Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Year of the Marathon

I remember very clearly one day back in 2008 thinking that if I wanted to remain somewhat in shape for the rest of my life, I better get moving (yes, this thought was just occurring to me at age 27. I was late to the game). 

So I signed up to run a race - the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago. It was an 8K which seemed easy enough. My best friend had run it in the past and I emailed to see if she'd be interested in running it with me that year, too. She was, and so we both started training separately (she was, and still is, living in Chicago). 

My first day of training called for me to run two miles. This seemed HUGE to me at the time. I drove up to a local middle school one January evening (so less people could see me, of course) and ran around the track in the slush until I completed the two miles. 

Pretty soon I had completed the Shamrock Shuffle and decided to train for a half marathon that October.  I enlisted another friend to train with me and we began training using a Hal Higdon training schedule.  After a couple of weeks, we were amazed that we could run several miles without even thinking about it. We would chat and run and it was so great to have her next to me during those long miles. Here we are after we finished our first half marathon.

(It should be noted that my running buddy, Amy, is much faster than me, so after a few miles she ran ahead. This is us finding each other after the race.)

The next year, Amy and I thought we'd try out the half marathon again. Shortly after we started training, Amy found out she was pregnant. She consulted with her doctor to make sure it was safe to continue running (it was) and we started training together for a second time. And this time we actually ran the entire race together, side by side (yes, you read that takes a pregnancy to slow a girl down enough to run with me).

So we completed our second half marathon and then Amy retired from running and had her little girl. This left me with a decision to make the next year - to try out the half marathon by myself or to sit it out.

I decided to give it a go. How hard could it be training without someone?

Turns out, harder than I thought. When Amy and I trained for two half marathons together, it seemed almost easy.  We said a million times during our training that having each other to train with was the best thing we could have done.

Now I was training alone. But even though it was hard, I tried my best to do the training sans running partner.

I failed.

Here is my story.

The race day was quickly approaching and I hadn't finished my training. The weekly runs weren't going that poorly, but my weekend runs (the long ones) were. So while I should have ran up to 10 miles before race day, I had only run eight. I started wondering whether or not I could do this race and I was seriously leaning towards sitting it out.

But then my brother-in-law came home from Brooklyn to run the race with me and my father-in-law. He was staying with my husband and me and was all like, "you should totally do it you can do it blah blah blah."

So against my better judgement, I decided to attempt the race even though I was so incredibly ill-prepared (this is where things start to go downhill, people).

Fast forward a few days, and there I stood at the starting line, in a crowd of people that all looked way more psyched than I was to be running this thing. I resented them.

The race started and there was a lot more cheering and excitement (picture me giving the stink eye to everyone around me). I kept thinking, "what am I doing?", but then would tell myself that 13.1 miles really wasn't that much and I could force myself to do anything for a few hours, right?

So I finally get the starting point and I begin running. My shins start hurting approximately .34 miles into the race. I remember the thoughts in my head like it was yesterday:

"You can do this."
"My shins don't hurt that bad."
"If I keep running the pain will go away."
"Just keep running. Just keep running. Just keep running..."
"Wait...I'm nearing the Canadian border. Uhhhh..."

Here's the thing about the half marathon that I was running. It's an international race. So about 3 miles in, you run across the bridge from Michigan to Canada, run 4 miles or so in Canada, then run through the tunnel back over to Michigan.

With my shins hurting, the international part of the race really started to concern me. What if I can't finish but I don't realize it until I'm in Canada and then one of those emergency cars has to come and get me? Suddenly being in Canada seemed like the worst thing EVER. Like, once I was over there, they might never give me back or something.

At that point, there was only one rational thing to do.


I scoped out the scene. I was towards the back of the crowd (naturally), so I knew it would only be a matter of minutes before the end of the crowd would reach me.

So here's what I did:

I ran over to the sidewalk, making sure to do it right around the porta-potties. I acted casual - "NBD, guys. I'm cool. I just have to go to the bathroom a mile and a half into the race. Nothing unusual about that."

I looked around, making sure no one was staring at me (why they would be, I have no clue). Then I slowly turned myself towards a wall where no one could see my next move - taking my bib off.  This was VERY important.

See, in my mind, I could just picture myself walking back to the starting line wearing my bib and runners yelling, "no! you can do it! give it another chance!" And I was not having any of that. I wanted out of the race and no optimistic runner would stop me!

So I did it. I slowly took each pin out of my bib and then tucked it into my pocket. Then I started my walk of shame back to the starting line (picture me sad, with my head hanging low, only not really because I had really wanted to stop running).

There is a silver lining in all of this (I may just be forcing it, but I like to think it's there). Because I was back at the start so early, I was able to see the winners of the marathon come in. It was so very inspirational - in fact, I may have teared up at the first woman to come across the finish line.

And then I got to see my brother-in-law cross, too, which was also cool. He saw me, and a look of sheer confusion came over his face (he later told me that it was a mix of him having had a hard race and him wondering how the heck I beat him).

So I didn't finish the race. In fact, I didn't finish a fourth of the race. Let's call it exactly what it was - a failure to meet a goal.

But here's what I've learned in life (cue the sappy music): one failure doesn't negate everything else. I've run two half marathons in my life, and that's not bad. The third one didn't work out, but I guess I have a somewhat humorous story to tell people (depending on your definition of humorous. to many, it's probably just sad).

Having had a bit of a blow to the ego, I took a break from running for a couple of years and enjoyed other forms of exercise instead. But the marathon - the full marathon - stuck in the back of my mind.  I've just always wanted to do one. To say I was able to run 26.2 miles. To be a part of that group of people.

Well, folks, the time has come. This is the year of the marathon. Whether I run, walk, crawl, or am airlifted to the finish line, I will finish the Detroit Free Press Marathon this October.

I'm not only signed up for the marathon, I've teamed up with World Vision to run for a good cause.  Because as seen in the story I just told, I will need all the motivation I can get to actually finish this race, and I felt like helping people get clean water was a really good start.

So in the spirit of each post being somewhat related to paper goods, I designed this little guy to tell you some information about what World Vision does. I'm not asking for donations (as you can see, my info for donations is not even on there), but I just wanted to share something that has become near and dear to my heart lately.

I'm heading out of town tomorrow for a long weekend, but I'll be back next week with more invitations to show. Enjoy your weekends!

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