Finishing my first Half Marathon
Early last year, I went with my wife to cheer on some of our friends in the Oceanside Half-Ironman. A grueling contest comprising a swim, a bike ride, and a run.
I had never been to an event on a scale such as that, only having ever experienced such lunacy from the comfort of my couch.
Little did I know, that it was a setup. As we watched our friends cross the finish line, I saw things that I never expected. Great, wonderful things. I saw men and women with severe disabilities participating in this event. Some in wheelchairs, some not. It was the ones who were not in wheelchairs that intrigued me the most. These men and women were missing one or both of their arms or legs. The people who were missing legs ran using blades. Curved metal prosthetics designed to give them mobility. I took the photo in this post. That image stuck with me through the race.
If these men and women could go and participate in something as tremendous as an Ironman competition, what was stopping me from doing something similar. I was ashamed of myself. I felt like a slug.
My wife had run for some time and had been on my case to run a race with her. She wanted to run a half-marathon. I had no excuses now. I had to do it.
Later that same day, I found myself registered for the Carlsbad half marathon. I had been inspired.
Over the course of several months, I put off training. I didn’t have the right shoes. I didn’t feel well. I didn’t want to do it. Then sometime in the middle of the year, I bought some proper shoes. I signed up on Runkeeper so I could track my routes and my progress. I was on my way.
Eventually I outgrew the treadmill and the length of time I had to work out during lunch, so I started training in the evening, running around the neighborhood. Things were going well.
Then the pain started. First in my right knee, then my left. I bought a knee brace. It worked most of the time. After several weeks of running in pain, I went to the doctor. Arthritis. But wait! I’m only 46, only old people get that. The doctor, trained in sports medicine, gave me some exercises to do and some anti-inflammatory medication to try. As it is with most remedies, some worked and some didn’t. I found myself back at the doctor, still in pain. Seeing that I was intent on running this race, he gave me a cortisone injection. Finally something helped. I ran.
As the days wore on, they also became shorter. Training in the evening became more of a challenge. I ran a few times at night, but that was a disaster. I fell twice, breaking my phone once. I was down to running only three times a week.
I made it through thanksgiving. Then I hit a wall. I couldn’t train in the evening or at lunch. Getting up early was not n option either. So it was back to the treadmill. I hated the treadmill. I was in a slump, I stopped training. My wife began to question if I would be able to run the race.
The weekend before my 46th birthday, I pulled myself out of my slump and was gearing up to start training. Then it happened. I had developed an abscess on my leg that made it impossible for me to run. I was laid up in bed for my birthday and the few days after that, those days being Christmas. I spent half of Christmas Eve and half of Christmas Day in the urgent care receiving intravenous antibiotics. The doctors suspected MRSA.
A week passed. It was also around this time that we needed to move, so we were busy packing boxes and making those preparations. The second catastrophe hit. The first week of January my wife came down with the flu. She generously re-gifted it to me. Sick again. While hers developed into a respiratory infection, mine actually began to go away, but not in enough time for me to train for the race. It was a week away.
The Day Before
The day before the race, we went to the expo to pick up our shirts and bibs. It had rained off and on all day. We walked around to all the exhibitor tables, trying samples of this energy drink and that protein bar. My wife picked up a nice running belt and we both invested in some orthopedic inserts for use after the race. We were excited and nervous. We went out to eat on the way home and had a light dinner.
We got our stuff together for the next day. Shoes, shorts, shirts (we both decided to wear the race jerseys), phones charged, water bottles ready, off to bed unsure of what the next day would bring. It was raining.
We got up at 5am on race day. It was still raining and it was chilly. I hadn’t really felt any anxiety in the days leading up to the race, but that morning I had the jitters. After arriving at the starting area, we made last minutes checks, then headed off to our respective starting areas. They must have know that we were slow, we were in wave 7, the last starting wave. It was a strange feeling, waiting for the start. I had only ever ran in one other race, a 5k, around 25years ago.
The horn blasted and we were off. The rain had stopped. Runkeeper was going, I was running.
My wife and I stayed together for about the first half mile, then she, being the more ready of us, broke off from me. I settled into my pace and relaxed.
I looked around as I ran. People of all shapes and sizes were running or walking. I felt great. I saw my wife on a corner around mile 2. We blew a kiss to each other and kept running.
This race was a big milestone in my life. I had never been what one would classify as a runner, although I ran a bit while serving in the Navy. I’ve always struggled with my weight and at the age of 30, I developed type II diabetes. Up until the race, my longest distance was 7 miles. My longest distance of continuous running was 3 miles.
When I started training for the race, my first goal was to just not be disqualified. Disqualification for this race was a time over four and a half hours. After a few weeks of training I set my goal at a more ambitious time of under three hours, but after missing the earlier 8 weeks of training, I revised my goal to 4 hours. Imagine my surprise and elation when at the halfway point to be informed by the robotic voice of Runkeeper that my pace was well under 15 minutes and I was on track to finish in around 3 hours. At mile 7 that started to change. My hips began to ache and I was getting fatigued.
The time up to mile 7, I kept thinking about those people I had seen at the Ironman. The ones who were running after losing limbs. It kept me going. There was no way I was giving up, it never even crossed my mind. At mile 10 I was walking more than running, but I was almost done. I passed a young man sitting on the sidelines in a wheelchair near a sign about Huntington’s disease. I began to choke up. I was inspired again.
Towards the end of mile 12, I came around a corner and was pleased to see my son. He asked how I was doing, to which I replied fine. He told me that Mom finished about 30 minutes before me. I said that I figured she would. He said “come on dad, you got this!” I choked up again. This time almost to tears.
He ran with me to the point in the race where he could go no further with me. It was all me, like much of the race, running alone. I wanted to cross the finish line running. I picked up my pace, looked for the finish line and kept going.
After crossing the finish line, I received my finishers medal, grabbed a water and some food and looked for my wife. We found each other, we hugged, I cried. It was a goal I never thought I would do.
It was hard to get out of the car once we arrived at home, but I managed. I sat in our jacuzzi tub for a while, then laid in bed and watched movies and ate all day.
Is been four days and the soreness is now fading. The race is a fond memory. Now for the next one.
|By the Numbers|
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