Embrace the Suck.

I saw this advice in an article about running a marathon: Embrace the Suck. Well, it could have been the mantra on my t-shirt during my first half marathon Sunday.

It was not a nice day to run a 5K, let alone 13.1 miles. And when I saw the weather, I would have much rather done the concurrent 5K than the rolling hills planned for me. We’re talking high 30s/low 40s, winds of 10-15 mph, and drizzle. Enough to soak through to your skin and coat you with a mist that prevents you from sweating effectively, this drizzle was miserable. In other words, it was a miserable, rotten New England spring day.

I’m obsessive about these things, so I had planned out my outfit: black Old Navy tech tee, purple Ellie Push Your Limit capris (so comfy, and the waistband is high enough so they don’t feel like they’re going to slip down at all, plus there was this hidden car key pocket), black wicking baseball cap. It was the perfect outfit for the day.

And I was doing pretty well for a while, even with the hills. I actually finished my first mile way ahead of pace and tried to slow myself down a bit. I smiled and waved at spectators and thanked the volunteers, who were standing still in this mess. I saw a guy running in a tutu and asked him if he was doing it for Monika Allen. (He was.) I looked at the pretty scenery: the open land, the trees, the babbling brook we ran over about three miles in or so.

Then, around the seventh mile or so, my right leg started hurting. Maybe it was the wind or the cold or the wet (or, most likely, all three) combined with warm muscles, but my IT band was starting to protest. Right before I hit the 9-mile marker, I stopped to stretch. That’s how much it hurt. (And if you know me, I run on blisters and achy feet and crabby knees. For me to stop, it had to HURT.) As always, I’m floored by how supportive runners are of each other: two runners passing me stopped to ask if I was ok, and another offered me some GU. The camaraderie of those of us plodding through the middle is probably my favorite part. We just want to see each other cross the finish line upright and smiling.

I really, really wanted to sit down on the side of the road and cry. Instead, I walked for a few minutes. I tore off my pace band angrily. And then, with the determination that has doggedly kept me going for over 35 years, I ran. Slowly, but I ran. I wanted to cry for the next mile. But I kept going. I pictured my family waiting for me at the finish line, those who had donated to the American Diabetes Association for my Nonna and mother – and most importantly, how depressed I would be if I gave up. I don’t give up. I keep going. And somewhere, I found the strength to pick up the pace, to run strong for that last mile, to cross the finish line in 2:06:53 with the cheers from my tribe ringing in my ears.

Crossing the finish line triumphant
I was SO HAPPY to reach the finish line.

Holy smokes. I just finished my first half marathon! And I say first because I’m going to do it again.

After I crossed, I hugged my family tightly. I walked it off. I stretched. I took a hot shower, because I was cold and wet and shivering. And I visited the on-site physical therapy to get my IT band stretched out. Looks like I’m taking some time off to recuperate – but I feel incredibly accomplished. I embraced the suck: the weather, the pain, the fact that my best-laid plans unraveled. And I finished. Thirteen point one, done.

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