I’m going to throw a little temper tantrum about my race this weekend. If you’re not in the mood to deal with my whiny nonsense, please come back and read at a later time. I really don’t even want to write this post. We’re at that level, so consider this your warning. Also, I didn’t take any pictures and I’m in too bad of a mood to look for GIFs, so this might be kind of boring.
As you may or may not know, I was signed up to do the Charleston Marathon this weekend. I haven’t talked too much about it because I honestly had no idea what to expect from my body based on how I’ve been feeling for the past 6 weeks, so it was difficult to set goals. I did set goals, of course, hoping that it would just happen to be a good running day even though I haven’t really had one of those in what seems like forever. Still, you never know. Besides, after DNFing the Kiawah Island Marathon, I needed to run another one to make sure I get enough marathons in before Flying Pig for that to be my 50th.
Murray and I planned to run together, and we were hoping to finish under 4:30. I secretly hoped for a slight PR (4:14 or less) or under 4:22, but I knew that wasn’t very likely. My friend Crystal, who I met through this blog (proving that I don’t think it’s weird when people want to meet me because they read my blog), lives just north of Charleston and was also running the marathon, and she had invited me to stay at her house the night before so I wouldn’t have to make a 2 hour drive from Elgin that morning.
Crystal and her husband basically bought a really run-down house and rebuilt it from the ground up. It is one of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen. They have antique appliances that look SO cool (and actually work) and these gorgeous floors, and everything is just flawless. They also have two great kids, one of whom was very excited that I was there. Some of you know I’m a little uneasy around kids – babies because I think I’m going to drop or hurt them, and older kids because I just feel awkward and don’t know how to interact with them – so it was kind of funny how excited Crystal’s daughter was that I was there. She wanted us all to play a game where we literally just bounced a bouncy ball up and down and caught it with one hand as many times in a row as we could. Kids are easily entertained, I suppose. I thought “Oh God, we’re going to be playing this for hours” because really, how hard of a game could it be? As it turns out, it’s surprisingly hard for apparently everyone besides me. Finally, I have found my sport! I could have played the game forever, and it made me think that maybe there is hope for me to raise spawn of my own one day. We’ll just only play the bouncy ball game. Anyway, Crystal and her family were awesome and they didn’t kill me in my sleep, which is always a plus.
I had plans to meet Murray and my friend Kristen at the 4:15 pace group in the morning. Even though I didn’t think we would really finish in 4:15, that is a 9:45 pace, which is a good running pace for me, since lately my legs seem to want to move a lot faster than my body will allow. I had made plans to meet up with fellow blogger Amy, who was pacing the 2:30 half marathon group, but first, I needed to go to the bathroom. Of course, the line was insanely long and moving at the speed of molasses in the winter. I literally was in line until 7:58 am, and the race started at 8! I sprinted out of the high school gym to hear the announcer saying “90 seconds to the start!” and ran as fast as I could towards the crowd while bobbing and weaving through the mass of people until I got to the 4:15 group, making it right as the announcer yelled “Go!” Talk about a close one! Unfortunately, that means I didn’t get to meet up with Amy, but at that point I was just glad to make the start.
Murray has been training really hard and running incredibly well lately, and I thought we might be able to get him a PR if I could keep him from going out too fast – his kryptonite! I told him that we would stay in the vicinity of the 4:15 pace group and walk at the water stops until they caught up if we got ahead of them. This worked pretty well for the first few miles as we wove our way through downtown Charleston, which, if you’ve never been there, is stunning and historic. The problem, which I hadn’t told anyone, was that when I woke up that morning, my back was killing me – it felt a lot like it did at the Flying Pig Marathon in 2012. For those who don’t know, I have two herniated discs that cause pretty bad sciatica and I have flare ups with my back every few months or so. Because I’ve been dealing with this since I was 16, it’s not something I talk about much unless it’s directly affecting a specific race – it’s just a part of my life now and I don’t think that much about it. Anyway, my right leg was numb when I woke up and my SI joint and discs were throbbing. I hoped that as I ran, things would loosen up and I would feel better and get to at least finish the marathon.
