How I Ran a Marathon With One Leg Tied Behind My Back
October 30, 2007 · Print This Article
(or: Why pain is temporary, but Jenn’s stupidity is permanent)
Stories like these always start months and months before the event. I’m going to save you pain of all that and just summarize it all as: Run. run, complain, run, dog bite, healing, run, run, painful run, fast run, overconfidence, taper, pack, drive, sleep, meet parents, fight with parents, no sleep, get ready!
Sunday morning Cindy (my training buddy) and I were up and ready to go. After months of training we were ready, or not. Only one way to find out.
The nice thing about running is that there really only a few things you need to keep track of: pants, bra, shoes. That’s it. Everything else is fluff. Oh poop – I needed to find my fluff. I took my shower, got into my gear, put on my fluff and started eating my bagel. I didn’t even have to wear a helmet for this!
At 7:45 Cindy and I were taken to the start by our chauffeur Jim (Cindy’s husband). Bill and Cindy’s two daughters were left in charge of my parents. I hear they had a lovely breakfast. Meanwhile Cindy and I were making our way to the start in the chilly morning air.
The line for the portajohns was as long as always, but it was moving fast. After all the important preparations took place we found a spot in the sun to hang out and stretch until it was time to line up. We got to watch all of the other people doing their pre-race thing. Mostly we just chatted about this and that. And then we lined up. That’s when I started to realize "crap I have to run 26.2 miles to get back to here."
America the Beautiful was played (Falmouth is the home of the writer) and the cannon blew. The group slowly started shuffling forward, then walked, then jogged then I crossed the line and wheeeeee.
The drumming feet on the pavement. People chatting about their goals for the run. Dodging and weaving through the crowd. We made our way out of town. I was feeling pretty good. A decent pace, but nothing really fast. At the first mile mark I was at 8:30. The perfect pace, but a little ahead of my 4:00 goal so I slowed up just a bit and kept on trucking. I’ve been running around 8 minute miles for most of my runs and busted out a 1:30 12-miler a couple weeks ago, but wanted to run conservatively since I didn’t know the course and really just wanted to finish.
I started to warm up around mile 5 just as I was coming over the first bridge. I saw my dad standing on the side of the road, he didn’t see me, I started shouting "dad, over here" and half the crowd turned to look at me. I saw my mom a bit beyond him and Bill at the top of the bridge with the camera. I tried to smile – it came out poorly. And on we ran.
I turned the corner heading north for the long stretch up to North Falmouth and concentrated on keeping pace. I figured I’d be to the 10 mile mark in no time and would start to pick up the pace then if I was feeling good. it felt great. The temperature was perfect and the scenery was gorgeous. The plan was to take a swig of my gel and grab a water as I reached each of the water stops (each 2.5 miles). Every 5 mile starting with the 10 mile mark I would take an Advil to keep any swelling down and take the edge off the pain. I got to the 10 mile mark spang on 1:30 – exactly on my 4 hour target. It felt great! I popped my pill and settled in for the next 5 miles.
About 1.5 miles outside the 10 mile water stop I was heading up a hill and something popped in my knee. I felt an awful pinching pain and couldn’t put any weight on my leg. I was hopping along on my left leg trying to figure out what happened. That didn’t help, so I instead tried to put weight on the leg, That worked, but I couldn’t run. I walked up the hill as fast as I coule (damn slow). It started feeling better, so I tried running again. Nope. For the next few minutes I was walk, run, hopping. All of the Advils in my pocket went down the hatch. I thought about quitting for about 2 seconds and changed my mind. I figured I should go as fast as I could, no matter how slow that might be, at least until Cindy caught me. Some fellow asked if I was OK as he ran by. Of course I am, just a little setback. He nodded and moved on.
