“If you had
or one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
would you capture it
or just let it slip?” – Eminem
November 5th, 2016, that was my day. My opportunity. My moment. The one I had trained and worked so hard to reach and capture as my very own. To show up, work hard, and bathe in the excitement of my accomplishment. So the question is…did I capture it, or did I let it slip away? My emotions of how it all turned out have been all over the place, but I have also been reminded of the lessons that can be learned through running. The power of a run can be found in both the good ones and the bad ones, and sometimes…even more so in the bad ones.
Here is my very first half marathon recap…
It has been almost 2 full months since I “ran” my first half marathon. I use the quotations because there was very little actual running involved in those 13.1 miles. It was probably something closer to 3 cumulative miles of running, 5 miles of walking, and 5.1 miles of painful limping. So that alone should tell you how well it went…not so well at all. Yet when I reflect back on that day now, it was actually kind of perfect (in a very imperfect kind of way). How confusing, I know, so let me explain…
Going into race day, I knew that the outcome was completely up in the air. Because of my injury, I had been forced to decrease my mileage significantly during the last several weeks of training, and I didn’t run at all during the two weeks leading up to the race. I had only reached 10 miles before my training came to a halt, and so the whole event had a huge question mark surrounding it. Just two days before my half marathon I was seeing an orthopedist to confirm my diagnosis, start a treatment plan, and to make sure I wasn’t overlooking an even bigger injury. Thankfully, I was only dealing with my original diagnosis of piriformis syndrome which could certainly be treated, but my body needed time. But time wasn’t something I had going for me. I saw a physical therapist later that afternoon and we did as much as we could without irritating the muscles even more so before the race. I had reached the “it is what it is” mentality, and I knew that all I could do was give it my all, hope for the best, and not let it steal any of my joy. So that is exactly what I did. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and I was definitely cautiously optimistic about the outcome, but I was also very excited. And I wasn’t going to let anything take that away from me.
I always imagined I would be extremely nervous right before my first half marathon. I assumed I wouldn’t eat well the night before or sleep much at all, and I definitely thought I would be a big ball of nerves on race day morning. But much to my surprise, my excitement seemed to take over, and the nerves never really showed up. My husband and I traveled with friends to Savannah, Georgia for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon, and I was soaking in the entire experience. The night before, our friends’ sister opened her home to us all and prepared a wonderful homemade pasta dinner which served as our pre-race fuel. I met new people, talked about our upcoming race, and ate two delicious platefuls of spaghetti! Even while I was talking to others about running those 13.1 miles, I still never got nervous, but I remained very aware of the reality of my situation. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the entire time. My goal was to take it easy and do walk/run intervals throughout the race, hopefully keeping the pain at bay, at least most of the time. While I once had a finish time goal, my only goal at this point was to finish, and preferably pain-free. But I really had no clue what my body would be able to do, so I simply enjoyed the company and embraced that no matter what, this race was about to become a big part of my running story. I laid out my clothes before going to bed, slept fairly well, and was ready to go the next morning. I still never experienced those nerves I kept expecting to show up. I think I was just so anxious and ready to get going and see how it was all going to play out for me…
Ready, Set, Run!
Standing at the starting line, I was super excited and hopeful. More than anything though, I was ready to get going and find out how the miles were going to play out for me. I wanted to start running, realize I was okay, and reach the point where I knew I was going to make it just fine. But I was still cautiously optimistic, and I understood that I would likely reach a point where I would struggle with my injury. I just never thought it would happen so fast, or that it would hurt anywhere near as much as it did. There is this feeling I would always get before the pain set in, a slight tug or pull that acted like a little knock to my muscles, letting its arrival be known. It was my body’s way of offering a fair warning that it was about to get painful and that I should probably stop. I had listened to this warning during training…I slowed down…I stopped…I rested for days and even weeks at times. But on this particular day, stopping wasn’t one of my options. I had arrived at the starting line with one goal…to arrive at the finish line through the hard work and energy of my own two legs. Unfortunately, I felt that little tug to my muscles at only about a quarter of a mile in, way sooner than ever before. Over the course of my injury it had initially shown up around mile 2 or 3, and eventually, through listening to my body, resting, and cross training, I had been able to hold it off until closer to mile 4 or 5. So the fact that I felt that unwanted knock at only a quarter of a mile into the beginning of 13.1 long miles…absolutely crushed me. I remember trying to put on a happy, outwardly positive face. I tried not to let my husband and friends see how discouraged I was right from the beginning, but I knew the pain was coming, and since I had never had to push through it over such a long period of time…I was scared. Scared of the pain, scared of hurting myself even more, scared of not being able to finish, and scared of letting them all down. I vividly remember the sound of dozens of watches ringing aloud when that first mile was reached. My heart sank along with the sounds….I was only one mile in. How could I possibly do this for 12.1 more miles? I felt like my dream of finishing was getting farther and farther out of my reach. Sadness and doubt were setting in fast, and I found myself feeling like I was somewhere I didn’t even belong. But then I heard familiar voices. The voices of my husband and friends telling me that we were going to do it together, that they were not going to leave my side, and that I would make it across that finish line. It was their encouragement and support that helped me shut down the voice in my mind that was telling me I couldn’t do it, and got me