I’m going to make a long story short. They didn’t loosen up. I sent Murray along shortly after mile 9 so that I could take more walk breaks as needed, since I knew he was in shape to PR and I did not want to hold him back. Even though I was a in a lot of pain, I decided to split off with the full marathon instead of the half for some reason. In my mind, I couldn’t bear the thought of two DNFs in a row (especially since before Kiawah, I had only had one), regardless of the reason. Plus, this year’s Flying Pig is supposed to be my 50th marathon. Not finishing the race would put me in a difficult, although not impossible, predicament to get me to that mark.
About a mile after the split, my back pretty much completely gave out. We were on a long out and back through the Naval base (horribly boring, by the way), and the freezing wind was cutting right through me. I honestly have never been that cold in any marathon I have ever run, including Route 66 this year, which was 25 at the finish. I started picking up all the clothes I could find on the side of the street to pile them on, not caring if they were runners’ discarded clothes, clothes that were deemed too gross by homeless people, whatever. My first find was a pair of sweatpants, which I put onto my arms in a kid of strange half-shirt. Don’t worry, I checked for stains in the crotch region first. Later, I found a sweatshirt that had been cut open to make a jacket, so I piled that on. I had lost one of my gloves at a water stop, so I couldn’t feel one of my hands, and I was so miserable.
Around mile 14, I saw Crystal heading out as I was heading back. I don’t remember what I said to her, I just know I told her how cold I was and that I had lost my glove. Shortly after we said goodbye, she came running back with a glove she had found! It was a miracle. I also had seen my friend Kenneth, which was a great surprise! Unfortunately, by this point, I was in so much pain that I could barely walk. I was limping and my right leg and my back were somehow super painful and numb at the same time. I assessed my options: 1) Limp the remaining 12 miles to finish the marathon in 6-ish hours, possibly freezing to death in the process 2) Limp the 4 miles to the finish line (cut off a long loop for the marathon and take the half marathon route) to get a half marathon medal, thereby finishing 18 miles and also possibly freezing to death 3) Ask a Runner Assistance vehicle to take me to the start line, where my car was parked, and get a DNF.
Quite frankly, all three options completely sucked. I didn’t like any of them. I was so angry and frustrated that I was near tears. It just hurt so bad, and after weeks of being so tired and feeling so run down, it seemed ridiculous that a random flare up from my back would be the thing that would keep me from the finish line.
But it did. I went up to the Runner Assistance vehicle and told them the situation and asked for a ride back. As much as I hated it, I knew that finishing the race would be stupid. What would be the point? To put myself through hours of pain, possibly sideline myself for a few weeks and finish with a time I wouldn’t be happy with, just for the sake of getting a marathon finish to get me closer to 50? Even I know that is stupid, and I’m really good at rationalizing stupid decisions. I’ve run plenty of marathons in South Carolina. I’ve been exhausted after even 4 and 5 mile runs lately, so running a marathon was already going to take me out for several days. Now add making my back worse to the list, and not even I thought that was a good idea. I was so, so angry. There’s no other word for it.
Unfortunately, the Runner Assistance vehicle wasn’t allowed to leave its post until the last runner passed by. I had been running at a pretty good clip – on pace for a 4:30 finish at the half, even with all my walking – so we had awhile to wait. It ended up taking almost 2 hours for the final runners to come by, as there were firefighters walking the marathon in full gear. Fortunately, I had good company with the woman who was driving the vehicle, and she put the heat on full blast for me until I regained feeling in my hands. After what seemed like an eternity, due in large part to my rather emotional state, she drove me back to my truck at the start line and I drove home with a completely numb right leg. Because, you know, that’s safe.
I almost didn’t write this post. I kind of just want to forget about this race. I am so frustrated and, if I’m being honest, I’m angry. This is bullshit. There are some months where training goes great and PRs come without even trying, but that has not been the case lately. I was expecting to maybe not finish the race if I started feeling faint or got a bad headache or something, but I didn’t even get far enough into the race for that to happen! Instead, my stupid back just randomly decided that this weekend would be a fine time to flare.
I know it happens. I know there are bigger problems in the world, there are bigger problems in running, and I know it could be worse. I know I made the right decision. I know it doesn’t matter which race my 50th marathon happens at. I just want to catch a break on a run sometime soon. Preferably a race, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m tired of feeling like crap every day. Right now, I’m tired of running, although I know it’s not really running. It’s just hard to feel like something that feels so hard right now it’s fun, because it is not fun at the moment. It is not fun at all.
The (Whiny) End.