Perseverance through Pain

On November 15th, 2014 I completed the longest run I’ve ever done (though I walked much of it). I finished the American Family Fitness Half Marathon in Richmond, VA. I signed up for this race almost two years ago. I had to postpone a year due to a commitment with work that I couldn’t avoid. I wasn’t quite ready anyway.

Leading up to this event I wasn’t in the best of shape this time as well. I have been nursing issues with shin splints that I just couldn’t seem to kick. The majority of my training runs amounted to understanding when to walk to keep the issues at bay and develop a plan to get through the 13.1 miles. Predominantly I could get about ¾ of a mile and then I was in trouble as my shins would be on fire.

In the days leading up to the event I replaced my sneakers, fearing they were the root of the problem. I continually wore compression sleeves to try and control them. I was pointing my feet constantly. Drawing the alphabet with my feet. Icing. Soaking. My wife taped me up with KT Tape to try and stave off the inevitable. Going into the event I was as prepared as I ever would’ve been. It was all a matter of how well I could hold out.

Arriving at the start on a cold 29 degree Saturday made from some interesting tests of inner fortitude just waiting for the official start. Since one of the processes I had for controlling the shin splints was icing before hand, the brisk cold morning was handling that just fine. I can say I never wanted to get running so bad before. The cold was biting me.

Finally the start of the race. Since I was in a slower group it too me at least 15-20 min to get to the start. I was off and running pacing slowly at first testing the waters. I felt pretty good and wasn’t going to push it. No need in ruining a good thing. A philosophy I have is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Sounds pretty simple but I can tell you I’ve been stubborn to try at times.

After the first mile things start to get rough. Despite stretching and warming up for quite a while I was starting to get cramping in my calves. The started locking up on me left and right. Every 100 ft or so I’d stop and a lamp post or sign to stretch and loosen things up. Once I got them back in order the mile marker for mile 2 came into sight and from there it really set in. My dreaded shin splints had returned.

At this point I knew my plan of hitting a personal best wasn’t going to happen, though in hindsight I still hit one since I haven’t run a half marathon yet. All I could think of was how best to complete 11.1 miles on running, walking, limping, etc.

I found that going up hills made the pain instantly disappear so when I hit them I ran up and walked down. Opposite of everyone else at that point. I worked on altering my stride to no avail. All in all I had it under control but was frustrated at the same time.

Throughout the waning miles I true found that as long as I set my mind to it I could do whatever I wanted. It was complete mind over matter. I used small victories to entice my competitive spirit and keep me on the up and up.

Reaching the final mile I prepared myself to finish strong. We all say that. We all want to finish strong and until I was in that position it never meant more to me than it did then. My plan was to walk a lot of the last mile to let my shins cool down so I can run across the finish line. The ending tenth of a mile was a sharp downhill and I got nervous that the hard pounding would do me in quick.

I came upon the 13 mile marker and knew it was time. I crested the hill for my final… whatever it was going to be… into the finish line. I knew my wife and friends were down there waiting for me which gave great incentive to finish well. The real shocker in all this is as I started heading down all pain disappeared. Everything that I struggled with just completely disappeared. This allowed me to fire on to the finish.

Running full bore down, dodging people left and right to get to the coveted finish while both sides were lined with people rooting you on was amazing. It made everything that I put up with completely worth it. I didn’t see anyone, all I saw was the finish line. The absolute feeling of elation as I crossed was incredible. I finished at 3hrs 6 minutes. Basically I was in the last 150 of 2800 people, but I didn’t care. I had done something that I had wanted to do for a very long time. I had finished a half marathon.

The internal monologue I had throughout the run put me into a frame of mind that still continues at least a week later and I don’t see it leaving. I have become more determined in everything I do. With that I’m figuring out my next half marathon to run.

Am I a good runner? No. Do I care where I finish? No. All I care about at this point is that I continue to challenge myself physically and mentally. Not to see what’s possible, or try to restore my youth, but instead to just live. To get out and do things that I want to do. I’ve spent way too long trying to be the person that helps others get to their state of happiness, now it’s time I take care of myself.

Check! On to my next Purposeful Life List goal.