Anyone who follows me knows by now that I did not finish my last half marathon. I was side lined completely at little under 10.5 miles. I’ve already beat myself up, consistently, for not just finishing the damn thing when where were less than three miles to go. Anyway.
I didn’t blog for a month now. I haven’t consistently posted on Instagram, either, and that’s pretty unlike me. I guess I was just so distraught over the outcome of this past race that I didn’t feel like doing much of anything.
Let me take you through my journey. When I trained for the 2017 Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I used a treadmill for nearly every run (hint: don’t do that). I also didn’t use an incline (hint: bad move if you’re running in a city known for hills). I also wore 4 mm drop shoes without really breaking them in (final hint: don’t wear minimalist shoes if you haven’t properly broken them in and gotten used to them over about six months vs. six days). As you can see, I made a series of bad decisions.
I think we should just call this training block and race “Courtney’s Series of Unfortunate Events.”
Even so, I didn’t feel that bad during training. Race day was upon me before I knew it. I told myself I wasn’t going to be crazy over time goals, but that I wanted to beat my 2:15:38. So, I started the race with the 2:15 pacer and my plan was to eventually move in front of that group around mile 10. Clearly, that did not happen.
When I crossed the first timing mat around mile 4.5 or so, I was doing great. I was running with the 2:15, at pace, and wasn’t having any problems. When I crossed the next mat around 9 miles or so (I think), my pace increased by one whole minute. I’m sure anyone tracking me knew something was wrong.
Somewhere between miles 5-6, I started getting terrible pain in my left shin. It felt like my bone was about to break in half. I kept going only to get the added bonus of achilles pain. I stopped to stretch, and that only made it worse. I watched my shadow limping along next to me, and I finally just stopped.
I limped my way into a medical tent about mile 9.3. As soon as I saw a folding chair, I lost it and started sobbing. I knew that if I sat down, I would feel better – and I didn’t want to sit down because I wanted to keep beating my ass all the way to the finish line. They told me to sit down, and as soon as I got off of my left leg, I knew it was done. Over. No way I would finish it.
Still, I was insistent. I tried to walk the rest of the way, but when I got on to Carson street where my friend lives, I made the decision to exit the course. PS: Before I gracefully limped my way past a traffic barrier and got off the course, I took a Steelers cupcake from a spectator, and that helped a little bit (cupcakes help everything).
Honestly, realizing that I wasn’t going to finish the race wasn’t the hard part. The hard part came when 72 hours later, I was still in just as much pain. I was mad at the shoes I wore. I was mad at how I trained. I was mad for not foam rolling enough.
But most importantly and sadly, I was – for the first time – mad at running. I’ve always felt like running and I had a parent-child relationship: No matter how upset running made me or no matter how it side-lined me before, I forgave running and always came back.
Suddenly, I’d felt as though we’d gone from a parent-child relationship – one of forgiveness and unconditional love – to a high school fling. Instead of cradling the sport that shaped me into who I am into my arms and telling both of us it would be ok, I was threatening to leave and talking badly behind its back. I developed this strange lack of patience that I never felt over running. I mean, I tore my hamstring, suffered from ITBS in both legs, and have other pesky things happen – but this, for some reason, this made me furious and angry.
Still, I am not a person who can sit still. I jumped right into the water and lapped my way to happiness. “Maybe I found something new to do?” I thought.
And then I lost my father in law tragically and suddenly on Tuesday, and we didn’t even know he was gone until Wednesday. I wanted nothing more than to lace up my shoes and go run, run, run, run.
I realized, just in that moment, that I still have that unconditional love for running. Yeah, I do love swimming. But nothing wears you out mentally and emotionally and physically like miles of pounding the pavement.
Thursday and today I realized, in the midst of my life right now, that I woke up and I was not in any pain. Today I had to run to grab something out of my puppy’s mouth and realized that I ran from the kitchen to the living room without thinking. I wasn’t even able to walk at a brisk pace when this all first went down on the weekend of May 7.
I stood dumb-founded and let my dog chew the puzzle piece. “I just ran in here,” I said out lout.
I have a road ahead, but it’s going to be ok.
Running, I love you dearly. It may not always be like “the beginning,” but you are who I look to when I need comfort that only miles and miles can provide. We will soon be together again.