Sunday, October 28, 2012

Half Marathon and the Aftermath

This has been a difficult post for me to write. I've gone through several versions before deciding on this approach. I believe this is hard because the half marathon was hard for me. On physical and mental levels, it was the pits!
Physically, the race took a toll on my body. The weather was decidedly colder than expected. When I signed up, I thought, Great, the run will be at the end of October. It should be in the upper 50's at race's start. Instead, a cold front came through central Texas, so when I crossed the starting line, it was 47, with a biting wind. It did warm up a little, but the wind kept up.
By the fourth mile, I was struggling. The stitch by my kidney went away, but my thighs tightened up. I had not stretched well enough. Soon, the pains traveled to other muscles and joints. When I reached the turn (at 6.5 miles, the other half-marathoners and I turned back for the starting line), knees were swollen, calves cramped, and the inside of my right foot was rubbing weird. This would continue for the remainder of my time. I stopped several times to stretch, but the pain returned.

Yet, for all the pain I felt (and am feeling today), the mental anguish was more difficult to deal with. I started race in the middle of the pack, but as the crowd settled into individual paces, I found myself being passed by. Again. And again. And again. I tried not to compare, and instead focus on listening to Paradise Lost. This race, after all, was to serve two primary functions: one, to provide money to help families with adoption, and two, to prove that I could run a half-marathon. A third, sub-function was to make a decent time.
And that third function has done a number on me. My final time was 2:52:53:976: that's a 13:16 mile per minute pace. That accounts for the running/jogging/walking/limping, and to be frank, it's a little embarrassing.
If I continue to the comparative stats, I was 54 (out of 60) in my age division, 333 (out of 458) in male competitors, and 882 (out of 1250) overall.
Those, my friends, are not friendly numbers, at least to my pride. On one level, they shame me into training harder, and trying to shave time off my pace. And I believe that shame is beneficial, to an extant. But on another level, the comparisons are counter intuitive. Running in a race (especially a benefit run, because let's face it, I love eating, and am too old to consider competitive running) is one of those moments where a runner, i.e. me, should focus on my own goals. I kept telling myself, "Running is a mental activity. It's a race against mentally quitting, over physical pain." I slipped from that mentality.
All that said, I look forward to running another one, maybe in six months. And I haven't gotten to the best part of the race. It was towards the ten mile mark, where I again began to climb the hills at the race's start. I crested the highest hill, and was headed to a water stations, when I spotted them.
I recognized Charlie's blanket first, a green double flannel blanket tucked around his wrap. I looked up to see Hilary's hair blowing in the wind, as she took pictures. They had driven out to cheer me on. For all the pain and feelings of shame, they were there. I shouted, "I love you so much!" Apparently Hilary loved that. She whispered words of encouragement, and then said, "I'll see you at the finish line. It's only three miles away!" I wish I could say I double my efforts, but I struggled up until the end. I crossed the finish line. It took a couple of seconds, but I found Hilary and Charlie, waiting.

And that's all a tired, broken man could ask for.


  1. Congratulations!!! It's an admirable achievement. Beautiful post about perspective too.

  2. I think this is a great thing you did. It isn't about beating the others, like you said, but running, walking, limping for a cause and just dong it! And since you want to do it again the only person you need to beat next time is yourself. I think you will totally do that! (P.S. I lost my big toe nails when I ran mine. They grew back, but it was not pleasant or pretty!) Congratulations on doing it!