by Shannon O'Meara
“If there's any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can't think of what it might be. In running the mind flees with the body, the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.” – Joyce Carol Oates
To start off, I wasn’t sure I was going to run this race. I had been waffling for quite some time. I was so unsure that when I did sign up, I bought insurance. Which by the way, I would never buy again (more on that later). The reason? Since the Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon I have been dealing with significant heel pain. The pain was a big factor affecting my performance at the Miles on the Mohawk Marathon a month after the Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon. I was 3 minutes short of a BQ at that race. Since then I’ve been doing various exercises on my own and PT directed. I continue to do toe yoga and various exercises on the mobo board. I also have been trying new shoes and avoiding shoes that cause toe crowding. Pain has slowly improved but it was till present and hit or miss with workouts.
So, getting back to this recent run. I purchased the insurance in case my foot was bad right before. Ironically, I sustained a new injury to the same foot 3 days prior to the race. My great toe was slammed in a door and I had a laceration into the nail bed. And my whole foot was jolted, so it all hurt in a new way. At the time of injury, it was too late to transfer or defer or use the cancellation insurance.
Right up until race day, I feared this new injury, along with my chronic issue, would ruin my race. I was emotionally distraught.
Race day morning didn’t go as I had expected. I slept a little later than I should have and got to the starting line much later than I normally would have liked. I felt like an amateur. After a shorter than prescribed warmup, I waited a while in line to go to the bathroom. Then I took a while longer to check my bag. I got to the starting line 70 seconds before the start. I hadn’t done my hip range of motion or jumping jacks. I wasn’t mentally ready. And then the gun went off.
I started the run as usual. Not wasting energy trying to weave or position myself. Following the flow until it opened up a bit. My legs immediately felt like noodles. My thighs felt weak. I shrugged it off to not being warmed up enough. But the feeling continued and worsened as the miles passed. I felt like I was working hard to run and in fact ran the first 10k fairly fast, but it felt much harder than usual. By mile seven I was discouraged. I stopped to walk for a few moments, trying to gather myself. This happened a few times throughout the next several miles. I wanted to give up. I felt tears coming. I even tried to do some strides to see if I could wake up my weak legs, to no avail. The thought of giving up came again but I resisted. It was an emotional and physical battle, but I made it to the end. And at the finish, I passed a man who initially sized me up at the starting line. He was originally ahead of me, then I went ahead of him. He passed me again in the 11th or 12th mile. But I passed him again in the nick of time, right before the end. I knew it wasn’t going to be a PR but didn’t know it would be my second fastest half and that I would be first place in my age group.* This was a pleasant surprise after a long and mentally defeating run. And the foot pain wasn’t even a factor.
*88th out of 500 finishers. Way to go, Shannon!