Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Running a 1/2 marathon

I'm not a runner. I never have been. In typical Katie fashion I skipped over 5k and 10k races and went straight to a 1/2 marathon. Go big or go home, right? But...I'd trained all summer. I was running consistent 10 minutes miles. I was cross training with yoga. I was ready! Then a week and a half before the race I got a killer sinus infection. Race day, 10.10.10, was the first day I stared to feel normal again. I hadn't been able to exercise for the week and a half prior to race day. It was a colder morning than any I'd run - 42 degrees! My muscles felt sort of tight, but I felt pretty good. I was excited - but also nervous. I turned to my friend & training buddy Inga as we were waiting to start running and said "this is your fault!" It was her idea to do this race thing anyway! But you know what? The first 5 miles were fantastic. I was feeling good despite the last week. I was running well, and we could tell by the time displays that we were running about 10 minute miles. I wasn't trying to break any records; I just wanted to finish before the course closed at 2:30. I was on pace to finish in 2:10. I wanted to be sure to get my t-shirt and medal, and just finish. That was my only goal. As Inga and I passed the turn around point, in the fenway area, I was so excited and thinking that I could really do it!

Everything changed around mile 8. All of the sudden I felt a shooting pain in the side of my knee. I have bad knees and I was running with a knee brace because I had felt soreness before. This, however, wasn't soreness. As soon as it happened I knew something was wrong. Inga ran on and I lagged behind. Runners started passing me from behind. As I approached mile ten my knee was throbbing. Every step was painful. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. The tears were not from the pain (it was bad but tolerable) but because I was afraid that if I had to walk the last 4 miles that I wouldn't finish in 2:30. Then I might not be an official finisher...and I might not get my medal. I started looking at the spectators. A women in blue looked me in the eyes as I climbed a hill. She kept smiling at me and cheering, telling me I could do it. Lady in blue, whoever you are, THANK YOU! I wanted to stop; you kept me going.

Miles 10-12 were awful. I walked some, but even walking I felt the sharp pain. I jogged, and felt like the pain wasn't much worse than walking. I just felt like I was going so slow. All I could think was why was my stupid knee giving out? I wasn't winded! I had the stamina to finish, I just needed this joint to hang in there! I tightened the brace as much as I could. I kept jogging. I kept seeing the time displays and realizing that I was going slower and slower. I cried a little. I berated myself for crying. I said to myself, "YOU HAVE TO FINISH! This isn't fun, clearly you're not built to be a runner, but you've come this far and you are GOING TO FINISH! Just finish, get your medal, and then YOU NEVER HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN." As I crossed into mile 13 I was telling myself I could do it and tuning out the pain. I was behind a team of women all wearing pink and encouraging each other. I fed off their energy. Then I could hear the music at the finish line. I crossed into the park. One mile to go. 2:18:30. I needed to finish by 2:30:00!

The last mile wound through the Franklin Park Zoo. It was the longest miles of my life! Every step felt like slow motion, every time my foot struck the trail pain shot through my knee. But I was almost there. The time I saw when I finished was 2:32. I know it sounds crazy, but I was so disappointed. Even though the announcer was still there and there was still a crowd I was so very afraid that they'd be strict with the 2:30 cut off and I wouldn't be an official race finisher. Then I saw the medals. As a guy handed me one he said "Smile! You're done!" I felt overwhelmed. I couldn't find my husband. I could find my friend Inga. I couldn't walk without a serious limp.

Fast forward 10 days. I had seriously sore muscles for 3 days. My knee still hurts a lot up stairs, down hills, and if I go for any kind of a walk on pavement. But it's getting better. The best thing that happened was when I received the race results. It was then that I realized that I acutally finished at 2:29:33! Wait, that's under 2:30:00! I DID IT! 27 seconds to spare! On race day I wasn't thinking about how since I didn't cross the start line with the first racers that the clock was ahead of my actual time. It took my part of the crowd a few minutes to get to the start! I also saw confirmation that I did the first 5 miles in 50 minutes, and that felt really good too.

I look back on the experience with mixed feelings. I had high expectations. I expected to feel awesome when I was done. Since I hurt myself mid-race I didn't feel awesome. I just! I don't know that I'll ever do a 1/2 marathon again. I do know that I won't be attempting a full marathon any time soon. I could be convinced to run my first 10k. We'll see what happens with my knee. The positive side of struggling through the race is that I feel like I overcame and even bigger obstacle. Not only did I run 13 miles, but I ran the last 4 through the pain of my knee. I did it. It feels empowering; and - if nothing else - I can now cross 'run a 1/2 marathon' off my bucket list!

Thank you to my husband, Anthony, Inga my training buddy, and all of my wonderfully supportive friends! I flooded Facebook with my running updates and you all kept supporting me. You're the best. I'm a lucky girl. I always admired and respected anyone who runs marathons; but now I have an even deeper reverence for them. You people are amazing.

Photos & graphics from

1 comment:

Natalie said...

good for you Katie! I think I'll be sticking to 5k training for now ;)