Tomorrow, I’ll run my second half marathon. I’m looking forward to the event, differently than last year for many reasons. It has again dawned on me that this is why I take notes on my runs, and why I (sort of) wish I had started a running blog this past spring. (Because when you don’t keep up with one blog, it’s a fine idea to start one or two more. Wait for it…)
The reason is I could talk about running all day long, really to anyone who will listen. This is in no way to undervalue those who DO listen, it’s just a case of something I find so interesting and fascinating, I want to make you (vous) see it too. This, of course, is something I have begun to accept as futile– this whole idea of making another person see/understand/accept/believe something. I digress.
Among the many things that have changed since last year, I’ve managed to surround myself with more runners. People who run. People who run and then talk about running. I love it. With the encouragement and recommendation of my sister-in-law Jessica, I decided to do Team in Training, and not only train for a marathon, but raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Notice I said marathon in the third paragraph; half marathon in the first.
One of the hardest things about running for me has been to not compare myself to other people. Sort of like that whole “don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides” thing– you never know what’s going on inside someone else, and you also don’t know how much “secret athlete” someone possesses. Meaning this– taking on something like training for a marathon is quite a big undertaking, and naturally most people agree that it’s difficult. The degree of “difficult” or “challenging” becomes a personal thing, and going through the training, many people experience setbacks, small or bigger. I had my fair share this year.
I suppose I have had shin splints in the past. But any pain or injury due to running prior to 2012 I consider part and parcel with being generally out of shape, inconsistent with health efforts in general, and I’m sure I used minor aches and pains to fuel whatever excuses I kept alive like smoldering embers. My foundation was lacking, to say the least, so any efforts at improving physical exercise were truly in vain. 2012 was sort of a clean slate as far as running was concerned– it was the first time I followed a program, at first an amalgamation of various “couch to 5k” plans, modified by my work schedule that, at the time was three jobs, all with the goal in mind to run a 5k with my head held high. Sometimes, something is just so awful that improvement of any sort looks glorious.*
I wouldn’t say that training for my first half marathon in 2013 was pain free, but it was sort of injury free. Nothing really happened that set me back. I was training (loosely) with a group of people, running in memory of the prior year’s Sandy Hook families, but I sort of eased into the longer distances without strife. In fact, as it had been true when training for my first 4-mile race, and then my first 10k, I rejoiced at each milestone– the fist time I ran 4 miles, the first time I ran 5.3 miles, the first time I ran 5.8 miles…on and on. (If you were the recipient of one of my first time distance achievement announcements, you probably even got to hear about the hills, the dogs, the droplet of something that fell on my head, and the interesting thought I had as the sun set.) But I plodded forward, literally, completing almost all my long runs alone, finding for the first time in my life, the capacity to stay the course, running sometimes at night, patiently, logging mile after mile, sticking to the plan**. This year, more of my running was done with people: my boyfriend patiently slowing his pace to keep with mine, (it IS possible, you fast runners who claim you “can’t slow down”) or the big team runs, where my Team in Training peers would meet early in the morning to tackle big distance milestones.
Running with people made a big difference to me. But it also provided the backdrop to me coming to face some of my own limitations. I mentioned shin splints earlier. I thought, after putting in the time I’d done with, what, a year and a half of running, that I was somehow “beyond” those. I probably even said it out loud. Sometimes I can feel my ignorance gaining a stronger foothold over any wisdom. But there’s nothing like a humbling experience to bring my ignorance to the forefront, and put things back into perspective.
Some of what I learned this summer:
- Shin splints, left untreated, will get worse and worse. I even learned that sometimes they can lead to or be mixed up with a stress fracture. Primary cure for this is rest, something I was not interested in, but forced to do. 15 days no running.
- Take exhaustion, lack of water, 80 degree temps, high humidity, and add some bad attitude: this could cause a person to trip on an uneven sidewalk.
I demonstrated this on “Boulevard” in Hartford. Not a big fan of that street now.
- The worst way to fall is face first. While I was flying through the air, I had the good sense to throw something out in front of my face, but that SOMETHING was both my palms, which skidded forward to a jarring halt. But I was also able to throw a hip into the mix, sort of also landing on my right one, “jamming” my leg up a bit higher than it should have been…which is why…
- …sometimes when you fall, you will cause your back to give out the next day in an excruciating cry of “Uncle!” Thank you Physical Therapist, ice and boyfriend. 5 days no running.
- I mentioned not staying in the moment earlier. Why is this a problem? Exhaustion, distraction, rushing around, things that we all do but don’t always result in falling down stairs, sometimes does result in falling down stairs. Number of stairs: three. Number of days before the race: six.
- Bruises on your butt really hurt to run with. In fact, it’s like getting punched (albeit gently) on the bruise each time you land on that leg.
But seriously, I think these injuries have helped me more than hurt me. Why? I am not sure yet, give me a little time. I always wanted to be tough. When I thought I had a stress fracture in July, I cried for two days because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to continue training this year. I had a plan in my head: run a full marathon in 2014, then not ever do that again. Simple.
And life had other plans. 🙂 All part of the adventure. Anyway, I began writing this days ago, and it now looks like rain for tomorrow, race day. Should be interesting! Ahhh!
*In 2010 I ran my first 5k in 35:53 (11:35min/mile). 2011, reflecting that year in every way, I ran my second 5k in 42.43 (13:45min/mile). Pause for gasps. It was so bad that I had to earmark it. And I did. I worked on what was behind those almost 14 min. miles, then, in 2012, returned to running. Differently.