A fellow runner once told me, at the beginning of my training for a 1/2 marathon PR, that ANYONE can do a half marathon or even a full. Any couch potato can get up and walk 13.1 miles, and that she personally would never put a 13.1 sticker on her car if she finished a half in 3-4 hours. At the time, I took this to heart. I was preparing for 2 half marathons in 13 days last fall, and I was chasing a PR. I was successful, and found my pot of gold at the end of my training rainbow.
I finished my 2nd half 36 mins faster than my first. I trained hard and wanted more. But then I got pregnant.
I didn’t intend for my pregnancy to stop me, but knew it would slow me down. I was okay with that, even if I got extremely twitchy when I did actually slow down. I wasn’t thrilled with a well over 3 hour Tink finish, but still knee deep in morning sickness, I was proud of myself for finishing the 10k and 1/2 marathon races that weekend. Next up was the Glass Slipper Challenge. I anticipated another slow finish, but tons of fun and another boost in pride for finishing another set of races being pregnant. But things didn’t work out that well.
I did the first race of GSC, the Enchanted 10k, with my husband. I made it through the first 5.5 miles with no issues, even stopping off for a cheesecake brownie at the Boardwalk Bakery.
But with less than a mile left to go, I stepped off to start running and pain in my lower back shot down my leg and up my back. It hurt. I limped the rest of the way through the race. The pain didn’t go away, and I couldn’t sit, stand, or even lay down without the sharp, stabbing feeling in my very lower back. I was in trouble for the half marathon.
Now the old me, the girl that could never train and run a half marathon, the girl who milked every injury, would have tapped out then. I had this happen to my lower back during my last pregnancy and I spent a good 5 days on the couch, being waited on hand and foot. My husband knew the race was important to me, because it was not only completing the Glass Slipper Challenge, but it was the second half of my Coast 2 Coast. I would be earning 3 medals at the finish line, not just one. He offered to take my bib and walk the half for me. But I’m not exactly in the business of taking medals I didn’t earn. The DisBroads don’t play like that.
But it was also a pride thing. I’d worked hard to get there, this was to be my 5th half marathon in a year, and people called me crazy for wanting to finish so many races while pregnant. I had to try.
So I got up, put on my running costume, tied on my jet pack, and did my best to ignore the pain.
I will say, my only saving grace was the PRs I worked so hard for in the fall. I had a good corral much closer to the front. I limped through this race. I had no fewer than a dozen people stop next to me and ask if I was ok or if I needed medical help. I was the DisBroad in the highest corral but I was passed by every single one of the girls. I averaged 19-20 minute miles. I passed up all but 2 picture stops, because between my inability to do anymore than walk slowly and the many breaks a pregnant woman has to take to visit the bathroom, I didn’t have the time to spare. I set little goals for myself. Get to the castle, get to the halfway point, get to each mile marker, just keep going until they pick me up. There were times that I honestly thought of stopping. I was physically fine and so was the baby, but the pain was at times excruciating. I kept picturing the medals I’d worked hard for and the medals I probably wouldn’t have a chance at earning again.
Eventually, I crossed the finish line. It took me 4 hours and 22 minutes. This was over 2 hours slower than my PR. Was this a failure? Should I be ashamed of such a slow finish, doing something any couch potato could have done? No. In fact, this finish caused a light bulb to go off for me, and I consider this my best finish, a new PR.
This kind of finish under these kinds of conditions really give new meaning to the term “Your race, your pace.”. If you are a sub 2 hour half runner, and you pass another racer walking, do you know why they are walking? Is it lack of training? Just being lazy? Not giving it their all? The truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know what each racer is racing. Maybe they(like me) are injured. Maybe it’s a huge feat that they brought them self out to do the race like I did. Maybe they are sick. With many Disney races in the winter, it’s easy for illness to hit for many of the runners. I personally battled a nasty stomach virus just 3 days before. I’m not the first person I know of to complete a distance race with some kind of illness. Or maybe it’s a pure miracle that that racer is out on the course in the first place. I’ve seen runners walking on the course with a bald head. They are fighting cancer, yet still managing to get out there and give their race a shot. Maybe they are like Sarah Kate, a little girl barely capable of walking a mile, but insisting on getting the job done no matter what. And maybe you are correct, and they were just completely undertrained, or not trained at all. They are overweight, but want to make a change and so they registered for a race, but still weren’t ready to take that step. But they still got off the couch to give it a shot, even if it meant getting swept.
The truth is, you don’t know their story. I never knew their story. As I would weave in and out and around each walker, they were no more than another obstacle in my race towards getting faster. But when the tables are turned, and I am giving every ounce of everything I have just to walk my race, it makes you realize that each person out there, whether it’s the elite runner finishing in under 1:20 or the racer barely making it past the sweepers to finish in 4 hours, is doing the best race for them, and that is an accomplishment on it’s own.
The biggest win for me, and the reason this was my best race(even though it was by far my worst race), was because it indicated how much I’d grown as a person. I used to be a victim. 5 years ago I would have cried in my bed about how horrible I felt and how injured I was, poor poor me. But that’s not who I am anymore. I realized this was my goal, I was stronger than the victim I used to be, and I could make it through. Most people can train to become a better runner. It takes dedication, to get out there and train 3-4 times a week, to work on speed. But it can be done. It takes a lot more to grow up as a person. To realize that we have two choices, to roll over and cry about the hard parts of life, or to push through the hard parts and fight to the other side. Going from the first kind of person to the second kind of person is much more important to me that shaving another 5 minutes off of my half marathon time. I’ll proudly put the Glass Slipper Challenge “I Did It!” sticker on my car. Because sometimes, even your worst can show you exactly how far you’ve come.