My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. yesterday. I woke up, took some time to process how early it was and why I was up, and then got dressed. The outfit I put on had been carefully laid out the night before, with much excitement and trepidation. My official race tech shirt, my favorite running leggings — the only moisture wicking pair I own, since my rigorous training schedule had rendered all of my other ones too large.
I was on the road before dawn, and parked my car at the Garmin headquarters in Olathe, KS as the first light was fighting to filter through heavy clouds. By the time I’d found Brandi (the friend who convinced me to try this whole half marathon thing) and her husband, the eastern sky was a murky blend of gray clouds and pink.
At 6:45, we hopped into a crowd of thousands of people, pumped full of adrenaline and optimism and excitement. Brandi was shooting for a sub 2 hour half marathon. I was just hoping not to be in serious pain by the time all of this was over. I gave Brandi a good luck high five as she kicked up her pace and I fell into a comfortable trot, settling into a crew of people that fit my pace better.
At the first checkpoint, I ran into a co-worker. We paced together for a while. By the second check point, I’d decided I would do what most distance runners dread: dropping out of the race.
But, it wasn’t a surprise. I’d known from the start I would have to drop out. You see, 10 weeks into training, I developed a pretty nasty case of plantar fasciitis. And, there was no way I could possibly finish the race without causing further injury.
The days leading up to the race were an emotional roller-coaster. I’d been working toward my first half marathon for almost three months — and then I had to wrestle with whether or not to try it, whether or not to run in the charity relay I was doing the week before, whether or not I would have to cancel on Brandi when we’d both invested a lot of time, money and planning into it.
Just days before the Garmin Oz Run Half Marathon, and less than a week after forcing 4 miles in the Brew To Brew charity relay, I made my final decision: I would start the race, and I would stop when my foot told me to. In this case, it was at the second checkpoint, just under 3.5 miles in.
But, it was a GREAT learning experience. Even if I didn’t finish, I did gain a ton of experience and insight. Here’s some what I learned:
- Distance running impacts most parts of your life. My social life, my work/life balance, my eating habits, my dynamics with Josh…all of these were impacted by running. And, honestly, most of the impacts were for the better. My mood, my energy levels, my quantity of “me time” sorting through things, and my health were all included.
- Distance running is great for your self-esteem. I’m insecure and competitive by nature — these two qualities don’t always play nice with each other. But, when it comes to distance running, the only competition was myself. It’s given me something to work toward and feel good about, without all the psychological dynamics of competing against others. And if I didn’t beat myself? Well, I still technically won.
- Listening to your body is a learned skill. I felt twinges in my heal during my run on a Monday. I was in full-blown, can-barely-walk-pain 3/4 of a mile from my office on Tuesday afternoon. I learned a hard lesson, and have been much wiser about listening to my body since then. I hopped out of the half just in time to save myself a lot of pain in the following days.
- The running community is full of amazing people. I think there are very few sports where you can be as bad as I am at running, and everyone is still thrilled you’re there. Performance athlete, struggling amateur, or newbie wheezing on the shoulder…no matter what, everyone’s just happy you’re here and giving it your best! The comradery along the race course should be bottled and handed out to politicians — maybe then we could have enough cooperation in Washington, D.C.
- Running requires support. Between all my amazing running friends who set me on this path, my family, and my wonderful boyfriend, I had a lot of support. Knowing I was disappointed at the idea of not finishing, Josh showed up the night before the race with flowers. I’d told him not to come, since I was planning on turning it into a 5k, but he still wanted me to know how proud he was of all my training and tenacity.
- Don’t necessarily plan on losing weight…but you may lose inches. I didn’t plan on losing weight as a side-effect of training. I had no idea what to expect, actually. And while the scale didn’t tip to far down from when I started, the increase in muscle tone and change in body fat % meant I had to buy new training gear about halfway through. It’s a good problem to have. (Results may vary.)
- You deserve to be proud of yourself. I may have only run about 1/4 of the race, but I trained like a boss for 10 weeks. My body changed drastically, my average mile pace increased significantly, and I’d learned so much about myself. And, honestly, my 3.5 miles at a 12 minute mile outpaced everyone who was still in bed on Saturday morning!
I’m sure if I say here long enough, I could think of plenty more lessons learned from the training process, the injury, and dropping out. But, I’m happy with the outcome. I’m happy with how I performed. I’m happy I could cheer Brandi on as she crossed the finish line of the 2015 Garmin Oz Run Half Marathon. And I’m happy to take some rest time to rehab and recover…so I can get a little closer to finishing a half marathon this fall.
Run fast, my friends. And wish me a happy rest period!