Today has pretty much been the worst day ever. It all started at 4 am when my alarm went off. I should've pressed snooze and gone back to sleep, but that's not at all what happened. I rolled out of bed, got dressed in my running garb, grabbed a protein shake and a banana and spent a few minutes foam rolling because things weren't feeling quite up to par. For the past week I had been feeling twinges of a reoccurring IT band injury. Like a distant relative, it flares up from time to time and forces me to take a few weeks off from the things I love most.
I'm usually a pretty good listener. If my body is telling me something, I've learned to heed the warning. BUT this time I pushed that voice to the back of my brain because I had been training for the Philly LOVE half marathon since January. Need I remind you what the weather has been like this winter!? Freaking cold. Wet. Icy. Miserable. But, despite the inclimate conditions I didn't miss a run. Every Saturday for the past three months, I've woken up at 5am to run a track workout. Willingly. Call me crazy, but I was committed to not only running this race, but running it faster than I ran my last (and first) half marathon back in the fall.
Back to today - I arrive in Philadelphia promptly at 6:45am with a little over an hour until the start of the race. 10,000 people are gathered together in front of the Rocky Steps at the Museum of Art. We should be all 'Eye Of The Tiger' but in reality we're huddling together under trash bags trying to defrost our toes which have already gone numb. Great start.
Look how excited I'm pretending to be! This was the first (and only) photo of my selfie challenge. It was my mission to take as many selfies with as many handsome men as possible - like this girl…but, well, keep reading...
8am rolls around and we start stripping off layers (because it's going to warm up, right!? that's runner rule No. 1) and find ourselves at the starting line. annnnd off we go! Mile number 1 is great. 2 is even better. I'm running around City Hall with 9,999 other people. How cool!? 3…4…5. It's pouring. My skin is soaked, I only have feeling in my little toe on my right foot, my hands are stuck in "the claw" position, and my hip is screaming. I'm in pain. But runners push through pain all the time. I'm pretty positive it's a thing.
Mile 6. I'm pretty sure there's a grand total of one hill in Philadelphia, and yes, we had to climb it. As I attack the incline I'm weighing the pros and cons of slowing my pace. I'm on track for my sub 2 hour finish but is it worth all this pain? The voice of reason (also known as my mother) pops into my head, don't push yourself too hard. you don't want to get hurt, only to be counteracted by my coaches insight, you can push through one race. take some time off to rest and recover afterwards. Coach wins (sorry Mom). I push hard for the next two miles only to limp my way across mile marker 8. Pain. Excruciating pain. and I still have 5 more miles to go. My body is begging me to stop but my mind is justifying the devastation, refusing to fall short of expectation.
At mile 9 my leg gives out because I've rubbed my body raw. I ignored all the warning signs and pushed right through into the danger zone. I stop and stretch only to hobble a few more feet. Stop. Stretch. Hobble. At mile 10 I admit defeat and limp my way off the side of the road. I'm done. My goal passes me by, literally. I see the other runners who will clock a sub 2 hour finish carry on ahead of me and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.
I'm cold. I'm wet. I'm hurting and I'm still 3.1 miles from the finish line. I can tell by the severity of my pain that I've incurred some long-term damage. And for what? I have absolutely nothing to show for it. After the 14th person asks if I'm okay I lose it, crying in front of 10,000 people, because no, I am so not okay. For just a second I was thankful for the rain, disguising my tears of disappointment and agonising discomfort.
By the grace of God I hobble over the finish line. 20 minutes slower than what I wanted (but still faster than my last half marathon time). And the fun is just beginning. As adrenaline fades and body temperature drops, I am reduced to a sloppy, snotty, shivering mess. And I'm not being cute. At one point I remember being cuddled on a hotel bed, wrapped in a comforter to abate the shakes, needing someone else to untie my soggy sneakers while I took a blow dryer to my fingers. I lead a glamorous life.
Flash forward one long car ride and a few hours later and I had to crawl into my house. On hands and knee (yes, just one). It's far from my proudest moment but talk about learning a hard lesson. My self inflicted expectations, fear of failure and stubborn competitive streak landed me with a visit to urgent care. Like I said, worst. day. ever. Mom I'm sorry, you were right.
Do as I say and not as I do and listen to your body. Take care of it. You only get one.
PS. It wasn't all bad. We did start happy.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.