“Sure.” The word flew out of my mouth before my brain could digest the proposition in front of me. What had I agreed to? Let me replay the conversation and process the events that led to my carefree agreement to train for a half marathon.
My friend Sara listened as I had pouted about my weight, lack of energy, and well, my dissatisfaction with my overall health. Of course, we had just survived the added stress of the holiday season but were marked by extra pounds of holiday weight. She had started going to the gym and was feeling much better than I, but shared the desire to be in better shape. I poured a glass of wine and then as if I had just solved the world’s obesity dilemma, I blurted, “We should train for a 5K!” I grabbed my wine glass with two hands, leaned over, anticipating some verbal affirmation for my brilliant idea. Sara replied, “How about a half marathon?” “Sure,” the word was off my tongue before my brain put all the pieces together. I wish I could have blamed the wine, but I had barely taken a sip.
It was the end of January, so I suggested an October race. Surely that would give me plenty of time to train, even if my current condition left me winded when I went up the stairs in my home too quickly. Sara insisted on a spring half, and of course my proud inner athlete agreed. Ugh, Amber, really you should get that “think before you speak” thing down. We decided on an early June race. Finally, Sara agreed with me that the course should be flat. Phew!
I searched the web for the easiest training schedule I could find, and we hit the trail within the week. The weather was unseasonably warm and made training somewhat enjoyable, but my knees began to ache as we increased miles. There is nothing like the feeling of achy knees to make you feel old. I began using KT Tape, and visited my local running store for a gait analysis. According to the associate there I needed a $130 pair of stabilizing shoes. Eager for relief I took him at his word, justified the cost versus knee surgery. The next couple of weeks of training went well, but by the end of my third week in my new expensive running shoes my shins had begun to ache. No pain, no gain, I would tell myself, but the day after a seven mile run I couldn’t walk. I was in so much pain, but there were only a couple months till the race. Taking time off of running wasn’t an option if I wanted to finish. Under careful doctor’s supervision I continued training. I began to be known by my limp; I compared it to the 9 month prego waddle. Just as one shin began to heal the other began hurting. Then to top it off I strained my hip flexor. I could barely get a stride; I could barely run. The half was just a month away and the more miles I ran, the worse I felt.
My youngest daughter asked me why I ran, it clearly wasn’t good for me. I am sure you might be asking that same question, as did many of my good friends. I think I might have given up mid training too if circumstances were different.
What kept me going:
- Running empowered me. During my training my overall health had been causing me troubles, I struggle with autoimmune issues that made me wonder how long I would even be able to do something like this. I didn’t want to feel weak or helpless.
- I could, so I would. During my training, my husband’s uncle had a very rare brain surgery that took his ability to talk, walk, and do many daily tasks away from him. He had to work hard in therapy and relearn these basic skills. If he could, he would. I couldn’t give up because it hurt, and neither did Uncle Dan.
- I wasn’t about to quit. I may have committed to the race on a whim, but I made a commitment to myself and my friend. I was going to finish even if I crawled across the finish line.
What was I to do? Three weeks before the race I joined another running store’s weekly fun run. Running with others energized me. I began to feel better and my confidence grew. But I was a little too confident and pushed too hard in the following week’s runs. I showed up to the group fun run and could barely get a stride. I struggled through two miles and averaged a 13.5 min./mile. There were only eleven days till my half and worry was plastered all over my face.
Another runner suggested that I was in the wrong shoes. Defensively I didn’t want to believe him, but I listened anyway. He recommended a couple of different shoes and I stared at the price tags. What was I to do? Change shoes 11 days before my race? Running was getting very expensive. I did what was only normal I went home and did some online research.
The guy at the second store was right. The way I step and the kind of arch I have require a neutral shoe. The first store had sold me a stabilizing shoe and that was the cause of my shin splints. Frustrated but hopeful, I went back to the second store and bought a neutral shoe. I wore them everywhere for the ten days before the race. I noticed the pain was less in my shins each day. I kept my runs frequent but with low miles the week leading to the race.
It was race day. My stomach was in knots; I didn’t even know if my legs or hips would work that day. The starting gun fired. My left foot hit the ground, then my right, and again. I was running. It had to have been the adrenaline. I glanced at my watch and realized I was running at a much faster pace than I had trained. I steadied my pace and began the mind game of just take one mile at a time. The first four miles were hard, I wondered how I would make all 13.1. By mile five and six I was excited, cheering others on and giving out high fives. This is called a running high. I had to contain my social expressions because I realized I was using up more energy than I should. Mile nine, I felt the blisters forming on the bottom of my feet. “Just make it to the next water station, you can do this.” maybe it was the heat, dehydration or the lack of calories but talking to myself seemed totally normal at the stage in the race. I rounded mile eleven and realized that if I kept my current pace I would beat my personal record by fifteen minutes. So I forced myself to push through the last two miles.
With a time of two hours, thirty minutes, and twenty eight seconds I finished. My had just arrived in time to see me cross the finish line, because they thought they had another ten to fifteen minutes before I arrived.
I had accomplished more than I though I was capable of doing. I had overcome my circumstances. I finished strong and my daughter’s watched me do it. The reward of finishing the race was enough, but the bonus of being an example for my girls in overcoming adversity was more than a bonus.
And guess what? I have taken a couple weeks off and am ready to start training for my next race. This time a 5k. Sign up to get updates on my training or join the fun run on Tue evenings, 6 PM, at the Endurance House