I wrote this blog post over and over in my head yesterday. I had some great stuff going on, but I think I left it out there on the streets of Chicago, because now I’m finding it hard to gather my thoughts. But I don’t want to forget my experience yesterday so I am going to do my best to recount it.
There’s something about a marathon that is the ultimate test of body and mind resiliency. How much will your body give, and how much will your own mind try to sabotage you? It’s all a game with many moving parts. Mile by mile it changes.
I toed the starting line of the Chicago Marathon at 8 a.m. yesterday. I originally lined up with a 5:45 pace group which I was totally confident about at the time.
Of course I had a horrible time training for this race. I have severe plantar fasciitis in both feet, and after a cortisone shot in each foot and weeks of physical therapy, they were still screaming at me at the start line. I knew this was not going to a be a pretty 26.2.
I lost my pacing group a couple of miles in, mostly because I felt like running more than a 5:1 ratio of running/walking at the beginning. As time went on and my calves starting cramping at mile 7, I knew the day was going to be a long one. Luckily the cramping didn’t get too bad but it was enough to be annoying and slow me down.
Mile 11 really stuck out to me as a tough mile, because my injuries were killing me and I knew I had to slow down if I was going to give myself a chance to finish. As I passed the half marathon mark, I thought, wouldn’t it be so great to stop right here and now? A half marathon just seems like a walk in the park, such a great distance. But nope…I had to keep running. So I tried my best but eventually started walking around mile 14-15.
At mile 16 I finally felt like I could “count down” the last 10.2 miles instead of counting up. It’s a nice milestone to make it to and finally made it seem like I could finish, despite the fact that I wasn’t going to get anywhere near a finish time I had hoped for. Every fiber of my body from the knees down was in so much pain.
I’m not going to lie, a lot of negative thoughts entered my head during miles 16-19. Mostly – why do I keep doing this distance? I’m never going to have a great marathon. My first marathon was bombed, my second marathon was incredibly hot, and now I’m the most injured I have ever been. Why does this keep happening to me? Why won’t this ever work for me? WHEN will I get a good race and get a time I can be satisfied with? It is so frustrating.
I hit a point where I just felt like I had nothing left to give. My body was failing me. I kept pushing and pushing and it felt like I was going nowhere.
Mile 19 was a game changer. I took my iPod off because I was running through a very Spanish type of neighborhood, and everyone was out and about. The people were so amazing. They had everything a runner could ask for…tissues, water, food. They were all out in the streets dancing to music and it was such an uplifting thing just when I needed it. Randomly “Chelsea Dagger” came on their giant speakers and I took it as I sign; I silently told my injuries to F off, over and over and over again. I told them: we have 7 more miles to go, feet, so you better shut the F up because we are doing this. We are not giving up now.
I was able to push the pain out of my mind for the next few miles but my body would only allow me to move so fast. I kept feeling like I was moving faster than I actually was because of the amount of energy I was putting out; in reality I wasn’t going very fast at all. It was so weird. My body just would not listen to my mind when I told it to move. I pretty much felt this way for the rest of the race. I just did the best I could and kept moving forward. It was not a question that I would finish. I kept telling myself that.
Largely the race was as flat as advertised, of course the one exception was the .2 of the 26.2, which was up a bridge ramp, of course. But I made it.
As I walked through the finish line chute, I got some water and a sweet older man volunteer put a medal around my neck. I always get emotional at this part (not that I have a lot of experience with it, having only run 2ish marathons before this). It had just been a really, really long day, filled with unbearable physical pain. My body had failed me in the worst way and I still finished.
“I think you need a hug,” he said to me as I teared up, and he put my medal around my neck. I gladly accepted his hug and thanked him for it.
I learned a lot about myself yesterday. I learned that you can be given the worst of circumstances in any given situation and still find a way to survive, to fight your way through it. Everyone goes through struggles in life, and you will find a way. You will always find a way. The body is a resilient thing when it syncs up with your mind.
Now that it’s over, I know my body needs rest…a lot of rest. I need to respect that aspect of my recovery. I want to be able to run well into my 70s and 80s, and that means I need to take care of myself now. And that’s okay with me 🙂
Until next time, 26.2…much love, much respect.