The one thing about running?
It can be really humbling.
I learned this during my first 5k, when at mile 2.5 I wasn’t sure I could run another step and I decided to walk for a bit… and then started sprinting, too fast, WAY too early before the finish line and tried not to puke when I FINALLY crossed that damn finish.
I was reminded my first half marathon, where the hill at mile 12 nearly killed me, and I couldn’t hang on, and an older gentleman actually WORKED to get my attention through my haze of disappointment and too-loud music to tell me, I don’t leave anyone behind. Come on – you can DO this.
And then again in October 2011 at the Marine Corps Marathon, when shooting, stabbing pain erupted in my right knee at mile 22.
But. BUT. This training cycle was DIFFERENT.
I had a month of dead legged runs, where I had no speed, but I fought through it, and for the past two months running has felt SO. Damn. GOOD! My longest run – 22 miles – I ended the run with 5 miles of FAST running, and I wanted to scream and dance and do cartwheels, I felt so damn GOOD.
And two week ago, I ran a 1:49:22 half marathon – without a watch. It felt SO good.
So when I lined up at the start of the Baystate Marathon on Sunday morning, I felt ready. Confident. Let’s DO THIS.
For half of the race, I was doing it. I hit the halfway point at 1:51:01.
And then the wheels came off.
In retrospect, the wheels started to come off earlier than the halfway point. At the 10k mark I probably had my first indication that it wasn’t my day: at that point, my pace felt kind of hard. Not awful – not enough that I was worried – but a niggle. I probably should have listened to it, but I figured: race nerves. Let’s go another mile and see how you feel, Karen.
And the feeling passed.
But then the niggle happened again at mile 8. A TOUCH longer this time. Again, not so much that I really worried about it. Just a touch of “hard.”
And then again, at mile 11. And that’s where I started to listen.
Okay, not going to be my day. Dial back a bit – let’s NOT push it. Slow it down, see what happens.
And then I hit the halfway point, and the only word in my head was “terrible.”
I felt terrible.
From there it was a battle. Awful, tough, hard battle. I walked. A lot. Mentally I tried to let go of the disappointment that I had to walk and I tried to figure out how to salvage the race.
I had a lot of time to think about it, as it turns out. The second half of the marathon I ran in 2:18:13. It actually felt like eons. Ages. YEARS I spent running and walking and trying to dredge up the energy and will and mental strength to keep going.
I finished, with the help of two of my friends which I will forever be indebted to, in 4:09:14. Thankfully I was uninjured. Exhausted. Depleted. Sore. But not hurt.
And the race I ran that day was a far cry from the 3:40 I have spent the past YEAR training for.
What a humbling experience.
I came away from the race with renewed respect for the distance. Seriously, 26.2 ain’t no drop in the bucket. When something goes wrong in a marathon, holy shit it can go REALLY wrong.
But I also came away from it with a sense of thankfulness.
I love running. For me, it’s a physical, mental, and emotional release I can’t really get anywhere else. It’s a place I can feed the OCD which makes me want to get to round mileage numbers. It’s where hard work and smart training creates progress, where I can actually SEE the fruits of my efforts with real, concrete numbers.
I loved training for this marathon. And I want to do it again.
So I’m thinking for 2014 I’ll add two of them to my calendar: the Vermont City Marathon in May, and the Baystate Marathon again next fall.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” – W. C. Fields