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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Things You Learn At the Back of the Pack

If you are looking for the condensed version of this post, check out my write up from a few months ago on the DisBroads site.

Now I'll give you the uh, less condensed version. Let me start by saying I'm not some super speedy runner. I'm not placing in my age group and I'll certainly never come close to winning anything. I'm a solid middle of the pack girl and I'm good with that, only racing against myself. I do have a desire to get better and faster. I have tried to take things easy, especially during Disney races, to have fun, but my competitive self has never let me do that, at least before getting pregnant.

So let's go back, to early last summer, when I started training for 2 back to back races in the fall, that would happen two weeks apart. During one of the first weeks of training, I met up with another local mother runner and we got to chatting. At that time, I had no inkling or desire to ever run a full marathon. I joked about doing a certain full marathon with a very large window of time to finish in, so I could do half slowly, stop and take a nap, then finish the other half. The other mother runner was practically offended.
She told me that any regular person of any size and ability can get off of the couch and walk a half or full marathon in 6-11 hours. She'd never put a 13.1 or 26.2 sticker on her vehicle if she took that long to finish. It was around this time, combined with me really sticking to my training schedule, that I started to feel the same way. I trained hard, with very early morning wake up calls, late night runs, treadmill runs, whatever I needed, to grab a PR in my next half.

Now I don't want to say I started thinking less of people who took 4+ hours to finish a half or who got swept. Their accomplishment was still note worthy. But they must have gone that slow for a reason. Did they skip out on training? What did they do wrong for it to take so long to finish. Surely they didn't work as hard as I did. I ended up with my PR at my first half in the fall and a Disney PR in my second half two weeks later. Then things came to a screeching halt.
I found out a couple of weeks after those two races that I was pregnant. I had 3 half marathons on the horizon, one in December, January and February. I planned to keep going, slow things down, but stay active and do those races. Thanks to morning sickness and having the flu, I had to skip my December half. I was heart broken but determined to finish my other races, the Tinkerbell 10k and 1/2 marathon in January and the Glass Slipper Challenge 10k/Half Marathon in February.

The Tinkerbell races were slower than normal but I stopped to have fun. We stopped for plenty of pictures, and being pregnant, I stopped for lots of potty breaks. My times were by far the worst times for a 10k and half marathon but simply because we stopped for so much fun! But I still finished with plenty of time to spare.

The Glass Slipper Challenge was a whole different ball game. If you read my recap(and if not, you can find it here), you'll know I went through a scratched cornea 4 days before the race weekend, a wicked stomach bug 2 days before the races started, all on top of being 18 weeks pregnant. To make things even worse, I strained my SI joint during the 10k and couldn't walk without massive amounts of pain, let alone run. But I set out to give the half my best shot anyway. If I was going down, I was going down swinging.

What could easily be considered my worst 1/2 marathon, with me finishing in 4:22, is actually what I consider one of my greatest accomplishments. Why? Plenty of people who didn't even bother training could probably finish in that amount of time. I've seen plenty of runners finish full marathons faster. So why was this race so full of win for me?

To start, just finishing shows how far I have come as a person. I didn't have the best life growing up and by my late teens and early twenties, I had developed a bit of a victim complex. Poor me. Nothing was my fault, I had things rough. It was always much easier to roll over and die than to push through, bust out of my comfort zone, and to actually fight for something. 10 years ago I wouldn't have even started this race. I would have told you all about how awful things were, being sick, pregnant and injured. I would have been too scared that I'd get picked up and swept from the course to even get out of bed the morning of the race. Truthfully, chances are decent I wouldn't have even registered in the first place because it all sounded so hard and I was scared. The fact that I kept going and refused to give up is the proof of how much I've grown up over the years.

Most of all, this race was important to me, not because of what it showed me about myself, but what it showed me about other people. As I mentioned growing over the years, I've also become a bit of a hard ass at the same time. I did go through a lot in my younger years. I did come out the other side a stronger person. If I can do it, why can't anyone else? I used to look at those being swept or those at the back of the pack the same way. I went from not a runner to finishing races in decent times, I trained my butt off no matter what, why couldn't anyone else? But when my situation lead me to a slow finish, it opened the door to understanding and compassion. I didn't know the stories of those at the back of pack. Were they injured? Did something awful happen during training? Did it take everything they had to just drag them self out to the course, knowing they'd probably swept? Maybe they trained, maybe they didn't. Truth is, I had no clue what their story was. I was proud of my 4:22 finish, why shouldn't anyone else be? So while I certainly didn't enter any record books, the lessons I came out of this race weekend with were priceless.

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