I am the first to admit I do not consider myself a brave person. I like my little life, and I am comfortable in my comfort zone. I don’t like dirt, I’m not an earthy girl. I don’t even really consider myself an athlete. But after turning 40, after losing my sister last year, after watching some of my family step out and take chances with successful results, realizing that I need to set a good example for my children in all areas of life, I knew that I needed to do something…..break out of my comfortable little world in whatever way, small or big.
I’m very proud of my big brother Kip. He’s been running marathons for four years now. He started training not long after we found out our sister had cancer. He figured if she could battle that battle day after day, he could train and run 26.2 miles. And so he trained. Two months before he was supposed to run his first race, he blew out his knee (again). He was disappointed, but undaunted. A year after another major knee surgery, he was training again, focused on giving honor to our sister’s continued cancer battle, and to Ryley’s battle with prematurity. The words he wrote about his first race moved me to tears. He said when he thought about giving up, he would think of Debby, and he would think about Ryley and told himself that if they would fight when they really had no choice, he could and would fight through those last grueling miles. Even with all the marathons he now has under his belt, I am constantly amazed by his drive and determination, much less his physical ability.
I have no desire whatsoever to run a marathon. I started running just to see if I could, and because I do look up to my brother. So I ran. At first, I couldn’t make it to the end of the street outside our neighborhood. But I kept trying. There was a lot of walking in the beginning, but pretty soon, that 2.5 miles was easy. I started stretching it out. Then there was pain…..and surgery. A tilted kneecap and five months of recovery. I wasn’t sure I could run again. I wasn’t sure I wanted to run again. But Kip said I could, and I had something to prove, so I did it. I started running again. Back to square one…..but it didn’t take as long to tackle that 2.5 miles, and then more. Sure running was fine. I didn’t love it, but it was the biggest bang for my exercise buck…..more calories burned in the least amount of time. It was purely for exercise, with no direction. Again, Kip encouraged and pushed. We would run when I was at his house or when he was down here visiting. He said over and over, “You can do this.” In late August, I registered for my first half marathon. And the training began in earnest.
Training bites. There really is just no other way to put it. It’s time consuming. It’s often boring. It’s sometimes painful. But I did it. I ran the miles, I got faster, I ran longer. Sunday was race day. Saturday night, I drove up to Long Beach to join my brother on the Queen Mary. There wasn’t much sleep. Nerves and being in a strange place did their best to keep me awake. There was a 4:45am wake-up call so we could dress, eat some oatmeal and chat about what to expect. At 6am, we caught the AquaLink across the bay to the starting area. I wasn’t too nervous….I couldn’t believe I was there, really getting ready to run a half marathon. My brother was giving me last minute advice, and then he headed off to line up in his start wave. I would see him at the finish line. I heard his wave start. Twenty minutes later, it was my turn. The course was jammed with nearly 10,000 runners. Music on, I decided to run *my* race, and started dodging slower people. The miles were flying by. The course was really flat, and along the water. There was plenty to look at, people to watch, crowds cheering the runners on. I was coasting….happy….sure I was going to make my time. My legs were feeling good. My breathing was perfect. And then I hit mile 8.5…..Suddenly, there was a sharp pain in my right knee. I thought to myself, “Don’t give in. Pain is okay. Find strength in the pain. Breath in and let the oxygen go to that knee. Keep going.” But I couldn’t keep going. Every step sent a slice of pain into the side of my knee. Every time I had to slow up, dodge to the side to get around someone and then accelerate again, I was in agony. I moved to the side and caved…I started walking. I thought it was ridiculous….I did not want to give in. I started running again and the pain was immediately there. This cycle repeated a few times. At one point, I was sure I was going to have to give up and have the medic take me back. But I would NOT give in. So, for 4.5 miles, I alternately walked and ran. And I was angry. I was frustrated. This was not *my* race. This was not how I wanted it to go. I saw the people cheering from the sidewalks and I was embarrassed. I wasn’t running so why would they cheer? Why would they root me on? At mile 12.5, I started running again and told myself I could not stop. The end was near. After a turn, the crowds increased. I couldn’t yet see the finish, but I knew I was close. And then I saw the bridge…ahhhhh…just get to that bridge and it will be done…then I can walk and the pain will end. Each step was torture, but the torture was almost over. My goal time had long passed and I was upset about that but could not change it. When I reached the bridge, I saw it was not the finish line. I still had another 150 yards to go. You can do this…you will finish this race running…you will NOT cross the line walking. And I finished…I finished running. Hands up overhead, fist pumps all around, medal placed around my neck. My first half marathon was done. 13.1 miles completed. I did not feel elated. I was disappointed in me. I will admit, it’s taken me a couple of days to get over the disappointment. Starting, much less finishing, a half marathon is an accomplishment. The training itself was the big accomplishment. I put in 70+ miles in less than 8 weeks.
Sunday night, I could hardly walk. My knee hurt so much. I iced. I ibuprofened. But I knew it wasn’t right. Yesterday, I sat a lot…more ice, more ibuprofen, more rest. This morning, I called the doctor and went in. I have torn cartilage in my right knee. I basically ran almost half my race with it. There will be two weeks of ice, rest, and ibuprofen. Then I go back for an MRI. It’s very likely there will be surgery involved. I will recover, and then I will start all over again. I’m frustrated, and sad, and a little bit angry. The thought of weeks on end without physical activity is driving me to the brink. And I know what it’s like to start over again….it isn’t fun. I’m already dreading it.
I’m sure there is something I need to learn at this point. And I will learn it, no doubt.
Am I proud of me? Yes I am. I did something not everyone does. I stepped outside of my comfort zone. I ran (well, I ran most of it) a half marathon. I have the medal to prove it. Will I do it again? Probably…..because if you know me, you know I am a perfectionist. I didn’t get to run this race the way I had envisioned. I didn’t run it the way I wanted to run it. So I will do it again so I can run the race *I* want to run. And I *will* meet my time goal (which I missed by 10 minutes this time around). One step forward, and two steps back. It seems I’ve done this dance before and it turned out pretty well. I’m predicting this one will too.