The Longest Race

This was a very difficult post for me to write, but it needed to be written nonetheless. On December 3, 2016, I began my first half marathon in over two years. It was the first race I ever registered for that I didn’t feel good about. I hadn’t been eating well, hadn’t been training much outside of casual walks with a run thrown in every week for good measure. I think part of me was hoping that my body would just remember how to finish a half marathon. Outwardly, I was confident in my ability to finish. I would tell my friends and family things like: “After I finish this half marathon, I am going to run such and such a race.” But inwardly, I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

In February of 2014, I registered for the Biggest Loser Walk Run Half Marathon. And I began training right away. Granted, it wasn’t always running. Often, it was Zumba. But regardless, it was some form of cardiovascular training. I was improving my stamina, building my muscles, and training my lungs to work more efficiently.

In February (or maybe March) of 2016, I assumed that once you complete one half marathon, you’ll always be able to complete another. I didn’t work out much after registering because in my mind, I had plenty of time. Zumba fell to the wayside (moving to a second story apartment will really limit your options), and walking/running was something that I only fantasized about doing regularly. When November snuck up on me, I decided that I needed to get serious. And by get serious, I mean walking/running a couple of times a week without setting any real distance goals, and without changing my eating habits. I didn’t fuel my body for working out the way I used to, and it was obvious when I had difficulty pushing myself to run even five miles.

By the time race day rolled around, I was around 30 pounds heavier than I was when I had done my last half marathon. I knew it was going to be a tough go. My heel spurs had been screaming at me for the past two weeks, and my knees were both stiff and inflamed. As I walked from the car to the starting line, my heels felt as though I had jammed hot coals into them. I tried to tune the pain out, knowing that once I got three or four miles under my belt, my feet would go numb and I wouldn’t have to deal with the hell spurs until after it was all over and I sat down.

One thing I didn’t take into account was that my feet went numb in the last race because my shoes were too small. They were the perfect size for just hanging out and walking around, but my feet swell a LOT when I do long distances. For this reason, I had gotten myself some new shoes that were one and a half sizes larger than what I normally wore. They would have been perfect if my feet were in top condition. My feet were not in top condition, though. They hurt like the devil, and I needed that numbness. I really did. When I passed mile 5 with no relief, I really started to get discouraged. I had begun falling farther and farther behind the rest of the pack. By mile 8, I was even behind the patrol car that was following the slowest runners. The streets were beginning to open back up to traffic.

When I reached the water station just past mile 11, I wanted to cry. I was parched and hurting. The volunteers had just taken the water table down, but poured me a cup of water and cheered me on. “You can do it!” they said excitedly. But I couldn’t. I know what you’re saying. I should have pushed through. I should have gone those extra two miles. I just wasn’t in a good place by then. By that point, I didn’t even know if there would be a finish line left to cross. I was so far behind that I had to move to the side walk. The guy in the medic van kept circling and asking me if I was okay. He offered to drive me to the finish line. I declined. If I couldn’t cross it on my own two feet, I wasn’t going to cross it at all. So about half a block from the water stop, I called my husband and asked him to pick me up.

Can I tell you guys how much I love and appreciate my husband? I was on the verge of tears when he rubbed my back and reminded me of how far I had actually gone. “You’ll finish the next one,” he said. “I’ll even do it with you. But don’t beat yourself up over this. You did a great job, and I’m proud of you.”

I thought I would go ahead and register for an upcoming 5K to keep myself on track, but something happened: I was afraid to. My failure to complete the OUC Half left me terrified of registering for another race. Even now, every uncertainty I’ve ever had runs through my head on a constant loop. My heels still hurt. What if they never stop? What if I register and fail to finish AGAIN? There are lots of races I have my eyes on. I’ve even marked them on my calendar. But I’m scared, y’all. I love running. I may not look like a person who loves running, but I really do. I love the endorphins I feel when I run. I love the burn in my muscles. I don’t ever want to not love running. But I’m afraid that another bad race may take me out of the game completely.

I found a challenge that I am going to participate in as soon as my self-diagnosed pneumonia clears up (another long story). The challenge basically encourages you to run 3 miles a day for 30 days. I can do that. I know I can. I will. But I don’t plan to register for another race anytime soon.

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