Someone once told me that every mile you run is an accomplishment. Everyone runs for different reasons. As a heart attack survivor I run because I can.
Summer 2016 started with a dream. I was going to train for the Columbus Marathon in October. Of course I suffered an ankle injury which derailed those plans and sent me into a little bit of an emotional quagmire but that’s part of the journey we all encounter. The best plans are, well, just plans.
As a litmus test I signed up for the Columbus Running Companies Big Bad Wolf 20 mile race back in August. Races are milestones that keep me honest with my personal care. And while I kept running through the summer after my ankle mended, it was more aligned with half marathon training than full marathon. All that aside I spoke with my cardiologist to determine if there were any risks in me jumping into the significantly larger challenge of a 20 mile run. He stressed the importance of hydration for heart function especially in endurance activities and to be careful not to push my body into an injury zone … but that I’d be OK and to have fun.
Arriving on a slightly crisp late September morning at Wolfe Park I was met by hundreds of other runners there for the 5k, 10 mile and 20 mile runs. The mood was cheerful and everyone was ready to put heels to pavement and enjoy the time spent together. If the day comes when I can’t run I have a feeling that I’ll either volunteer or at least go and cheer for those future runners. There is a lot of pure hope and joy to be found along the race course.
It came time to head out. I was wearing a new hydration belt and a larger hand-strapped water bottle. The hydration belt was a wardrobe fail however which ended up pantsing me. Embarrased I swung off to the side to fiddle with the belt and see if I could tighten it some. Ultimately, I just tossed the $50 piece of equipment, along with my reading glasses, to the side of the course. By this time the end pacer came up behind me and told me that if I see her again, and she passes me, that I’m out of the 20 miler. I got the point.
It was a beautiful paved trail to run. I aimed to keep my pace at a steady 11.1 to 11.6 and heart rate around 146/8. That’s a nice maintainable pace for me where I don’t need to stop for walks … at least up to 13 miles anyway. As I learned yesterday however… that 14th mile reaches up and grabs you by the butt pretty directly. I felt my calves and feet begin to complain for the first time in a long time. They just got louder. So I slowed down. Took a couple self assessments and decided to keep up with my mantra “keep moving.” Luckily I still had not seen the final pacer yet so I felt a little safer.
There were a few dips on the charts below that indicate dropping out of my run and into walks. That was advice I had gotten from a colleague who is a very good runner. He had done half marathons splitting them into 5k’s. Going full steam ahead for him running a fast 3 miles and then dropping into a brisker walk pace for the next 3. His finishing time was pretty enviable. Remembering this I used it to finish the event. Parker, I owe you.
And so it was that I was “dead fucking last” in my age group. I think next to the last person to cross the line. Looking back I should have held back and finished with her. Truth be told though it took me everything I had to break into a run for the last half mile. I don’t remember actually thinking at that point anyway.
Now that I know I can run a longer distance I’m excited by the prospect of the next phase of my marathon training goal. My next race is the Brokeman’s Half this coming weekend, which was my first half… ever. I was motivated to run last year after my heart attack. Depending on how my body feels I may lay out the cash for the Columbus Full with the knowledge that I have a lot to learn about how to run that event. Or I may continue to train through Fall and Winter for the Rock’n’Roll Full Marathon in New Orleans in February… for my birthday. I’m leaning toward the latter race given what I took away from the Big Bad Wolf race yesterday.
I like to tell people that “running is a gift.” It’s how I feel knowing that one cardiac event, cancer diagnosis, bout of MS or any number of other life altering situations various people are facing everyday can do to a persons ability.
Running is a gift to myself, wardrobe malfunctions and all, even at the very tail end of the wolf pack. Because I can.