You know what’s super humbling?
One month ago today I ran my 18-miler and when the pain was different than general fatigue and long run pain, and recovery didn’t happen so quickly, I knew something was wrong.
Just the day before, the question hadn’t been whether I would finish the Marine Corps Marathon 2014, but whether I’d do it strong and in how much time.
The question is, indeed, now, whether I will finish or not.
That is super humbling.
And it’s scary to not have the confidence that I will.
I know how my body feels running. It’s hard to run with correct form, more mentally exhausting than physically, but it’s doable. I know if this were a half-marathon this weekend, I could finish. Without a doubt. I know the feel of 13.1 miles so well that I know without a doubt that the way my body feels right now, the level of recovery I’m at, what I’ve learned about my running form, and how bad I want to be out there, that I would cross the finish line.
But I don’t know marathons. I don’t know 26.2 miles. I only know up to 18 miles. And I’m trying to remind myself how I did 18 miles when my bursitis was pretty much already in place and I was in a ton of pain. At one point I just mentally zoned out of my pain. And I was alone! No cheering crowds or Marine Corps enthusiasm! But also, no one to keep up with. Can I do that this weekend? Should I?
The Marine Corps Marathon means a lot to me. I chose it for a reason. I wanted my first marathon to be my hometown marathon, honoring my grandfathers, both in the military. I had pictured my Pop Pop coming up. He’s a retired Marine – I pictured him smiling approvingly when a Marine hung a medal around my neck. This was something I dedicated my whole summer to – training for THE Marine Corps Marathon. Not some rinky-dink, podunk small field marathon. THE Marine Corps Marathon.
I logged 298 miles of running in training for this marathon.
I went out and ran 12, 14, 16, 18-milers alone, just me and my headphones on trails 45 minutes way from my house.
I declined happy hours to do my short runs, pushed myself to the gym on rainy days, meticulously checked off every workout, lamented any that were missed.
This training cycle led me to PR big time at the Annapolis 10 Miler in August. It even got me my first sub-30 5K in July. I ran my first 8K race in 50 minutes, which I was pretty stoked about.
Now I shuffle along at a 12 minute mile. I’m following my PT’s orders. Taking it slow, spring from the balls of my feet and engaging my calf muscles, not swinging my hamstrings from my hip flexors. Taking more steps instead of longer strides. All this progress to almost a 1:40 10-miler and I’m back to feeling like I did when I first started running with the Couch to 5K app, 2 minutes of shuffling my feet, 1 minute of walking, huffing and puffing from the change in heart rate and instead of hip pain, icing my shin splints.
Is it worth it? To even start the race this weekend? Will I be able to make myself stop or will they have to cart me off on a stretcher because I’m too stubborn to quit but physically unable to keep going?
But there’s this little voice that keeps saying – but what if you can? What if I can do it this weekend? Taking it slow, all 7 hours allowed if needed, and completing the marathon? If I can, wouldn’t it be a terrible waste not to try?
I’ve never gone into a race before not knowing whether I’ll cross the finish line. For a race of a distance I’d never run before, whether it was my first ten miler, my first half marathon, my first 5K or 10K, I always felt nervous about the extra distance I hadn’t ever gone before, or about whether I’d be last. But my biggest fear was how slow I’d be – not whether I’d finish at all or not.
I can run pain-free. I’ve healed enough now that I can run a few pain-free miles at under the required maximum pace for the Marine Corps Marathon, 14 minute miles. I can run a few miles at a 12 minute pace. But it takes ALL my concentration to keep it pain-free.
But can I run the whole marathon like that? Taking every step into mental consideration to make sure I’m landing correctly and springing off correctly? For 26 freaking miles?
Okay, here’s the thing: I believe I can. I believe that with the level I have healed to and with my innate INCREDIBLE stubbornness to finish a job I’ve been working on for months, I believe that I have it in me.
But I don’t know 26 miles. I guess I will find out exactly what I’m made of – do I have the humility to step out if my body is telling me I’m damaging it? Do I have the mental focus and will to do it carefully enough not to damage it in that way? Do those 300 miles I’ve logged since June, the 715 miles I’ve logged in 2014, mean enough to get me through when I’ve only run 4 miles in the last month? Okay, so I’ve biked 35-40 miles. Is that enough cross-training while I was injured? Are my hip muscles really that much stronger from my daily PT? Should I have been doing it more often? Did I rest enough? Did I cross-train enough?
God really had to throw some drama into this marathon thing. Every time I think about how confident I was that I would be a marathoner by the end of 2014, I think about God plunking a sac of fluid in my hip bursa and saying “Girl, you need to slow down and remember how small you are. You better take me along for this ride.” I generally don’t talk about my religion in this vast openness that is the Internet, but let’s just say even as I’ve been sitting here writing this blog, I’ve answered my own question.
The question being: Will I, can I, finish a marathon after 4 weeks of nursing an injury?
The answer being: No, I can’t, but God can. If we don’t finish this weekend, me and God and Saint Sebastian running alongside me, it just means there’s going to be an even more meaningful day when I do. And finish or not, 300 miles of training is nothing to say “I failed” at just because it didn’t come with a medal.