Thursday, November 1, 2012

Knowing when to let go

My marathon quest has come to an end.

In the past month I have run/walked four half-marathons in a crazy six-week bid to run the Outer Banks Marathon.

Outer Banks Marathon & Half Marathon logo

The idea came about nearly 10 months ago as my husband and I planned our 2012 race calendar. It was to be a non-Ironman year, an "off" year, with our last triathlon of the season in late September. That race, essentially a half Ironman with a twist, was a 75.2-mile event, consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 64+ mile bike, and a 10-mile run. So we considered the following . . .  

If we're running 10+ miles in September, could we simply carry on with our running after tri season ends and take on the OBX Marathon in mid-November? 

                    2007 jockeys ridge            

A scenic, flat course in a little corner of the world that I love . . . definitely worth a try! However, when it comes to running, nothing is ever simple.

My husband, plagued by piriformis syndrome for the past year, dropped his bid for OBX months ago. I, however, was running strong and injury-free. So, with my husband's full support along with that of a friend who'd agreed to travel to the OBX with me, I continued on my quest . . . one that began out of curiosity--how far can I  push myself?--and progressed through stages of determination, hope, certainty, frustration and denial before ending up at my present state--peace.

But, throughout this quest, I've been unbalanced--my mind playing the mediator between a spirit that has been "all in" and a body that's been unsure and hesitant, though gamely rising to the challenge.

You see, I am not a runner. I know, I know--"we're all runners, we were born to run." Blah, blah, blah. I've said it before and I'll say it again--running is the necessary evil of triathlon. My weakest link. I was not born with joints made of rubber and feet made of springs like the gazelles that glide past me at mach speed, seemingly effortlessly, on the run course. I'm just not built that way.


When I first started running, I was plagued by IT band and knee problems to the point that I'd finish a run and could barely climb the stairs or bend my knee. After my children were born, I tried running again and, yep, more IT band issues. Eventually, I overcame this problem--but I was also a heel striker, so it wasn't long before I was sidelined with a double dose of plantar fasciitis, which took ages to heal. While recovering from PF, I learned about Chi Running, experimented with barefoot running and switched to barefoot-style shoes, only to be set back again by a stress fracture. Ultimately, I found my "stride" by pairing Chi form with minimalist shoes and all has been good. Until now.

The IT Band has reared its ugly head again, leaving me to wonder; Where have I gone wrong? Maybe I didn't stretch enough before and after my runs, maybe I didn't do enough strength training, or maybe I just pushed myself too hard, too fast. Who knows?

This body, which has worked hard and served me well, began protesting last week toward the end of a 16-mile run. But today I barely made it past the seven mile mark of my intended 18-miler before my body shouted loud and clear: "Enough!" I walked six miles home, completing 13.5 miles with an average pace of 12:08 despite walking the last half. I could have probably called a friend to pick me up but I was determined to make it home on my own power. I couldn't run, but I could walk. So walk I did.

Without my IT Band on board, OBX is a bust. But that's okay. It really is. I don't regret going down this road and I'm at peace with both the experience and the fact that the journey has come to an end. I've challenged myself and pushed my running more than I ever have, and I've run stronger, further and faster than ever before. This particular race is not going to happen for me, but there will be other races. Many others!

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