RR: I spent the night before my race out late, at a horse show, and didn’t get into bed until around 1 a.m. Big difference from my marathon in May where I was in bed by 10 p.m. And just like almost every other runner, I had quite the restless sleep. Nevertheless when my alarm when off at 5:30 a.m. my adrenaline kicked in, I threw on my race clothes and warmed up by running uphill to the metro. I have to say that one of my favorite parts of this day was my metro ride – a trip I usually hate because I’m prone to motion sickness. What a sight to jump into a metro car at 6 a.m. on a Sunday that is filled with runners. And boy did we have fun. Sat next to a guy who had come up all the way from Orlando to run his first 26.2. Met some women who do this race every year. And everyone had questions about my legs. Oh, did I mention? I was taped up – all bondage-esque, the day before at the expo with KT Kinesio Tape. The stress fractures in both tibias may be healing, but they cause a great deal of pain. But somehow, and don’t ask me how because I have no idea, this Japanese chiropractic technique does wonders to my legs. It may look a little strange, but it works so what do I care.
Arrived at the Mall to a sea of runners; stretching, huddling together (did I mention it felt 10 degrees cooler in DC than in N. Bethesda?) The lines for the porta pottys (sp?) were ridiculous, and after wasting ten minutes just standing in line and not moving any closer I decided my time would be better spent stretching. So I checked my bag, found a bench, and entered into a very meditative state of stretching that I always seem to go into before a race or a horse show. And then the next thing I knew it was time to begin.
I positioned myself near the 50:00 sign. In truth my goal was to make it in under an hour. Before my injury I was shooting for an 8:40 or so mile. But many things have changed in the past few months, and in all honesty I really wasn’t even sure I’d ever really run again – at least not like I had. My body had been going through so much, and my mind had become so used to defeat from the pain, that I figured I’d just see if I could make it under 60:00 and maybe that’d be it for my running career. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
6.2 miles went pretty darn fast. I spent the first two in what I like to refer to as “equitation flat class mode”. In a show ring, in a flat class, you have to fight to be seen by the judges. Not only are you trying to look pretty and have your horse move well, but you need to cut in and out, strategize from halfway around the ring, to figure out how to position yourself. I was always great at this. And I always won those classes. I find that the first 2-3 miles in any race are quite similar. You have to maneuver around the slower runners, cut in between two others, jump over a pothole. I don’t know why, but I have so much fun doing this. And it’s great too because usually these are the worse miles in my long runs.
The course was ok. Personally, I think the 26.2 is much more beautiful. This was kind of blah but it goes by quickly. At about 3-4 miles I came up a hill and saw a man, military although I can’t remember which branch, running with a prosthetic…and running at about my pace. A guy in front of me turns around and says to me, “well there’s really no complaining now, is there.” And that was it for me. No complaining about my shins. There’s no room for that in this world. If this man can run, then there’s absolutely no question about my capabilities. I lengthened my stride and moved on.
There were more moments like this. But they’re personal and I’ll keep them to myself. But I will say that one of the reasons I enjoy running is because I find it to be a mental battle. I compete against myself. I fight my mind. It’s a very cleansing experience. My last mile was probably the hardest. I resisted all urges to check my Nike+ the whole race. I know that it is never completely accurate. Coming through the last stretch, with all the marines lined up, shouting and giving high fives – well that was pretty cool. I knew I was close. Just one more turn…And then I turned. Maybe that was my fault for not reading up on the course more ahead of time. But who knows, maybe if I knew that giant (because that’s what it seemed to me) hill was going to be there I would have been dreading it and then not have enjoyed the race. Either way, just when I thought I had given my last burst of energy I was now going to have to double it. A man next to me, military I presume but out of uniform, transformed into drill sergeant and began yelling at his girlfriend. Yelling is totally not the right word here, because it was very endearing and motivating and he was only filled with good intentions. I could tell from his tone. But apparently his girlfriend wasn’t having any of it. She was having a tough time getting up the hill and told him to stop. So I turned to him and told him he could bark at me. And he did. And what a difference that made. I needed that extra little boost. I don’t think I could take that from anyone I knew, but for some reason a stranger acting like a drill sergeant made my legs start to move faster and I left the couple in the dust (or I like to think I did at least).
I crossed the finish line and entered what I like to call runners daze. It’s a drunk-like/amnesia type of state. I usually just wander around as people hand me water and bananas and such. I thought a marine offered me clam chowder, which I really wasn’t in the mood for after a run, but I accepted anyway. Turns out he said “chow” and it was a bag full of nutritious food. My daze usually stops shortly after I find Pete. I don’t know why I go into this state but I do. I always laugh about it later, but at the time I don’t really notice. I found Pete about 20 min later, with his video camera and tripod in hand. He gave me a hug and started asking me questions (he missed me crossing the finish line unfortunately). A few minutes into my ramble about the race I realize the camera is on and he’s been shooting me the whole time. Great. I probably look like a crazy person, sweating, bright red with more and more freckles starting to come out, darting my eyes everywhere. I have yet to see the tape. Thanks Pete.
My chip time was 54:13. I ran an 8:44 mile. I got my PR. My previous best had been a little over 57:00, so I’m obviously thrilled. What’s even better is when I put it all into perspective: For someone who has been battling multiple stress fractures and debilitating shin splints for months (not to mention tendonitis in both calves due to these injuries) and hasn’t really trained that hard for this (I’ve been running about 2x a week for a few weeks. 20 min here. a few miles there. Hardly anything) and then to go and run like this, well it shows that I can do this. I can do Pittsburgh in May. After all, there is no complaining anymore.