This crap continued for the next 8 miles. That first mile was bad. After that the joint go warned up again and I figured out what stride would work for me. I would speed walk up the hills if it started twinging and limp down the hills. I was OK on the flats. There weren’t much of those. People were passing me, but I’m pretty used to that ;-). I was mad. I was mad that I wasn’t working hard enough to sweat. I was mad that I wasn’t breathing hard. But I pressed on. After a mile or two I mentally shrugged and figured, same shit different day and started to enjoy myself again. Sometime around the 19 mile mark people stopped passing me with regularity. I had found the group that was running at my current pace. I started chatting with a woman who I was jockeying with for a bit. It helped take my mind off the pain.
Just before the 20 mile mark I saw a break in the trees that opened out to a gorgeous view of the ocean. I was getting close to the end. Just a short training run to the finish and a nice shower. People started talking about food as they passed me. The group was starting to get antsy for the finish not realizing the worst is just around the corner. I came into the 21 mile feed zone and saw Cindy’s girls and husband. They had been pressed into service as water buffaloes. Glenn, the youngest, looked up the road and started shouting "Hey, look, it’s Jenn". I came into that zone to the cheers of "Go Jenn" "Hey Jenn" "Lookin’ good Jenn". It was great. I slowed to grab my drink and Rae asked "How’s it feel". "Pretty bad Rae, I blew out my knee, but I’m almost done., so no worries". "Push hard Jenn" :-).
I had started to feel better and could run up and down hills at this point, so I was starting to push the pace. And by that I mean not going any slower. At 22.5 miles I was going up lighthouse hill, the last in the course. I powered up it to the cheers of the photographers. I started passing people. They were flagging and I had all sorts of energy left from the silliness in the middle of the race. I came around the top of that hill and the view of the ocean opened up ahead of me. I picked it up a little more and used the downhill.
Mile 24 is where it hit me. That mile post was in the middle of a long ,open stretch of beach. There was no shade. I could see people up ahead of me for at least a mile. There were no spectators to speak of because most people had gone to the finish to cheer people in. Those that were there has stopped cheering for people a hour ago. I was holding my pace but my brain was starting to say "stop you fool". That’s when I saw Beau. There was a fellow up ahead of me who took a step and collapsed to the pavement. He got up and tried again. His right knee kept giving out. I couldn’t watch it. I ran over to him to see if he was OK. He was fighting hard. I grabbed his arm to keep him from going down again and let him lean on me for a few steps. I said "stop running, try to walk first. It’s only 1.5 miles, keep moving forward. Only try to run if it will support your weight." He thanked me and started moving again. We wished each other luck and kept going.
Imagine forever. That’s how that last mile felt. I finally turned the corner back into town and still had .75 miles to go. I was getting antsy. When will it end? This is still not harder than a 300km. This is horrid. This is not worse than riding a 200km on the tandem in April when you’re out of shape. Stupid brain stop fighting and run!
And there I was at the 26 mile marker. 0.2 miles left. I was turning the corner onto the finishing straight and the people were cheering. OK there weren’t a lot, but still it was the Carrier Dome in my head. I sped up. I sped up more. I was sprinting. I could see the finish. Bill was taking my photo. They announced my name, I waved to the crowd (yeah I’m a total dork) and I slowed down because I felt bad passing the woman just ahead of me at the line. Its a race, but come on now! I crossed the line in 4:46. They draped me with my medal and my space blanket and I slowly limped out of the chute to say hi to Bill and my parents.
First aid for the knee was rendered in the form of ice pack and "walking it off". I went to the local school to get a commemorative shirt and some food. Cindy’s family found me and said she was out on the course and that she wasn’t last. After a bit I wandered back to the finish and started back tracking on the course. Soon we saw Cindy’s pink shorts coming around the corner about a half mile out of the finish. The girls were running with her. I hopped out in the road to wait for her. We all ran together around the corner and down the finishing straight. Cindy ran the last 50 feet alone to (very loud) cheers. She crossed the line under her goal in just under 5:59!
Now I’m trying to convince her to run the Flying Pig in May!!
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