It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
That cliché sums up the weekend perfectly.
The weekend started with 5k on Saturday, the day before the Marathon. The Corelle 5K is part of Wineglass Weekend. My running buddy, Dan, was using it as a shake-out run before he ran the Half on Sunday. I did have a two mile “easy” run scheduled for Saturday, so it seemed like a good idea to run the 5K.
I did not have any goals set for the race, in fact, my goal was to have an “easy” run. To not run fast. I followed the script for the first two miles. Running an 8:30 pace for each. Then I got the itch. I asked Dan if it was okay if I stretched it out a bit. He gave me the green light and off I went. About a 1/4 mile from the finish I caught one of the Kids from my Running Club Team. I slowed a bit and ran with him through the finish. It was a great feeling to encourage Caleb to finish strong.
I finished in 24:10. A 5K PR for me, but since I haven’t run a 5K Race when I have been this fit, the time is much slower than it could have been. I look forward to the Thanksgiving 5K, when I do a race specificallty ro run fast and get a PR. Usually after a race, I check my time and then bolt.The Timing System was slower than usual, so I would have normally left and checked it on the web later. However, since I was there with Dan, I hung out and was still there when the time sheets started to get hung. I was surprised to see I placed in my Age Group. Again, my time was slow, compared to what I am capable of, and compared to what my Age Group Times would be in any other competitive 5K. Still, it was fun to Place, and to get the Glass Mug that came with it.
That was the beginning of what I was sure was going to be a successful weekend.
Race day prep went well. I did my carb loading leading up to Race Morning. Breakfast on Race Day went down well. Arrival at the Start was peaceful. The necessary restroom trips were all taken care of well before lining up for the Marathon. I didn’t have any nerves to speak of. My mantra for the day was, “Nothing to it, but to do it.”
I was still unsure what Pace Group to attach myself to. When the race started my plan was to hang with the 3:45 group and move up if I felt like I could handle something faster. Last year I ran the race in 4:16:23. My “easy” goal this year was under 4 hours, but I was confident 3:45 was in my grasp.
The horn sounded and we were off. I stuck to the plan, running with the 3:45 Group for the first mile. Then I started to ease ahead. I continued to run what felt like an easy pace, passing the 3:40 Pace Group by mile six, and catching up to the 3:35 Pace Group by mile 13.
The 3:35 pace felt a half step faster than what I should be doing, but I got caught up in what the finishing time would sound like, and tried to hang. By mile 16, the gravity of what was in front of me started to sink in. At first it was the mental battle, what pace was the right pace? What pace can would get me to the finish? How do I get through the next ten miles?
My first coping mechanism was to walk through the hydration stations. Once through I would resume a slow pace, until getting to the next station. This strategy worked, for a while. I didn’t mind seeing stronger runners passing me as I jogged, because I was still moving forward. Still following the “walk for water, jog to the next one” plan. Then we came to a section in a park, that was preceded by a steep, short downhill. This was at about mile 21.
Something happened, and then began, the worst of times…
Not long after the steep downhill I collapsed. My legs literally gave out. I sat in the grass. Took a few seconds, and then tried to walk. I took a few steps, and then went down again. Everything hurt from my hips to my feet. I repeated the walking, then collapsing, a handful of more times. Finally, I laid at the side of that path and thought about it… a DNF.
I thought about all of the people I would be letting down. I thought about how I could explain it, how embarrassing that would be. I thought about all of the bravado I spewed leading up to the race. I was humbled by the experience in a way that I have never felt before.
I needed help. So I took out my phone and tried to find it. The text messages I sent were not so much a cry for help, as they were seeking permission to give up. Luckily, I have the right person in my corner. Someone who believed in me. Someone who knew what the ramifications of a DNF would be for me.
So, I got up. I made myself walk, slower than I have ever walked before. When I could walk, I tried to jog. Bad idea, I went down again. But I got back up, and I walked. Those final 4.5 miles were the most painful miles I have ever logged. At the same time, they were some of the best I have ever logged. I shared the experience with the Running Club Kids who showed up to cheer me on, with the friends who spotted me on the course, and most importantly, with someone who believed in me and would not let me give up on myself.
When the final two-tenths of a mile of the race was in front of me I did run again. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t feel good. I was humbled. When I crossed the finish line the gratitude I felt for the person who helped me through those final 5 miles was, and continues to be, indescribable.
I finished. My official time was 4:09:29. Seven minutes faster than last year, but the time is not sitting well. I don’t know how to respond to the “congratulations” I receive, because I don’t feel they are deserved.
I do know this. My Marathon days are over. I love running. I will continue to train, and to run races. In order for me to feel like a runner I need to feel competitive. I do not think my lifestyle will ever allow me to feel like a competitive marathon runner. I do not have the time necessary to train to the point where I would want to do it again.
The Half, that is a different story, I do feel like I can and will run more Half Marathons and be competitive. I already have one planned for next month. Any shorter distance, sign me up. Like I said before, I am pumped for my next 5K.
Final thought, running seems so simple to the outside observer. Heck, I even thought I had this race mastered. I was wrong. I was humbled. Running is complex. Running is hard. Running will knock you down, but will be right there to give you a reason to get back up again. I got back up. I am a runner, so I will run. Stay tuned, great things are yet to come!
What are your recent running successes? What is your preferred Race distance, and how did you figure that out? What do you think it means to be a Runner?
Thank you as always for your feedback. It is always appreciated! Run Happy and run with a smile, you will go faster!