It seems like there have been several times in the last year that I could’ve written a post with this title.
After all, since January, I’ve signed up for—and not run—3 marathons. Yep, 3. First, it was my demon back injury that sidelined me from the Carmel Marathon last spring. Then, Hurricane Sandy stunned everyone, and in the most random, unexpected way, caused the NYC Marathon to be cancelled.
And finally, on Saturday, I attempted the Richmond Marathon. I have to say attempted because, unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it to the finish.
I could detail it for you mile by mile, but that seems unnecessarily harsh, mostly for me, because I’m not all that interested in reliving it. But here’s the less excruciating Reader’s Digest version:
I started the race feeling good. I stuck right with the 3:30 pace group for the first 6 miles. I felt loose, relaxed, and comfortable. Around the 10K mark, I felt a little twinge in my left knee. I tried to ignore it and just kept plugging away. When the twinge turned into a pang, and then my right knee joined the party around mile 7, I knew I needed to slow my pace if I was going to make it to the finish. I eased up a bit to around an 8:30 pace, but it wasn’t enough. No matter how I tried to talk myself out of it, my knees were in serious pain. I stopped at mile 8 to stretch, hoping that would help, then continued, slowing way down to around a 10 minute pace.
For the next 12 miles, I struggled, running a little, walking a lot, hoping that the pain would ease up, telling myself I would make it to mile 13, then 16, then 18. At each milestone, I figured I could regroup and make a decision as to whether or not I could keep going. By mile 18, I was walking more than I was running. Actually, walking is inaccurate; I was hobbling, unable to bend my right leg without pain. Still, I kept going—walking a lot, running a little, and hoping hoping hoping that somehow I would make it to the finish. But just before mile 20, I realized I was being really stupid. What was the point of trying to finish just for the sake of finishing? I didn’t want a 6 hour finish time just to say that I “ran” a marathon. That’s not what I trained for. It wasn’t the race I wanted to run.
And so I stopped. Yes, there were tears, as much as for the pain in my knees (that was now radiating up my quads and into my hips and back) as for the disappointment of training off and on for almost a year only to have to drop out because of an injury that literally hasn’t bothered me in 2 years. That’s right—the knee thing? This is an old injury. Ten years ago, I was told that I had worn all of the cartilage out of my knees and wouldn’t be able to run again. So I suppose the fact that I made it this far is a victory in and of itself. But I was surprised that my knees were the thing to get in the way of this race. I had nearly forgotten that they were even an issue until they came screaming at me on Saturday morning. It was kind of a shock, to tell you the truth.
Surprisingly, though, I feel ok. I’m not destroyed by this. I’m not even disappointed in myself. I know I gave it my very best shot, and there was nothing I could’ve done differently that would’ve prevented my knees from hurting on this particular day. Sometimes these things just happen.
I think the bigger lesson here is that I realize I’ve developed resilience. If this had happened a year ago, I would’ve been devastated—especially after the double whammy of NY being canceled and then having to drop out of this race. But, no. I actually feel at peace with the whole situation. For whatever reason, this just isn’t my year to run a marathon.
So now, I’ll take a break, rest up my body, and then decide what my next move is. If a marathon isn’t meant for me, then it isn’t. Honestly, I don’t believe that—in fact, I know that if NY had gone on as scheduled, I would have finished that race. But right now? I don’t feel anxious to get out there and try again.
I am a runner. I will always be a runner. And part of being a runner is that sometimes you have a bad race. Sometimes you’re injured. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.
And sometimes it makes so much sense that you can’t fathom how anyone could not understand it.
I had a bad race, but it doesn’t mean I’m weak or that I didn’t work hard or that I didn’t deserve to make it. It simply means that I had a bad race. But as someone very wise once told me, you have to have the bad races because they make the good races so much more rewarding. And I know that there are more rewarding races in my future.