Note: For this week’s workout schedule Click HERE.
A few weeks ago I ran in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I ran it almost 15-minutes slower than my Half Marathon best. Despite a significantly slower time I have more pride in completing this race, than I have in any other run.
Why? I averaged a pace about 1 minute and 10 seconds slower/mile than I normally do in the Half Marathon. Why in the world would this race make me happier than the races where I performed better and ran faster? The answer: This was physically and mentally the hardest race I have ever run, and I finished it. I literally fell down during the race, and got back up. I had scraped knees and elbows, and had the perfect excuse to quit, but I stood up and kept running. I fought myself mentally when I wanted to walk, and chose to keep running. Even when I knew there was no way I could do my best (as measured by past performance) I chose to keep going anyway.
Preparing for this race and running in it showed me the importance of determination and perseverance. I knew that training for this race was going to be challenging, because it was my first postpartum race. Training with an infant is not easy. Stroller runs add a whole new dimension to workouts. A few people have told me they think running with a stroller is an advantage. Let me assure you, it is not. It’s like running with weights. Especially uphill. Where I live everything is uphill.
Two months before race day: I got sick and couldn’t run for a week. Then my baby got sick, and I couldn’t run for another week. Then my husband got sick, which got the baby sick and me sick, and before I knew it I had done only two runs over the course of an entire month. I started to get nervous, but I still had a month until my race. I knew that setting a new PR (Personal Record) probably wasn’t going to happen at this point, but I knew I still had enough time to be prepared for the race.
One month before race day: During a run I noticed an ache on the outside of my knee. It started around mile 3, but I was only going for 4 miles so I finished my run. Once I stopped, I realized that it really hurt. I limped to my car without bending my knee. I took a few days off, but the same thing happened about 4-miles into my next run. It was IT Band syndrome.
The best cure for ITB syndrome is rest. So I took another full week off of running. I felt fantastic when I headed over to the track for a nice flat workout to test out my knee. I didn’t even make it one lap before the pain stopped me. I took off another week (we are currently at 6 weeks of little to no running for those of you keeping count). I also focused on stretching and got new running shoes.
The decision: My husband kept asking me what I was going to do about the race. I did not want to quit. I was running to raise money for Love146 to prevent human trafficking, and quitting because my knee hurt felt shameful in light of what those children faced every day. At this point I was literally terrified to run. I did not think I would be able to finish the race.
The week of the race: I tried a one mile run, and felt my knee bothering me. I stopped before it turned into pain, and decided to see a chiropractor. I saw her twice the week of the race. I still feared that I wasn’t going to make it through the race, but I decided to try anyway. Even if I had to stop, I was going to show up and do my best. If I got a DNF (Did Not Finish) at least I would know I went out and tried.
Race Day: My sister came down to the race with us to take care of the baby. Jesse ran in the Marathon relay with his friends. I waited in the race corral by myself to start. I had friends running in the race, but I knew that if I had to stop or felt like I was slowing their pace down that would be mentally harder on me. I chose to run by myself (if you can say running with over 13,000 people is running alone).
I was hyper aware of my knee, but overall it felt okay during the race. I walked through all of the hydration stations so I could drink some gatorade. Usually I only have a few sips of water while running and most of it slops out of the cup and onto my face, but I am still nursing my son so I needed to stay hydrated. As soon as I finished my fluids I was back to running.
At mile 10 I started to struggle mentally. I really wanted to walk, but I was so close to the end that I refused to give up. I felt myself slowing down. I felt like there was a cartoon devil whispering in one ear telling me to stop, and an angel whispering in the other ear that I was able to keep going.
About a quarter mile from the finish line I tripped in a pothole. I face planted, and slid on my arms and knees for several feet. Someone who worked for the race ran over to me and asked if I needed a medic, but I said no, hopped back up and kept running. I had a bloody knee, and scrapes to both knees/elbows, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
I crossed the finish line, and as soon as I stopped running all of the pain in my left knee hit me. I could barely bend it, and walking felt like torture. I wanted to find my sister, and my baby, and watch Jesse finish his race. A race coordinator saw that I could barely walk and escorted me to the medic tent. They saran wrapped a bag of ice to my knee.
Eventually I found my sister and my son, and we headed back to the car to wait for Jesse. His relay team finished 5th out of over 1000 entries. He ran the final leg, so he got to cross the finish line.
I often say that achieving your goals (be they fitness or otherwise) is not the result of motivation. It is the result of determination. It happens when you choose to keep going even when things get hard. Success isn’t only about what you achieve, it’s about persevering with your journey. I worked harder, struggled more, and pushed through. Even if the race had ended with a DNF, I knew I would be happier than settling for Did Not Try.