Hello there! & congrats to all those who finished the Philly Half or Full Marathon today!
I hope you had a good Sunday funday today, because my day consisted entirely (ENTIRELY) of this:
[I’m staying at my parents’ until we head to Worcester for Thanksgiving on Tuesday morning, so I’ve reclaimed my old ‘homework spot’ at the kitchen table. My mom saw the answer key (right below the apple) and thought someone had totally bombed his exam…]
At least there was a bit of humor sprinkled in there. And yes, I teach Honors Greek. That’s not the joke part.
I believe we were half a mile down the Ben Franklin Parkway when I left you last.
At around a little over a mile into the Rothman 8k, you head past the incredible Philadelphia Museum of Art and loop down onto MLK Boulevard, where miles 2, 3, and some of mile 4 are located. As we loped down the mild slope, I turned to Rich.
“I waited until we were out of the crowd’s sight to say this,” I confessed, “but I have to stop right now.”
The pain in my knee was already unbearable, and we weren’t even two miles into the race yet. I immediately regretted picking up my race bib, or even THINKING that after struggling to walk down stairs for months on end, that a few weeks of experiencing only mild twinges could possibly mean that my tendon was completely healed. I almost cried as I watched runners pass us, knowing that I was faster than them, knowing that I was going to walk most of this race, and knowing that I was about to set myself back even more by even setting foot on the course. Walking a race? I felt like a joke.
I can only imagine what Rich and I must have looked like for the remaining 3.5 miles of the 8k. At the two mile marker, I tried to run again, and I could instantly feel the enormous strain on my knee. At around 2.25 miles (according to my Garmin), I could barely lift my left leg to put one foot in front of the other. We walked again.
The race would go on in this manner for 2.5 more miles. We’d get to a mile marker, and I’d feel the pressure to “get moving again.” I’d hobble along for a quarter mile, and we’d end up walking. Rich was an amazing source of support through this whole experience; he stuck with me, encouraged me to walk, and held my hand to maintain the solemnity of the “derp pact.” Rich is just as competitive as I am (guy could have posted 5 low-7 minute miles if he had let loose), but knew I needed the support more than he needed a sub-40 minute 8k. I think I would have openly wept for disappointment on MLK Boulevard if Rich hadn’t been there; instead, I smiled into the sun.
Well…smiled, when I wasn’t grimacing in pain from my vain attempts to gain a little on our finish time. I was physically fighting my injury. In the moment, on the course, I absolutely could not give in to the idea that I was, quite literally, unable to compete. It should come as no surprise that I lost that battle. Rich and I walked until around 4.5 miles, and I managed to pull off a 0.4-mile hobble so that I could cross that finish line with, as I kept thinking, a “shred of dignity.” Right before the finish, I saw my mom, who knew by the time and the look on my face that I was in mental and physical pain. I briefly held her hand and kept moving with Rich. My mom watched me fly past that same spot last year at a full sprint, as I realized that I could pull off a time a full 5 minutes faster than I had anticipated. This year, I was barely in the “under an hour” club. I never actually checked the splits.
For someone who doesn’t run, this all probably seems like a gross exaggeration. It really isn’t that big of a deal, in the end, that I showed up to a race and walked most of it. It happens. What kills me, though, is that I pushed myself so far past my physical limit. I didn’t listen to my body, which I’m normally pretty good at doing. What was I out to prove?
I wanted to prove to myself that I am a strong, fit, and competitive runner; I wanted to dominate; I wanted that damn runner’s high, and the wild elation that comes with leaving your soul on the pavement. A year ago, I found my “thing.” Now, I have my other “thing” (if you know me, you’ll know that my love affair with Latin and Greek is flamin’ hot), but when it came to fitness, I’ve always been sort of lost. Sure, I played basketball…I’ve run here and there (with no aim to race) for years…but I’ve never felt such pure satisfaction as when I am lost in my own thoughts on a run. Running has the power to reverse a whole day of stress. It is like worship, and the race is the communal act of church. So when I idiotically laced up yesterday morning, I was searching for a shadow of all of that.
Lesson learned. If I want to go to church, I have to build my own back up first. My church needs some TLC. For the next few months, I plan on treating my knee how I should have for the past six: no more “test miles;” no races; actually icing after exercise, or when I’m sore.
I plan on taking this Thanksgiving week and into next week to heal, ice, and stretch, and then I’m gonna give swimming, and maybe yoga, a try. The thought of me doing yoga is hilarious, since I am one of those people who is wired from the day’s get-go. (Imagine THAT first period on a Monday.) I am horrible at letting myself “just be,” but I have to learn sometime. Time for teacher to take the test.
Ever run a race injured, and made it worse? What was your worst sports injury, and how long did it take you to recover?