Yesterday was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Marathon, a day we had planned for since last summer. We had a group of 20 runners who had planned our weekend together, and most in our group were running their first half marathon. There were at least 5-10 other runners from Tell City who would also be running. What a great representation our small town had at a big city race. My husband, Gary, was running the full marathon; it was so important to him to have a good run, and we were all excited for him.
Since February, I have had several illnesses/injuries. This is unlike me; I typically have a cold or two each winter, but overall, I am pretty healthy. Not this year. I have had a sinus infection, the flu, a stomach virus, IT band problems, and most recently, a pretty nasty eye infection. That infection erupted the week of the race. Great. Two visits to the opthalmologist. and it seemed to be under control, but not completely healed. I had also been babying the IT issue: two visits to the orthopedic doctor, a visit to the chiropractor, tape, stretching, rolling, and Motrin. I wanted to run this race well, and had trained for months. I was going to run this race, even if it was with one eye and a limp.
Raceday morning I taped up, took my Motrin, put on compression socks (that I happened to find in a nice pink plaid), and felt good. I was able to get my contacts in, which was another plus. I did not want to run wearing my glasses. The excitement that morning was so very motivating. The ‘newbies’ were nervous, and anxious to get started. We took the token photo, and all headed to our assigned corrals. Jackie and I were in corral B, so we took our places together. I ran my last half marathon in 1:59:43, breaking two hours for the first time. My goal for Derby was 1:58, which meant I needed a 9:00 pace. The National Anthem was sung, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the gun when off. I felt great! I was running an 8:45 pace, and felt I would be able to maintain that pace. It was also enough cushion that if I slowed later, I could still meet my goal. With about 16,000 runners, the momentum helped move me along. I had strategically planned my playlist, and felt energized by my music.
When I hit the four mile mark, my knee began to hurt, but it was tolerable. The further I went, the worse the pain. I started to think that I would not be finishing the race, but I was still maintaining my pace, and I just kept praying. I just wanted the pain to stop. I had already calculated that if I maintained an 8:45 pace, I would finish in 1:55, which would be incredible. Please, God, just make the pain go away. It didn’t. It continued to worsen. As we descended down a tunnel into Churchill Downs, the downhill caused pain that stopped me in my tracks. I walked through the tunnel, and then tried to run again as we came out into the infield. I couldn’t run. I walked a little, and then tried to run again. Pain ripped through my knee. I thought to myself This is stupid. You have to stop. That’s it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. Dammit, I can’t do it. I was done. I had run eight miles, and could go no further. As the other runners trotted by, the tears began. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get back downtown, but I knew I couldn’t walk five miles. I had told our friend, Bob Walsh, that I might have to call him to come get me, but I did not want to make that call.
I found a police officer, and asked how I could get back. He said he could have EMS take me, but I was not about to do that. I wasn’t dying. He told me where the best place to meet Bob would be, and, of course, it was about 1/2 mile walk. I began walking away from the race. As I walked, I cried. The months of training were wasted. I was so disappointed. I was not going to meet my goal, not going to get a medal, and I would not be there to see all of my friends finish. And when I did see them, I needed to be excited for them, and I knew how hard that would be because I was so damn upset. I began to let people know that I had stopped because I knew they were tracking my progress. I finally made it to a corner where I would meet Bob. Because of all the streets being closed, he had to take the long way around, and it took about an hour and a half from the time I first called, until he arrived. I just sat on the corner by myself, looking quite out of place in my pink and black running outfit and a bib number plastered to my front.
Bob took me back to the hotel, and by that time, I could hardly walk. I limped up to my room, stopping every few steps as pain stabbed my knee, with tears streaming down my face. I just wanted to crawl in the bed and stay there. If you are a non-runner, it might seem a bit over-dramatic. If you’re a runner, you get it. Rather than crawl in bed, I had to change into warm clothes, and get back to the course. I still had friends to support, and my husband to cheer on. I made my way back to the race area, but it took quite awhile because walking was painful. As I ran into friends along the way, I tried to keep my composure while congratulating them (I didn’t do very well). I finally made it to the area where I had planned to wait for Gary. I kept getting my text alerts as my friends finished. They were all doing so well.
I am so very proud of all of the Tell City runners! Every single first-timer met his or her goals, and just did an amazing job. I think they are all hooked! Others knocked time off their previous runs. As I spent time with my friends who were staying to wait for Gary, their enthusiasm began to cheer me up. As I read the messages from people on Facebook, I felt so blessed that I had so much support. The kindness was overwhelming. I also received this great text from my daughter Morgan: You are finishing through all the people you coached – that’s your real success. She has no idea what those words meant. This wasn’t my day. My friend Breanne said that God had another purpose for me that day. I guess He did. I do believe there are lessons in every circumstance. And, though I am still disappointed, I will not stop. I am going to take some time to heal this stupid IT band, and am already planning for a fall half marathon. I will run the St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on October 27. And now that I know I can run an 8:45 pace, that will be my goal.
What about Gary? Well, he is incredible. Truly. He finished a full marathon in under six hours, which was his goal. I was able to run the final block to the finish line with him (Gosh, it hurt like hell!), but I would not trade that moment with my husband for anything. He has an artificial knee, and was told he could not run on it. Really? He just did. I am so proud of his hard work, dedication, and determination.
We’re both moving pretty slowly today. He is sore and tired, and my knee hurts. Non-runners might ask why on earth we’d put ourselves through all of this. Sometimes I ask myself the same question. But, I will continue to run, to train, and to try to meet goals. I can’t imagine life without running. It has provided meaning; it has provided friendships that are unbeatable; and it has made me a stronger person. So, I will be back. I will continue to run races. And I will continue to challenge myself. Just not today. Today, I’m taking a nap.
I cannot end this blog without congratulating my wonderful running team: Jackie, Kassi, Kathy, Breanne, Tyler, Breanne, Blair, Danielle, Heidi, Derrick, Kara, Jennifer, Lisa, Tomi Jo, Krystal, Debbie, and Gary………….I am so incredibly proud to call all of you my friends! Thanks for sharing this weekend with me. I hope it’s the first of many. St. Louis, anyone?
And, Bob Walsh, thanks for saving my butt! I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you. Sherry, Cathy, Caroline, and Scott, thanks for coming and supporting all of us! Chris Hollinden, thank you so very much for coming to the race, running a few miles with Gary, and helping keep him on track to meet his goal. And all of you who posted such kind words or texted me, Thank You!