My Marathon Story

Step back in the way-back time machine with me and let’s take a ride back to May. It’s the end of the month and we’re in Ottawa for Race Weekend. Specifically, we’re there for the Marathon.

Training had progressed fairly well. I was enjoying the long runs, feeling strong and really amazed at the distances that I was able to cover. Two weeks before the race, I felt a little twinge on the outside of my right knee. It felt suspiciously like my IT band. I had issues with that many moons ago and all had been well ever since I acquired a foam roller. By the end of this training run, I could barely walk up the stairs. My knee was t-i-g-h-t tight.

I had committed to a 5K mother-daughter race on the following day. I managed to pull it off but I don’t know how and in hindsight (isn’t hindsight awesome?) it was probably the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. After the race I took advantage of the free massage/phys. therapy and let someone work the crap out of my leg.

Training was fine for the week. I was tapering off. I headed out for a 16K run and at 13 I had to pull the plug. I had shooting pain down my leg with every step. Did I mention the race was 7 days away? I started hunting like crazy for an RMT/athletic therapist who could see me. I found one but only managed to be seen once before the race. He confirmed my issue was my ITB. He worked it a bit and pronounced me fit for the race. I rested a lot during the week. I was nervous.

Fast forward to race day. The start was gloomy but dry. The weather forecast had waffled between “it will/won’t rain for the race” and there was still no clear indication of what we were in store for. The energy was great and the pre-race scene was exciting. And then, we’re off! Looking good, feeling good!

Run, run, run. Rain, rain, rain. Rain? Buckets of rain. Rain dripping off the brim of my hat. Rain being wrung out of my shirt. Rain running down my body. I don’t mind a little rain. This was not a little rain.

At the 26k mark I couldn’t ignore my ITB any more. I had felt it earlier and convinced myself it was whispering to me and not singing loudly. I stopped at a medic table and asked for ibuprofen (yes, I know, you’re not supposed to take ibuprofen while you run but I was desperate). The kind woman replied that they had acetaminophen only. She handed me two. I said “Extra strength?” She said “No, I’ll give you 3”. There was a much younger, very fit looking guy there who was obviously experiencing pain in his calf. At the mention of 3 pills for me, he stood up and said “3? You only gave me 2!” and stuck out his hand. It was pretty funny at the time.

At the 36K mark I had to stop unexpectedly. My veil of anonymity on this blog has been removed and in the interest of being able to look co-workers in the eye, I’ve censored this part. Suffice to say that everyone I’ve told about this incident has stated that if this happened to them, they would have called it quits at this point. So you know whatever it was, it was unpleasant and added to the existing challenges I was facing.

When I was able to start moving again, the stop had damn near crippled me. Trying to get my legs to move was impossible without incurring screeching pain. I never doubted that I would finish the race. At this point I realized it was just a matter of how long it was going to take to make it through that last 6k. I wound up walking with sporadic attempts to run that ended almost as quickly as they started. 45 mins longer than my estimated “worst finish time”, I finished. It was done. It had stopped raining. Go figure.

Some highlights:
– running in the rain for 5+ hours makes clothing that is normally comfortable, uncomfortable. A step into the shower revealed undiscovered chafing (heart rate strap (front and back), waistband) and drew out one loud yelp.
– the crowd at the 30K cheering station were AMAZING! The MC called out my name and the whole crowd called out my name. I was still running strongly at this point and the crowd’s energy rolled off me. It was really terrific.
– Best signage includes: “Worst Parade EVER!”, “You’re not even CLOSE to being finished” which was posted at the 5K mark and one sign addressed to someone’s wife stating “That’s not rain, that’s the clouds crying because you’re kicking so much ass” actually made me tear up. I’m such a wuss.

Would I do this again? Part of me doesn’t hesitate in answering. Yes, yes I would. How could I not? That finishing time was horrible! Plus, just imagine the PR I could set. How often can you knock an hour+ off your time? And there’s no way everything that went wrong could possibly happen again. That was the perfect storm of challenges. I faced that and survived; I can face anything now. The other part says, um, I don’t know. It was either the training or the race or the injury or some combination thereof but I’ve had a hell of a time getting back into running since then. I signed up for a half at the end of Sept. I’m on track training-wise to finish it but don’t anticipate setting any speed records. Let’s see how that turns out and then I’ll make decisions about trying this again.

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