I went to bed the night of July 28th feeling nervous and excited. I needed to wake up much earlier than usual in order to get to my half-marathon on time. I had all of my gear ready to go to make sure I wouldn't forget anything. I had also helped get everything ready for my husband, who had to get our oldest two kids to softball games while I was at my race.
My bedtime ended up being later than I had hoped or planned. By the time I took a bath, did yoga, and foam rolled it was after ten. Then when I finally laid down in bed, I was too wired to actually fall asleep.
My toddler, who room shares with my husband and me, made sure I didn't get a great nights sleep. He's been going through a bit of separation anxiety, and he seems to wake up in the middle of the night just to let me know that he's not close enough to me, despite his crib being right next to my bed. In addition to him not sleeping well, my poor husband was getting over a cold and he was experiencing a nagging cough that kept him and me awake.
Despite the lack of sleep, I woke up and was ready to start my day around 4:30 AM. I figured that would be enough time to do all of the things I needed to do before I had to leave. I arrived at my race feeling about as ready as I could be to run 13.1 miles. After a pep talk from a friend who was also running, I lined up toward the back of the pace groups. My goal was 2:45:00. The air horn blew and off we went.
Within the first two minutes, I had made my way passed several pacers; partially, because the start was congested, and I was trying to get away from the crowd. I was intending on using intervals of running for three minutes and walking for one minute. The freedom of not pushing the jogging stroller was wonderful. I felt great. I was slightly self-conscious when I started my first walk interval. Here we were, only three minutes in, and I was walking. People passed by me and I felt as though all of them were judging me. But, I was determined to use intervals, since that was how I trained and that was the only way I felt I could complete the distance.
The first three miles went by without much incident. My time was on track with my goal. In fact, I was actually ahead of my time. After the 5K mark, the race course had just under two miles of unpaved trail. Somewhere in that section, my interval timer stopped telling me when to walk and when to run. It took me another three miles to figure out that I should just restart my interval app. Once I did that, I had my verbal prompts again and I was ready to continue. I hit the 10K marker around 1:06:00—a new 10K PR for me. I wondered if it would it be possible for me to finish the race fifteen minutes faster than my goal. I thought it could be. I was almost half way done and was feeling strong. The walking intervals helped my body get enough rest so that I wasn't feeling overly fatigued.
Around the eight mile marker, I was transitioning from a walk to a run when disaster struck. My outer knees both sent shooting pains through my legs and almost gave out on me. I panicked. What was happening?! I continued my walking, now with a slight limp. Many runners asked if I was okay. I said my knees were fighting me, and they offered encouraging words.
I walked for a few minutes, and when I started to try to run again, my knees adamantly disagreed. It was at that point in the race that I knew I needed a new plan. I attempted to change my intervals to ninety seconds of walking and sixty seconds of running/jogging. However, before I was able to do those intervals, I knew I needed to walk for awhile.
I walked for almost two miles. I used the time to text my dad, who planned to meet me at the finish line, and to call my family to get some encouragement. I walked beside a race volunteer on a bike. She wanted to stay by me to push me. Little did she know that I had no intention of quitting. I didn't need to be pushed. I wasn't sure if I could say the same thing about my knees, though.
I walked much more of the last three miles of the race than I care to admit to myself. But along the way, I received such encouragement and kind words from other racers. Two women even stopped to walk with me just to chat. I guess it helped me forget about the pain for a little while. Someone (jokingly?) offered to carry me. I thanked them, but told them I planned on finishing the race on my own two feet.
At mile eleven, there were some small hills that caused me excruciating pain. I hoped there weren't many more hills. I did learn that my pain wasn't as bad if I continued to jog slowly instead of stopping to walk. So, I continued on (starting around mile twelve) jogging as much as I could, however slowly.
When I saw mile marker thirteen, tears welled up in my eyes. I knew I was going to make it. My friend was waiting for me just after the mile marker, and she jogged into the finish with me. My dad found me and told me how proud he was. I limped my way around the finish area, eventually making my way to the medical tent for some ice.
In the end, I still finished the race under my goal with a final time of 2:39:30. I should have been proud, but my first emotion was more anger than anything. I was angry that my body failed me. As much as I enjoyed not having the jogging stroller, I think that it may have contributed to my downfall. Running without it allowed me to start off fast, and perhaps, I pushed my body to give too much, too soon.
In the week since the race, my anger has turned into determination. Although I got injured during the race, I have every intention of running another half, and I plan to do it with more than four weeks of training time. I want to do it correctly. I am proud of how far I have come in the last year, and I'm amazed at the things I am doing—things I NEVER thought I'd be doing, things I never thought possible.
For now, I have to take some time off from running. I'll be seeing a physical therapist for my knee injuries, and I'll be getting in my daily miles with walks instead of runs. Despite everything, I would not change anything about it. I have no regrets about my training, or lack there of. In the end, I still completed a half-marathon. In the end, I still have a goal to beat next time. And most importantly, in the end, I know that I am capable of completing a half-marathon. This one was my first, but it will not be my last.