Today was race day. The runners, just outside of Baltimore, started off at 8:30 through the brisk November morning. I was just rolling over in bed, thumbing through Facebook. I should have been running, but instead I was 300 miles away. I checked the weather on my fellow runners: cold, but not too bad in the upper 30s, and no rain. This bummed me out more.
I knew this would happen when I opted out of the race about a month ago. I was 8 weeks into a 12 week training cycle and I just couldn’t do it anymore. My knee wasn’t cooperating. My pacing wasn’t cooperating. I was deeply depressed. I was terrified that I was damaging myself further by trying. I was terrified that there might be no future races if I kept going. I was confident that I could do well in this race, knee injury or not. I was even confident enough to believe that I could win it. But I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to keep running after the effort. I was in excruciating pain and I didn’t know what else to do, so I took everyone’s advice and I quit.
I had two full weeks off before I was told that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. My scans all came back clear – no tears, no breaks. I was getting frustrated because I was being accused of making it up. I was being told that it was all in my head. I. was. fine.
I got back into movement with some cycling. Then I added in some dog runs. Then I threw in an up tempo “workout” here and there. My knee hurt some of the time, but when I paid close attention to it, I realized that it never seemed to have anything to do with running – if anything running made it better! But I wasn’t ready to do a marathon. It broke my heart to give up a fall race, but I knew that whether this was physical or psychological, I wasn’t well enough for it. I had to let it go.
Instead, I signed up (last minute) for a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot race. I’ve never run on Thanksgiving morning before, but I know for a lot of people it is a big tradition. My town was having theirs, and since I’m trying to become a part of my new community, I figured why not.
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t run for most of the summer, and I’d done half a marathon training cycle, followed by nothing. I didn’t know where I stood 5k wise, especially since I hate the distance. I figured that based off my recent half marathon I could pull off 6:00 miles and maybe do around 18:30-19:00. But, I knew that would be on a good day with some good training under my belt. I hadn’t even been to the track in nearly two months!
Long story short, the race was okay. An old teammate from high school was there, and this made me happy. She’s super fast and a huge inspiration of mine. While of course I follow her on social media, I hadn’t seen her in almost 15 years, so running into her was great. We got to line up together and chit chat after the race as well. It was very cold with blustery winds. 12 degrees with a wind-chill of zero made breathing alone a painful chore. Over 2,200 people had registered for the race and 1,463 of them showed up. Alyssa and I took off from the front of the starting line and we were able to hold our positions at the front of the pack. I felt like I was flying, but every time I looked down at my watch, I was disappointed to see my pace. 6:17s, 6:20s…I should be able to go faster. It sure felt like I was going faster. But the wind and the ridiculous temperatures made movement impossible. My throat was burning with the cold air. My limbs were numb and I wasn’t even really sure if they were doing what they were supposed to. I just couldn’t go fast. This was it. This was all I had in me. This 5k felt like one of the longest runs ever and I just couldn’t wait to get to the finish line and be over with it.
Alyssa ran the whole race a few paces behind me, but still had a kick left for the end and took first female, while I came in 3 seconds behind as second. I had nothing left except for a grunt to encourage her on her way. My face hurt. My fingers tingled. My feet felt like numb cement blocks. I finished with a 19:26 – not fantastic, but really not too bad either. I was just glad it was over.
I’m happy with my second place finish and my time. I’m happy because it was all the effort I had for the day, I’m just happy I did my best. And, I’m grateful that I was able to run at all. I wasn’t broken, I wasn’t injured, so what better way to celebrate that than to run a race on Thanksgiving! So, sure, a few days later I’m a little sad that I didn’t run the NCR Marathon. Of course I am wondering what I might have been able to pull off if I’d tried. There are a lot of what-ifs. However, there are more marathons and I will race them. For now though, I think I will focus on some 5ks, maybe a few 10ks and be happy that I can run at all. I’ll work on strength, speed, & power with the shorter distances and then go after something big next spring. Oh, and in the meantime, I have this awesome swag to get me through my running blues.