next year is to complete her first triathlon. Cruz has been more focused on swimming lately and if she improves enough by the time of the Mercuryman half-Ironman in January, assuming her ITBS injury is healed within the next week or two, Cruz will sign up just for the experience. The race consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile half-marathon run.
She is also trying to get into the London marathon in April.
“After running one of the world’s biggest marathons in New York, I feel the need to run at least one major marathon every year. It was that great of an experience.”
Cruz will be one of many newbies to the Cayman triathlon scene, which seems to be the fastest growing sport in Cayman. It is extremely well run and the fact that Trevor Murphy and Claire Griffin have introduced chip timing to all races helps.
“I think a lot of people like to challenge themselves to see what their bodies are capable of,” Cruz said. “I, for instance, started playing with the idea of taking on a triathlon because I thought why not do all three disciplines in one sporting event if I can already cycle and run. Now comes the challenging part, though – swimming!”
Many more Filipinos are getting involved in sports events and Cruz puts that down to the her community generally being tightly knit.
“We all like doing things together as a group,” she said. “So if one participates in events, many are encouraged to do so as well. Filipinos have always been involved in sporting events though, mainly basketball and volleyball, only now they have expanded to running, cycling and even triathlons.
Aside from all the sporting activities, Cruz also practices yoga every day. “With my current injury, yoga has been my main activity. I also enjoy scuba diving and hunting lionfish, although I do not dive as much as I used to anymore.”
She also loves to travel. Marathons and triathlons have given her a new and extremely good reason to discover new places.