I’ve taken a while to write about my first half marathon experience. This is why:
I was ready. I had trained diligently for 16 weeks. Short runs, tempo runs, strength training, Pilates and of course, long runs. I went so far to say my training was ‘uneventful’. It all just fell into place.
As it got closer to race day I was increasingly nervous about injury and illness. With 6 days until race day I started to get a tight knot in my neck. That sent me into reserved panic as I tried all my tricks to help work it out (later to find out my tricks were making things worse).
With 5 days until race day I got out of bed to heat up a heating pad for some temporary relief of my neck. And then it happened.
I fainted. I woke up in the kitchen with my head bleeding and not knowing what the hell happened. Panic, pain, paramedics in my kitchen, blood on my pjs... all ended with a trip to the hospital and this:
Two gashes right on my forehead needing seven stitches.
I was in pain and feeling pretty sorry for myself. I told every medical professional in the hospital that I was running a half marathon in 5 days and they needed to fix me up and get me ready. I don’t think I realized the extent of the damage at that point. I just wanted the whole thing over with. They sent me home, with some great pain killers and said ‘good luck on your race!’
The rest of race week went like this:
Thursday: went for massage (to work out sore neck that caused this catastrophe in the first place) and went to get my hair cut. I considered bangs to hide the damage but was talked out of it (phew!). By day’s end my face was starting to swell and I was getting a black eye.
Friday: iced my face and neck and actually rested. I reconsidered the situation and decided not to race at all. I would cheer on my friend Kim. We went to packet pick up and it was a little disheartening. I had stitches in my face and was telling everyone that I was not racing. I even gave up on meeting Katherine Switzer because I felt I was giving up and embarrassed by my injury.
Saturday: woke up feeling great! Went for a long walk. On said long walk I decided that I should at least walk the race (there was a walking division). For sure I could walk.
Saturday night: Why walk when I can run? at least some of it.
Sunday (Race day): I decided to start the race with Kim and see where it takes me. I promised to assess myself honestly and slow down when I needed to. I’ve never started a race without a solid plan.
I was incredibly emotional at the start and began the race blurry-eyed from tears. So much had happened in just a few short days. I was on a roller coaster of emotions.
I ran with Kim until I felt I needed to slow down. I let her go ahead while I made friends on the course. I was encouraged by the sheer number of women, all shapes and sizes, running this race. It was inspiring. I jogged, walked/ran and walked.
I ran the last km to the finish. I had to run across the finish line.
In the end I didn’t have any more swelling in my face, but my knees hurt like crazy. I iced everything the rest of the day and didn’t move much otherwise.
On one hand I’m glad I did the race. I needed to do it to feel like myself again. I know it might sound strange that running/walking a half marathon would help me heal, but it did.
On the other hand I’m upset at myself for pushing so far. I just couldn’t let it go and probably delayed my physical recovery that much more.
Now I am trying to turn this whole ordeal into a positive. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and this is what I have learned:
1) It’s just a race. It’s supposed to be fun. I will remind myself to not get so worked up over race day again because you never know what can happen.
2 ) It could’ve been so much worse. I could’ve hit my teeth or eye or had a cracked skull. I'm thankful it wasn't that bad.
3) Stay down! I've never fainted before so I didn't know the feeling. I remember sitting on the floor. I likely tried to get up and tripped and fell into the counter, a barstool and the floor…hard. Next time, I'll remind my unconscious self to just stay down.
4) Everyone is dealing with their own shit. No one on the course cared about my stitches because they were dealing with their own hurdles. Some were much, much bigger than mine.
So all things considered I had a pretty good first half marathon race. I have a vendetta on this race, so I plan to do it again next year. In fact, they have sweet deal on. If you sign up before June 30th of this year, the race is only $66! How could I not do it again?
Apparently, I had fun too!