I’m the guy with the white hat.
The weather for the Texas Marathon and Half-Marathon was perfect. At 6:30, when I arrived at the race site, it was just above 60 degrees and overcast, but windy. I was there earlier than usual, but I never had been to a race such as this, and later I found out from a friend that traffic exiting the interstate was pretty bad, as so many people were arriving at the race at the same time. I had plenty of time to walk around, wake up, and visit the men’s room on more than one occasion. The staging area was inside a building so it was warm and had indoor rest rooms. Naturally, the waiting line got rather large. So, I headed outside to a grouping of about 30 port-a-potties and had them all to myself. Not sure what makes a person go to the restroom so many times before a race. Has to be some scientific explanation.
As I walked around the staging area, I found myself thinking that I had made a horrible mistake. The conversation with myself went like this: “Are you crazy? What made you think you could run this far. The people in this room are runners; they are fit, skinny, and attractive. You are a fat, bald guy with high blood pressure. Get out of here before anyone sees you. Run. Flee. Lie, cheat, and steal yourself to safety.” But I stayed.
There’s nothing better than when your kids say they are proud of you!
I should have checked my equipment before I got out of the car. My Polar Foot pod battery was signaling red, which means it is on the way to dying. So, with about 9 minutes until the start, I sprinted to my car and dug out a spare battery from headphones that come with my van’s DVD player. Put the new battery in the foot pod and reattached it to my foot. The light shined red! But it went green a few minutes later, so I did have it for the race. But it was telling me that I had run about .10 mile farther than what the mile markers for the race said. Not sure if that was a battery issue or if the pod needed recalibration or not.
Let’s start the race, shall we? Race started promptly at 7:30 with me realizing that I really could stand another potty break. Too late! Go! So I tell myself I’ll wait for a convenient in-race potty break. Right. I found that I was farther towards the front of the pack than I really wanted to be and was running faster than I planned; almost a minute per mile faster. I really wanted to start slower than that, but the mass of people swept me forward. We turned out of Dallas’ Fair Park (where the state fair is held—near the Cotton Bowl) and followed some adjacent roadways working our way toward White Rock Lake. The race course had all runners together until we reached the lake, then the marathoners went around the lake, while we halfers took a left through the park and meet the marathoners for the last 7 miles.
For the first 4 miles I felt great. I felt really strong. The weather was great, the atmosphere lively. I was surprised that so many people had what sounded like were regular conversations during these races. Reports of vacations, discussions about doctors’ visits, and spreading rumors about absent runners seemed to be par for the course. I also saw a lot of iPods. I wish races would say for sure if they have banned earphones so we cold know whether or not to really bring them.
Around mile 4, I began to feel twinges in my LEFT leg that were certain signs of ITBS. Mind you, the right leg was the one killing me for the past few weeks, and the one I bought the strap for—WHICH I FORGOT TO TAKE TO DALLAS WITH ME. GENIUS—and now the left was presenting the pain. Goodness. Well, I had bought a cheap replacement knee-brace that really wasn’t working other than to keep me warm, and I promptly switched it to the left leg. No help. For the next 8 miles I was in growing ad constant pain. This course was hilly, to be sure, so uphill felt okay. But the down hills presented me with a new high in pain management. Stopping at water stations made it worse, because as I restarted my running, I as in greater pain. Somehow, I shuffled for the next 8 miles at an incredibly slow 13-14 minute per mile pace. But I was not going to quit. ITBS be damned, I was finishing this Half Marathon. I had a family waiting for me at the finish line and I wasn’t about to come riding up on a golf cart or ambulance. I needed to finish this for myself and for them.
The course was absolutely beautiful. The half-marathon course had 6 water stations, all decorated and dressed on a certain theme, whether it be the sixties, or pajamas, etc., and they were all great and cheering all of us along. And I found Team-in-Training people to be quite enthusiastic.
There were times I was praying for the pain to be dulled, or just to fade long enough for me to run a little faster. But it didn’t. I was determined, however, to finish under 3 hours. As we neared the park more for the finish, I knew that I would complete this race, but I was struggling to come under 3 hours. The last mile seemed like it would never end. But as I neared the finish, I heard the announcer giving the names of the finishers, and I began to imagine the feeling of crossing the finish lone and looking into the eyes of those whom I care for the most, my wife and kids. I got emotional. I welled up with tears and had to fight them off. My pace quickened form the adrenaline, I caught a glance of my family, saw my boys saying to their mom “There he is!” and I lost it. I barely made it across the line, where I saw my oldest boy and he hugged me. I was in tears. This is why I run. The feelings that I had while hugging my family made the pain seem like nothing. All else faded away and all I needed was in my arms.
I had finished a half-marathon just over a year from starting this running odyssey. Last April 2 miles felt like a hundred. I could have never imagined running more than 4 miles back then. Now I’ve run 13.1. I couldn’t be prouder of this accomplishment. And what got me there was the community that I entered, this family of runners. The few, but wonderful, readers of this blog, the writers of the countless blogs that I read, the pod casts that I listen to, and the people who comment on my posts. And my family.
We runners may partake of an individual sport where we must pass tests all by ourselves. But I have learned that we are never alone. Thanks for being there with me.
Yes, IT bands, I hear you. Rest time. I agree. So, on to recovery. And on to a full marathon!