January 17, 2011 § 4 Comments
Where does the will and energy to finish a marathon come from? The internal battle of mind over matter is different for everyone and I am still struggling to find that piece of me that pushes through the pain, loneliness and desire to stop. This weekend was a true test of my ability to find the determination and will to keep going.
Despite forgetting my Garmin for the race – which I have never done before – I felt good. I got plenty of sleep the night before, I had a nice sized spaghetti dinner and I made sure I rested most of the day to reserve my energy. As I headed into the corral I kept telling myself, “you can do this”. I knew I could do it. I’ve done it before; I just wanted to be a bit faster this time. Is that so much to ask? Apparently so.
The first half felt great. I found a nice pace to settle in to and I had a decent 13.1 split (2:08). But around mile 14, something didn’t feel right. I felt lightheaded and my breathing was getting shallow. Knowing that I had a goal finish time in mind, I had to keep going, but by mile 15 I was really struggling and by mile 15.6 I staggered over to the medic tent where I proceeded to faint. Faint? Really? This was NOT how this race was supposed to go. I sat in the chair while the medics gave me salt and water and took my pulse. As I watched the runners go by my heart sank. “There goes my goal”, I thought to myself. My heart was broken. This meant a lot to me and the only person who could have made it happen was me and there was nothing I could do.
After being cleared by the medics to head back out, I felt deflated and then I saw my parents. I stopped and gave my mom a hug and while trying to hold back my tears, I told her what happened. I had a decision to make – do I stop or do I find it in me to finish. My health was obviously jeopardized, but the finish line (no matter what my time) was waiting for me. The mental battle that went on in my head was painful in its own right. I needed to find it in me to push through and finish the next 10 miles.
I saw my husband and sister at mile 18.5 and stopped to fuel up on the encouragement. Still trying to hold back my tears of utter disappointment, I told them that I was going to finish and I’d see them at the end. It was going to be slow, but I was going to finish. The next 7 miles were lonely, painful and trying. With each step I had to find it in me to keep going, but my journey wasn’t over yet. By mile 23 I was starving! Apparently my usual routine of toast with peanut butter for breakfast and my gels on the course weren’t enough to keep me going. Out of nowhere, hunger seemed to take over and I felt really weak. After passing mile 24, I started to feel faint and running in a straight line was becoming difficult. My eyes felt heavy and it was almost like I had to fight to keep them open. I was almost done. I had to keep going. At this point, I was walking… a lot. I was honestly afraid I might pass out if I pushed my body much more, so I was trying to be cautious. Then I saw it. The end was near. I waited a bit more and then started my painful shuffle-jog. I saw my dad and he ran some of the finish with me and helped keep me going, then I saw my husband and sister right before the home stretch and I tried to turn on any bit of “speed” I had left in me. I finished.
My mind is still reeling over this race. I found a place in me that I didn’t know I had. I am disappointed in how the event turned out, but I learned a lot about myself. There’s a fighter in me. Now if only I can find that fighter when the situation isn’t so grim.
So what happened and what’s next?
In the last two months, I have lost quite a bit of weight. I wasn’t trying to lose any, but with my extra training I lost more than I had thought. Unfortunately, I didn’t change my eating habits to compensate for the weight loss and extra calories I was burning and it was a likely contributor to my downfall for my last two marathons.
I have some learning to do to workout a good eating plan if I am going to continue running, which I plan to. I’m going to take it easy on training for full marathons for a while and focus on my shorter distances. I’d like to hit 2:00 for my half and work on adding speedwork to my runs. I’m not going to let these setbacks keep me from lacing up. Running is in me and I can’t imagine my life without it.