Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Running Traditions

 I've run the Country Music Half Marathon four years in a row, and this Saturday will be year five.  Hopefully.  Running the Half has been a yearly tradition that is filled with hard work, pain, joy, and anxiety.  The Husband has been my running partner every year, another tradition that I love.  A tradition that I don't love is the fact that just before the race, something usually goes wrong.  That's just part of the game.  We're already anxious about achieving a goal, but little things start becoming big things.  Walking on uneven pavement makes me worry about twisting an ankle and ruining months of training.  Tripping on a step would have just been embarrassing a few weeks ago, but now it's a major event.  Did I just pull something?  Walking past a sniffling, coughing child freaks me out.  I can't catch a cold this close to race day.

Year one, I had EVERYTHING to worry about.  Would I be able to run 13.1 miles?  Where would the portapotties be?  Was I the only one entering this race who wasn't a true runner?  What if I had to walk?  Thankfully, nothing went wrong.  We finished with a respectable 2:10:48.  It took me about 30 seconds after crossing the finish line to tell the Husband that I couldn't wait to run again next year.

Year two, the Husband and I trained faster.  And nothing went wrong until mile two of the actual event.  We made a major rookie mistake and went out way too fast.  So, from mile 2 to 11 I was plagued with a stabbing side ache that wouldn't quit.  It was the most miserable 9 miles of my life.  And to top it off, the Husband and I got in a fight at mile 11.  I wanted him to go on without me so that I wouldn't ruin his race.  The ever dutiful Husband pledged to stay with me as I limped along holding my side.  He FINALLY listened and ran ahead so that I could walk off the stitch guilt-free.  Amazingly, I still finished in 2:00:03!  I was thrilled with the huge improvement over last year, but the Husband finished in under 2 hours.  Without me.  I was jealous.

Year three, the tradition started even earlier.  Two weeks before the race I was logging a five mile training run after school.  There was no warning.  One minute I was running along happily bouncing through the playlist on my iPod.  The next minute I was stumbling as shots of pain reduced my stride to a hobble.  I thought I was done.  That's the year I met Josh Renkens.  Believe it or not, after Josh's fine work, kinesio tape (affectionately called "heebie- jeebie" tape by the Husband), and a whole lot of prayer, I was able to start the race not knowing how much of it I'd be able to finish.  Every mile was a gift.  The family came to town that year, so Mom's cell phone number was written on the back of my race number just in case I had to call for an emergency ride to the finish line.  I was thrilled to finish with a respectable 2:04:31. 

Year four, the Husband and I trained harder and faster than ever.  He made me run 400s in the dark every Wednesday morning for 12 weeks.  I hated Wednesdays.  Monday and Tuesday of every week were filled with anxiety because I knew that 400s were right around the corner.  I whined, I complained, I cried, I said some not so nice things.  But I wanted that under two hour time, even if I could just achieve 1:59:59...  That year we finished in 1:55:33.  Oh, it felt so good.  I even thanked the Husband for the 400s.

Year five, the Husband and I decided to train for the full marathon.  We trained through the coldest winter Tennessee has had in a very long time.  Outside.  We trained up to 12 miles.  Outside.  And we both got injured months before the event.  We healed, we tried again, we got reinjured.  The full marathon was not going to happen this year.  But running the Half was just not nearly as exciting as the prospect of completing the full, and there was no way we were going to start training for speed again on injured legs to beat the 1:55 of last year.

And then there was Andrea.  My sweet friend decided to run the Half and needed some company for her long runs.  It has been a blessing to train with her all spring.

But, the tradition lives on.

The race is in four days.  We're in the danger zone.  Anything could go wrong.  Today, it did.  Andrea came down with a sore throat and fever.  That's enough to knock anyone out for several days.  But to endure the fever, recover, and then go out and run a half marathon is going to be quite a feat. 

So, we are holding on to hope.  We're praying for a quick recovery.  It's all a part of the game we call "running".  I just hope we win this time.

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