I tried not to think about it as the day approached. I wasn’t too keen on walking a half-marathon. I just kept telling myself that the plan was just to finish it and not to worry so much about how I would actually get to the finish line. I wasn’t as stressed as I usually am when I pack for a race. I only brought one pair of running shorts, one shirt and one pair of running shoes. Normally I would make sure I always had a spare of each item. I didn’t really worry too much about what I ate during the days leading up to the event. I didn’t feel any real excitement about the race and I mostly just focused on enjoying a vacation weekend away from home. It was almost like the race was just an after thought.
I eventually arrived in Nashville and spent some time looking around the race expo. I wasn’t interested in purchasing any race attire or souvenirs. I didn’t feel the need to take home any mementos other than the medal that I would receive if I crossed the finish line. The Goofy event a few months ago was a different story. I made sure I had purchased a shirt that very clearly stated that I had run 39.3 miles. That was an obvious necessity.
When I went to the inspiration dinner later that evening I was inspired (not an unusual feeling for me at those events). A young woman talked about how she lost her sister to cancer many years ago. She cried often during her speech and it brought tears to my own eyes. I listened as they announced all of the top fundraisers and I was utterly impressed. At the end of the dinner I still wasn’t sure about my own goals during the race, but I knew that I had already done something… I had raised $3,000 to help fund cancer research. What more did I need to do?
As usual, I couldn’t sleep that night. I tend to run races on very little sleep because I have so much trouble falling asleep the night before. I woke up not very refreshed, but ready to get it over with. We took our team photo down in the lobby and wished each other success on the race. A few participants were running the marathon and I felt a twinge of jealousy because that had been my original plan. Yet, I knew I had just been dealt a different set of cards. I knew that this would be a challenge and challenges usually motivate me, but for some reason I just wanted to get through it and be done.
I waited with another participant near the starting line. We actually waited a very long time because we had arrived so early. She was nervous because it was her first half-marathon and she wasn’t confident that she had properly trained. I encouraged her as best as I could. Come to find out later, she actually did quite well.
I went to my corral up near the front. The only reason why I was up near the front was because I had registered with a decent finish time for the marathon. I considered moving back since I feared that I would be the only one stopping to walk. I often get annoyed with people who decide to stop in the middle of the road, especially at the start of a race. I didn’t want to be one of those people. Yet, I also didn’t want to get stuck in the back where I had to deal with weaving in and out of traffic if I decided that I would pick up my pace. I decided just to stay in my assigned corral and move off to the side.
At that point, I began to get a little worried. The furthest I had walked in the past few weeks was 6 miles. And of course I hadn’t been on a run in over a month and a half. I just assumed I would be fit enough to finish because I maintained my fitness through cycling, swimming and weight training. However, I knew that people who thought that they could run a half-marathon without actually training for it were just plain stupid. Now I was standing there wondering if I was one of those stupid people. Not only had I not trained specifically for that event, but I had an injury to deal with. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake.
Well, it was too late to reconsider because the next thing I knew I was following the crowd past the starting line. I started at a slow jog because I didn’t want to inhibit anyone behind me. People were still passing me, but at least I had a decent speed. After jogging a block or so I felt the adrenaline pumping and I started to pick up speed. I wasn’t about to be that slow person holding up traffic. I kept thinking that I should stop to walk. Actually, that was a recurring thought throughout the entire race. I never really ever responded to that thought except maybe a few times when coming down a steep incline or during an approach to the water table. The next thing I know I was at the 5K mark within 31 minutes. Yikes! I told myself that I needed to slow down because there was no way that I would be able to maintain that speed.
Every now and then I would consider the pain in my left leg and lower back. I would consider it thoughtfully. It was more of a dull ache and not a sharp shooting or severe pain. I didn’t feel any numbness in my leg or foot so I knew that was a plus. I couldn’t find a real excuse to stop running at the pace I was moving at. Then I focused on endurance. Yeah, I would probably tire myself out before I got to the finish line. I hadn’t run this far in a long time so I knew that fatigue would take over all areas of my body. These thoughts always ended with a final decision: to just keep running until I was either in severe pain or too tired to move my legs.
And the hills! Wow… Nashville is hilly! All of my running buddies know I love to run hills. It is actually the best part in my book because I usually tend to pass loads of people who are wearing down. Well, you might think that I would get even more tired since I hadn’t been out for my regular Tuesday night bridge runs in quite some time. Sure, I was more tired than usual, but you know what? That pain in my left leg would subside when I ran up an incline. No pain meant more running. On the downside, I had to go easy with the declines because those made the pain worse. So, I was passing walkers going up the hills, but runners were passing me as we went down the hills. They must have thought I was some sort of freak. Who runs up hills but walks down them?
It was one hill after another, but I didn’t really notice like most normal people would. The only hill that I actually cursed was the one at mile 12 because I was just so dang tired. At the marathon / half-marathon split at around mile 11 I easily talked myself out of joining the marathon course. I knew that would have been just plain stupid. As I neared the finish line I couldn’t believe that I had continued to run pretty much the whole way. Not only that, but the time just flew by and I couldn’t believe I was already almost there. It was then that I felt a wave of emotion. I had to curse the hill just so I would refrain from shedding the tears. I just could not believe what I had done despite all of the setbacks. I wasn’t sure if I should have been proud of myself or if I should have cursed at myself for being really stupid. I just knew in my heart that whatever pain I was feeling was nothing compared to the pain that Elizabeth and her parents have endured. I nearly choked at the thought of what it would be like to have a sick child and feeling helpless as she endured endless treatments. I almost felt like I had no right to stop and walk.
Somehow I managed to cross the finish line at 2:19:18. My worst time ever, but not by much. My first half-marathon time was 2:17:55. A far cry from my fastest time of 1:49:57 (accomplished just a few short months ago), but how can I complain? My goal was 3 hours! I was planning to WALK! What happened? I don’t know, but I will take it. I just can’t believe I did it. I really can’t.
Of course I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next morning. Then I would hear the endless “I told you so’s” and never be able to redeem myself. But to my utter amazement, my left leg and lower back were perfectly fine. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel even the slight pain that I had been feeling over the past few weeks. Yet, I wasn’t left in tip-top shape. Nope, my body had to reward me with a strained right calf muscle. Now I am limping around on my other leg. Okay, whatever. I will take it.