Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Never say never

Just a bit under three years ago, preparing for my first triathlon, I started running. I did Couch to 5K because that's what all my runner friends said I should do.

I did my first 5K in March 2009, two months before my first tri. When I crossed the line that day in March, it was as "just" a practice for my bigger goal of swim-bike-run. I was satisfied to have done it, but thought that was the end of my 5K days.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Fitness events have become a bit of a sickness to me. First a 5K, then a tri. Then a couple more tris. Maybe a few more 5Ks - each time trying to run just a little faster than the last time (and not always succeeding).

Last fall, on a whim, I signed up for a 10K. I didn't think I'd ever be able to run 6.2 miles. That was an impossible goal - a goal for much better runners - much more fit people - than myself. But I finished that race (no speed records, but I finished). As I ran across the line - exhausted - I distinctly remember thinking, "This is less than half way in a half marathon. No WAY will I ever be able to do that. This is it for me. My max distance."

Then the sickness took over and sometime last winter I found myself entering my credit card and hitting "submit" on registration for the Long Branch Half Marathon on May 1. I immediately had buyer's regret.

"What the hell was I THINKING? I remember asking myself. "I must have rocks in my head. No, not rocks. BOULDERS."

So I started training in January in the bitter cold and ran throughout the spring through knee problems and foot problems and colds. The early runs were hard. I hadn't run all fall or winter and could barely do 3 miles. But slowly, I started building and eventually was up to 6, 7, even 8.7 miles. Still . . .a half marathon (13.1 miles) is nearly four additional miles on top of that. Eeek, I thought.

Last Sunday, I completed the race. Again, no land-speed records, but I did it. My goal was to finish in two-and-a-half hours or less. I did not hit that goal - finishing instead in exactly 2:37. However, I had to stop three separate times in the first four miles to deal with "hot spots" on my feet - blisters in the making - each time pulling off one or both shoes and either bandaging or "lubing" the spots with Body Glide.

I felt *great* from miles five to eight - it was nearly effortless. Passing the halfway mark was pure ELATION! It was fantastic.

I had planned all along to walk through the water stops, so I did, but other than that (and the stops to do triage on my feet) I didn't walk at all. I ran the whole thing. 13.1 miles! I never in a million years would have thought it possible, but it was. I did it, and it was even (a bit) easier than I thought it would be. So I'm pleased. Really pleased.

When I ran across the finish line, I thought, "This is only HALFWAY in a marathon. If I were doing a marathon I'd have to run this entire course again. And that is IMPOSSIBLE."

Less than a week later, quads still a little sore, blisters not quite healed, I find myself seriously contemplating signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Because, as I've learned, nothing is impossible with hard work and determination.


Me, just after finishing the Long Branch Half Marathon on May 1, 2011

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