(Please excuse my plethora of uncharacteristic i-phone photos as I did not carry my real camera around with me this weekend).
I feel like I need another weekend to recover from this weekend's activities. Andrew and I woke up at 5 AM on Saturday to run the "Rock and Roll" 1/2 marathon. Before gathering in the corrals to start the race, we met our training group/friends at a local coffee shop near the Seattle Center where the race was to be held. The race "started" at 7, but they only let one corral go at a time, so we didn't make our way to the start line until 7:50. ..7:50! Imagine feeling antsy all morning and then having to wait 50 more minutes. Luckily, we were with buddies, so it went by fast.
As you know, I have been fighting a cold, so I was mostly concerned about that affecting my lungs, energy level and strength, but once I got going I was fine. I was warned about runners starting out too fast with all of the adrenaline and not being able to finish without being exhausted, so I paid extra attention to my breathing patterns and started with a safe and easy pace. We had started on 4th ave and ran through the city which was so pleasant and gorgeous! You could see runners for miles ahead. The streets were lined with bands playing and cheerful spectators. The expected warm temperature for the day was 77 degrees, so the sun was peaking through and reflecting off buildings. At one point, I looked over and saw the perfect view of the Smithtower where Andrew and I got married and quickly became emotional thinking to myself that "this is probably the best day ever." Things were aligning and all of my worries were ancient history.
As we made our way through the I.D. and towards Columbia City around the 6 mile mark, I started to notice my right knee feeling stiff. I didn't think anything of it until it got worse and eventually painful. The pain increased until I literally couldn't bend my knee and was forced to stop mid-stride. I have never experienced or fell victim to a running-related injury, so I had no clue how to fix it. All of my friends had spread out at different paces (as we normally do), so I was alone. I found myself doing the only thing I could do to try and temporarily alleviate the pain, which was to quickly bend down like I was doing a squat and stretch a couple of times and to obviously keep going. I repeated this pulling-over-squatting-stretching routine that happened more frequently as the perks in the race were getting better and wackier. I was too immersed in my own pain to be able to "take in" or enjoy any of the bands, or getting to run through the legs of a gigantic blow-up-balloon-doll of a mustached-musician playing a guitar, or getting to run through a water sprinkler which was actually a man holding a hose (with his thumb partially over the hole), or getting to run along a mile of people holding up large american flags.. None of it.
By the time we ran through the i-90 tunnel (that was closed down just for us), and got to the on-ramp overlooking the entire city under the bluest sky, I was in the most unbearable pain. I didn't have a phone, I wasn't sure if I could finish, and I knew I had family waiting for me at the finish line. I was absolutely heartbroken and frustrated. Other than my knee, I felt strong and able-bodied. I was jealous of people who were probably walking from exhaustion and not because they were injured. I would have given anything to just be tired. I could have used the beautiful day, or the fact that I had so many people supporting me for any motivation I needed if I were just tired, but it was not because I was tired. I cried because I had been training for 5 months straight. 5 months of total dedication and commitment, to going to practice when I had food poisoning. To waking up every Saturday at 7 to train with the group. And for feeling, despite my cold, completely prepared for this day. To knowing deep down that I could cross the finish line with no problem. I cried because, had it not been for my newly acquired knee-injury, this could have been one of the best, most rewarding, experiences in my life.
To see if I could subside the pain, I tried running slower, then faster, then using small steps, and then large steps. Nothing worked. I couldn't even walk without pain, but I pushed through, sharp pain and all and ended up running with an excruciatingly painful limp. I did this until mile 11 where I saw a medical tent and had them wrap my leg while I sat there hopelessly crying, knowing that I would absolutely have to finish no matter what. Fortunately, when I needed someone the most, my friend Cathy spotted me as she was running by and offered to help me get through to the end. I ran the last couple of miles next to her in the craziest pain ever and finished the half marathon. It happened. I did it. And Cathy saved me. Which is, I guess, a large part of what this running thing is all about. Community.
Over the course of this training program, I've met a lot of really nice people in this amazingly positive and supportive tight-knit running community. People who are there to give you a high-five or that extra push when you really need one. Good people. And not just in our training group, but runners as a whole. Witnessing everyone come together on Saturday was such a neat thing to be a part of. I also love that runners come in all shapes: middle-aged, really old, young, hip, athletic, inexperienced, eccentric, I even passed a man juggling 3 balls while he was slowly jogging. I'm totally serious. Anyway, this is probably the most I've ever written on my blog because I guess it's been such a big part of my life recently and it sort of feels like I had some explaining to do, maybe mostly to myself. So, thanks for reading! Love, -n