by Val Uria
This is the story of a half marathon race that did not go well. It was hillier than I had anticipated. I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. I didn’t train properly. It completely kicked my butt.
I started out at a comfortable pace, sure that I’d be able to kick it up a notch later on. By mile 4, my right calf was already cramping. Darn hills. Mile 6 presented an unexpected bathroom stop and more concerns about cramping. Dreams of dropping out danced in my head and I entertained them for a short bit. All those months of training to give up at mile six? No, I needed to forge ahead and somehow salvage this race. Quick SOS texts to a friend helped keep my mind in the game and she was quick to flood me with encouragement. Just. Keep. Moving. By mile 8, the cramping subsided a bit, just as the side stitches showed up. I felt like I did in high school when I was forced to run the mile as an out-of-shape teen.
At mile 11, all I could see were more rolling hills. I dug deep and I tried but by mile 12, I was spent. The pacers for both my goal time and my “normal” race time had already passed. Everything hurt. I was walking and my spirit was waving its white flag of surrender. I did manage to run across the finish line, but my pride had taken a big hit. I wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there.
After reflecting on it, the truth was that I wasn’t prepared for this race. I had adopted a new training plan that had tempo runs, speed, endurance, strength, cross training… but not hill work. I didn’t worry about it at the time, figuring that my long runs often included a few short rolling hills and I usually felt strong. I thought all the speed work made me ready for anything. As it was, I was left with bitter feelings and a walking boot (to correct a subluxed bone from running with an altered gait for so many miles).
After a less-than-successful race, it’s tempting to hang up our running shoes and perhaps find another hobby that’s a little easier on us physically. Deep down, though, we know we don’t need “easy.” We are runners, and as any runner knows, there is always a next race. The only failed race is one that is never tried at all.