to continue on with the long journey ahead. They let me go the pace I needed to, to run when I could and walk when I needed, and they constantly assured me that I would make it to the end. It was that love, friendship, and support that kept me going even through the slowly increasing pain. I wanted to finish not only for myself, but also for them. The people who had not only stuck by me through many miles of training, but who were also giving up the outcome of their own runs in this race to ensure that I made it to the end. By mile 5 the pain was pretty constant and it was really starting to weigh on me that it would only continue to get more difficult…and painful. My mind was racing on how I would possibly be able to finish, but I wasn’t giving up. I found myself bargaining with my body…begging it to please let me make it through the remaining miles. I promised it rest afterwards, that I would go to physical therapy, and to take a break from running however long I needed to. I just wanted this so bad. How could I not…I had trained for months, given up sleeping in on so many Saturday mornings, and pushed myself through sweat, exhaustion, and the fear of even being able to do this. The exact fear I was experiencing in that moment. I ran when I could, but the running intervals were getting much shorter and the walking intervals were turning into a limp. Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 we stopped at a medic stand and made an ice pack to hopefully help with the inflammation. I limped along to mile 10 and that is when I hit my major wall. The pain had reached its all time high and in my mind, there was absolutely no way to continue. I was fighting back tears…tears of pain, anger, and confusion. And then I received a text from my best friend and my very first running partner that said “I would carry you if I could! Do not give in. Do not stop. God will carry you.” Her message filled my eyes with tears and when I looked up from my phone, I had reached the mile 10 sign which read “Finish! Get what you came for.” The combination of those messages sent a flood of emotion through me in that moment, and while I was hurting incredibly bad and wanted to stop just so the pain would stop, I also knew then that I was NOT going to give up. I knew I was being carried…by the love, support, prayers, and encouragement of those surrounding me both near and far. And so I stopped for a refill of more ice and I pressed on.
Those last few miles were really painful, but I tried to hide it as not to worry my husband to death. I tried to enjoy the beautiful day, the charming streets of Savannah, and the company of great friends beside me, but the pain made it difficult to concentrate on anything else. I gritted, I beared it, and I didn’t quit. I remember watching the pacers go by and getting discouraged when I realized just how long this half marathon was taking me to complete. But the closer I got to the finish line, the more I started to see my strength, determination, and perseverance in a new light…the light it so rightfully deserved. If you would have told me before I started that I would take 4 hours to finish the race I would have thought it to be a complete failure. But after living out those hours…hours of giving it my all, pushing my body beyond what I thought was possible, and not allowing myself to give up…I had a whole new perspective on a 4 hour finish time. I remember looking up at my husband and telling him “If I finish this race in 4 hours in this amount of pain, I am a complete bad ass.” And I meant it. That initially horrible finish time sounded like an amazing accomplishment after working as hard as I did to get there. And then the moment arrived where the finish line was finally in sight. Regardless of the pain, I knew I wanted to run across that line, and thankfully, my husband and friends wouldn’t let me give up on that dream either. As we turned that last corner and could see the end in the distance, we started to run. And as soon as I did, I wanted to stop. It felt like nothing short of a dozen knives being stabbed into my left leg and lower back….over and over and over. I couldn’t remember experiencing any type of pain like that in my entire life and I started crying immediately. I looked at my husband who was running to my right and I told him I had to stop, but he encouraged me to keep going. He assured me “You can do anything for one minute. You CAN do this. Keep going. You’ve got this.” He may have said more, I don’t know. I kept repeating that I couldn’t go on and that it was too painful, but he talked me through it until the end, and I didn’t stop until I was done.
At exactly 4 hours and 8 seconds after crossing the starting line, I finally crossed the finish line. All of that doubt, fear, pain, and perseverance…and I had actually arrived and reached the goal I had desired so much. So to answer the original question of whether or not I captured my moment or let it slip…I totally captured it. But I certainly didn’t capture it alone. I did it with the people who never gave up on me. Because when others believe in you so much and they don’t let you give up, they never leave your side or they continue to send you encouraging messages until you make it the rest of the way, it provides motivation and strength that you didn’t even know existed inside of you.
Looking back on that moment I am overwhelmed, not just that I did it, but in all of the life lessons I learned on that day, and that running continually teaches me. The power of a run is more than your body moving you forward. It is realizing that you are capable of so much more than you ever believed. It is achieving something that you once though of as impossible. It is realizing that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to finish something…it’s the finishing that counts, and the hard work that was put in between the start and the finish lines. It is thinking that you have nothing more to give, digging deeper, and finding out you have SO much more inside of you. It is realizing that we don’t only run with our legs, but also with our hearts. It is about discovering what we are capable of, and discovering the power of love, encouragement, and support. It is about more than just ourselves…it is about being there for each other, believing in each other, and cheering each other along on the journey.
Life is a series of moments that are constantly passing us by, and these moments in time are what make up our beautiful, wonderful lives. Capture all of your moments and experience them fully and completely. Feel the power and joy they bring to your life. Embrace them, enjoy them, and never let them go, for they are yours to grasp and keep in your hearts forever. I wouldn’t change a thing about my perfectly imperfect moment on this painful, memorable November day. Not one single thing…