Sometimes you don’t even realize something is changing. All of a sudden, you do something, and you realize, “wait, when did that become ok?” Something that created a visceral response all of a sudden creates more of a sting. Suddenly it becomes ok to look past something and reach out to talk to someone whose words or actions or mere life experience felt like a knife in the heart only weeks before. Sometimes the change comes on the heels of weeks of feeling like things will never feel better. And then the sun comes up and you realize it’s shining into your room and you have your arms full and your heart isn’t unbroken but it isn’t shattered on the ground.
Sometimes acceptance isn’t a sprint, but it doesn’t have to be a marathon either.
My second half marathon, much like giving up TTC, was something I was ill-prepared for. I’d battled off and on again pain since my first half marathon, and was also intermittently TTC between then and now. The pain, both physical and emotional, made it hard to maintain consistency with my running. We moved the treadmill upstairs, where we spend most of our time, and even planted it in front of the tv so I wouldn’t be bored. Still, I found getting on it difficult.
It’s easy to find excuses.
Finally, the weekend before the half, I decided if I could manage 10 miles, I could manage the race. And I did it. 10 miles in 2 hours and I felt pretty damned proud of myself. And then I spent a week limping. It’s like gearing yourself up for the cycle before the final try and feeling like everything was timed and executed perfectly, only to be gutted by the BFN. I wondered if I could even manage to walk the race, much less run it. More than once I said I wasn’t going to do it. I’d already proven I could do one, what was the point? It’s ok if I never do it again. Right?
Weeks leading up to the half I got caught in a dark hole that I couldn’t seem to climb out of. Tears came every day, over seemingly nothing, and most days all I wanted to do was snuggle the kids and park myself on the couch with a pound of See’s candy. At one point, H sat me down and said “we’ve got to figure this out. I hate seeing you like this and I don’t know how to help you.”
I went back and forth via email with my doctor. I talked to my friend L about essential oils. I cried. And then about two weeks before the half, the fog seemed to lift. I figured it was largely hormonal, corresponding with my cycle.
And then came the half marathon.
I didn’t run the whole week leading up to the half (after the 10 miler) because I was afraid I would be in too much pain to finish. I questioned whether I could even finish at all, and whether I really should even bother. Because if I couldn’t finish, why start? But you just never know, do you, when something amazing might happen.
It was a rough race. I was alone. I knew I wouldn’t have anyone at the finish waiting for me, because N had a soccer game and I was already feeling guilty about not being there, I wouldn’t have anyone else missing it, too. I was doing well and on pace until about mile 7 1/2, where the “mostly downhill course” advertisement became a total lie. Soon I found myself wondering where the hell mile 9 was, because it seemed like years had passed since I passed the mile marker displaying “8”.
Watching the sunrise at the Johnny Cash bridge
Just in front of the starting corrals
It was about then that I saw her. Shorter than me, brown hair, running capris, looking at her Garmin and muttering “crap” to herself as she’d stop running and walk for a bit. I paced with her a bit, which was easy because I’d been run/walking myself the whole race. It’s how I’ve trained. I caught up next to her about halfway into mile 9 and said, “Hurting?” She blurted out, “I just can’t get out of my head! I just didn’t think this would be so hard.” “Mile 10 is just around the corner. You got this.” I said. “Really?” she asked. “Yep, we should see it any minute now.”
I walked with her a bit and said, “First half?” “Yes,” she replied, “I just didn’t realize how hard this was. I’ve done a half relay and I was feeling really good through about mile 7 but this is rough.”
About then, the mile marker for mile 10 came into view. “See, right there!” I said excitedly. “We got this, less than a 5k to go.” “I can do this,” she said, “although I’m pissed I’m walking.” “We can do this, there’s only one way to your car and it ISN’T on the medic’s quad. And don’t be pissed! You’re still covering the same distance as everyone else! After this next hill we’re running, ok?”
And we did. For a few minutes until my muscles started to cramp again. And we would go like that – running a bit, walking a bit. And then we could hear the crowd. And the 13 mile marker appeared and I realized we both were going to finish.
She ran up ahead of me to meet up with the people waiting for her at the finish and I crossed the line alone.
I exchanged my timing chip for my medal and walked out to the curb across from the finish with an orange and a bottle of water, sat down, and tried not to sob. I had to wait for a bit for the bus to get back to my car. My phone had died, so I was essentially alone with my thoughts – I couldn’t text or call anyone to tell them how I’d done. I was pretty shocked, because not only had I finished, but I’d finished faster than my first time. A PR. Barely. But a PR nonetheless.
I lifted myself into my truck, stuck the key in the ignition, and plugged in my phone. It took until I was almost halfway home before it charged enough to turn on. And in those 20 minutes, alone in the silence in the car, something shifted. It wasn’t a stellar race by any standard. I walked up all the uphills, and walked probably 2 straight miles at the end. But all of a sudden 2013 stopped being the year I gave up TTC and became the year in which I completed two half marathons.