On Sunday March 20th, 2011 – I painfully labored (read: no orgasmic birth) 13.1 miles of pavement with 16,000 other crazy fools.  I hurt with every single step.  I attempted on several occasions to draw strength from the memory of 14 hours of unmedicated labor and delivery (of actual human being) thinking that would be helpful – I didn’t need energy gel or naproxen, I had a baby without drugs for christ sakes!   Only, at any moment I had the power to stop my forward momentum and end the pain whereas with baby labor there was no option of quitting.  In theory, an inspirational analogy, in practice – totally useless.

It all began in the spring of 2010.  Oban was about 6 months old and we had a couple friend of ours over for a visit.  She was very pregnant and the topic of running came up as my husband had been running through that previous winter and was getting into triathlon races.  My friend mentioned that after her baby was born she wanted to train for a half-marathon.  I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather NOT do than run.  And yet, what came out of my mouth was “That sounds cool.  Maybe I should do that too?”.  Maybe I should do that? My husband had a very amused look on his face.  I decided it would be a worthy goal if I could impress him.

I started with couch-to-5k and skipped over the actual running of 5k race bit.  Moved on to a pre-half marathon training program that Zack and I worked out to get my weekly mileage up.  Went from 4 to 5 days of running and did so religiously for 5 months straight (which I do not recommend).  The only times I ever missed a run were when I was injured, and possibly one day of a bad cold.

I sustained three injuries in this time.  The first a deep tissue bruise to my heal that put me out for almost 3 weeks.  It occurred right around the time I was really kicking ass, of course.  I had been watching my speed increase and was occasionally running sub 9 minute miles.  That was pretty cool.  After recovering from my foot injury I didn’t have time left in my training program to mess with getting faster – I had to reclaim the miles I’d lost.  So I focused on increasing mileage over a short period of time (which i also do not recommend) so I could get back on schedule.

I had lost a good 15 seconds on average, and was holding steady around 9:30 minute miles in my training runs post-injury.  I figured this was about as good as it was going to get for me.  I ran a 56 minute 10k (9 min pace) despite totally pissing myself (oh just a little bout of stress incontinence, GOOD TIMES!), and while humiliated, I was beginning to regain confidence.  I took long runs with the friend and they all felt pretty good – we were averaging about 9:45.  Until 2 weeks ago when around mile 8 of a 11 miler, my knee (ITBS) and the top of my foot on the same leg totally crapped out.  I ran a few miles through it (another un-recommendation).  I done fuct myself.

Spent the last 2 weeks in physical therapy, on the couch, icing, resting, and baking cookies every other night.  I gained 4 pounds.  I had no idea if I would be able to run the race.  Four days before race day I went for a practice run with my father-in-law.  I ran maybe a 13 minute mile pace for almost 4 miles.  I had pain in both my knee and my foot but the knee pain disappeared around mile 2 and the foot pain was only nagging.  For the first time since my injury I thought maybe I had a fighting chance to stay in the race.  Best case scenario I would have nagging foot pain for 13.1 miles – but be able to reach my goal of completing a half marathon and put this thing to bed.  Worse case scenario, I have a metatarsal stress fracture that is going to get worse AND/OR my knee won’t hold out  and I will be forced to stop running.  I decided to roll the dice.

I am tired and I need a break.  I decided the risk of fracture and being in a boot for 6-8weeks was worth it.  I did not want to schedule another half marathon.  I did not want to run any more long runs.  I did not want to deal with any more aches and pains.  My body was shot.  Check please.

So the gun fired off, the crowd cheered, and at 7am in downtown Atlanta I ran.  I ran slow.  I ran heavy.  I ran with pain in my foot from the very first step.  I ran with numbness.  I ran with uncertainty.  There was never a point at which I felt remotely ‘great’, but I didn’t need to – I just needed to finish.  I just needed to keep moving my body along.  The first 5 miles were a blur.  Miles 6-8 felt really crappy.  I was tired, my body hurt, my heart rate was through the roof, and people were passing me left and right.  I ran through Piedmont Park in a blur, I knew what was ahead.  The final 3.5 miles would be total carnage.  All uphill.  Every turn was more elevation gain.  I cranked through.  People all over were walking – I kept moving.  I felt quasi-strong.

Just around the last mile and at the top of the last hill my body was just throbbing.  I noticed there were several walk/runners – I figured maybe they were on to something.  I tried.  I stopped.  I nearly passed out.  It became clear to me that the only way I would cross the finish line is if I didn’t STOP.  I thought about my dad who died of cancer.  It didn’t make me feel stronger, it just made me cry.  I tried to stop again around the .5 mile remaining mark.  A girl beside me looked behind her and I watched the eyes roll into the back of her head as she collapsed.  I kept moving.  I thought I’d have to walk the finish but I managed to roll through.  It felt so awesome to be done.

2:14:andsomechangebutwhocaresaboutsecondsanyways?  This is no better or worse than I could have expected.  It is exactly what it is.  I gave it all my compromised body could.  It was hard.  There were no enjoyable moments.  I just wanted so badly to complete it – running.  And I did.

For the last 24 hours I have been talking about how ridiculously stupid half (and full) marathon distances are.  Then, around 2pm today – this thought entered my brain “Maybe I could do just ONE more before baby 2″.  HA!  Its like mommy amnesia.  Only it took me a solid 8 weeks after the birth of my son before I suddenly began to refer to the labor as magical and awesome and not like I had been delivered to Hell and another 10months before I could even contemplate having another newborn.  But you get there.  That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

It’s a pretty incredible experience to push your body to its limits, manage through something painful – get to the other side – and want to do it all over again.  This is essentially my husbands life mantra.  It’s what makes him feel alive.  I get it.

I’ll be enjoying some overdue rest – healing my body – and then getting back into another race.  I think running is a new part of what makes me feel good.  How about that?