I’ve known since the first week of September that I would not be running the Marine Corps Marathon this year. Well, at least I thought that was what the crunch of my ankle on my first 18-mile run was probably trying to tell me. But maybe I misunderstood?
So I kept trying to run each week. I would get about .25 mile before I would realize the stupidity of my effort and return to waiting for my ankle to heal.
I did my best to distract myself with strength training and pretending that working on my abs is just as good as running.
It didn’t work.
Eventually, a million years or so later, marathon weekend arrived.
I went to the (very organized) Marine Corps expo to pick up my race packet. Even if I couldn’t wear the shirt, I could give it to someone else. That’s the rule, right? You can’t wear a shirt from a race that you failed to complete, but you can wear shirts from other peoples’ races that you never cared about?
Unfortunately going to the expo felt more like rubbing salt in a wound than being revitalized by an electrolyte-rich drink.
I wanted to run.
There was no way that I could do it. After all, I was not only injured, but completely untrained and out of shape thanks to almost two months of not running.
So I started bargaining. I have heard before that bargaining is one of the stages of grief, but that does not make sense to me. After all, if you can still bargain, there might not be a real reason to grieve, right?
Given the fact that I had paid for this experience and all, I decided that I should just go to the marathon and run whatever part I wanted. My husband was going to be running, and I figured that as long as I showed up ready to run I would be able to jump in and run with him toward the end of the race if he needed it. Of course he wouldn’t need it, but this was about bargaining.
So bright and early on race day I dried my eyes and got dressed to run.
I told my husband that I was going to try to walk the first 10k, or perhaps the half-marathon if I was feeling very good. I had checked the race course map to see how far each point was from a metro station so that I knew how far not to go depending upon how I was feeling. I figured I might make it about 10 miles and then take the metro over to the end of the race to wait for my husband.
So I lined up miles back from the starting line (or so it felt) and eventually started walking. Well, actually I broke into a veery slow run for just a little bit since I didn’t want to drive people crazy and apparently people lined up for a 5:30-6:00hr marathon thought it smart to run the first mile at a sub-10 pace.
I felt great.
I felt ridiculous for walking on hills at the beginning of the race, but I also felt great. I reminded myself that the marathon is officially open to walkers, and as long as I kept up my 14-minute/mile pace I had as much right to be on the course as anyone else.
I stopped to use the restroom. I did not stress about the line. I got to the half-way mark at almost exactly 3 hours and felt like laughing. Who does a half-marathon without even touching cardio?
I stopped at a medical tent and waited five minutes or so for someone to find tape to stop the chaffing by my bra straps.
I stopped a lot to stretch since my body was not used to walking for so long. I also let myself run a little (very slowly!) to help with my tightening muscles.
I promised myself that if I resisted the urge to really run until mile 20 that I could run the last 10k. After all, running untrained for 10k is exactly like running for a marathon well-trained, right?
So I did.
I finished in a little under 6 hours and felt like laughing. Sure, I missed the chance to run a marathon. I missed the chance to run a race. But I still hung out in marathon world for half a day, and it was ridiculously fun.