Is something that starts with the word “half” a worthy challenge for my bucket list?
Eight weeks before the half marathon I went out for a morning jog and came home on crutches. Somewhere between Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake (circa 2007) I missed a large chunk of coconut on the sidewalk, tripped over it and a loud pop interrupted my up-beat Pandora radio station. Crying in pain, I fell into the grass gripping my ankle. Fortunately there’s a lot of foot traffic in my neighborhood at that hour, and within a minute a guy on roller blades with his dog leaned over me. Danny came with the car and away we went to the hospital for X-Rays. In and out in half an hour, I hobbled to work with a temporary cast and crutches. Six-eight week recovery the physician said. See an orthopedist next week he suggested.
A sprained ankle humbled my first half-marathon training. So much so that prior to the race I had only done 4 miles since the incident with the coconut. I played down expectations as much as I could in the final two weeks. I probably won’t even finish I told my coworkers, secretly hoping that I would, but knowing full well that it was unlikely given that running still required a brace and a significant amount of pain killers.
The morning of the race we left the apartment before dawn, piling into my aunt’s van we cruised Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive dancing in the car to Michael Jackson. By the start I was relaxed. I’ll see you guys at the finish I told everyone, encouraging them to run their own race. Ever the gentleman, my cousin Julie’s husband stayed with me for the first two miles until I stopped to walk and shake him. I didn’t want to be embarrassed if I needed to stop the race.
My tempo was upbeat and before I knew it I was passing mile marker seven. I was in shock for deep down I truly didn’t think I’d make it. Light footed up an exit ramp to an overpass, I passed another first timer with tears streaming down her face. With encouraging words and a pat on the back, I emotionally pushed her up to the overpass and down to the first aid station. Mile markers 8, 9, and 10 passed uneventfully and I realized I was going to make it. Even if I stopped to walk, I was going to make it.
That realization passed with a deep sense of accomplishment, pride and peace. It’s a strange feeling to realize before you actually complete a task that you are, no matter what, going to achieve your goal. Personally, the realization that not only was I going to finish, but that my time was going to be respectable was incredibly emotional. For nearly a decade I’ve suffered from chronic stress fractures in my shins. Despire any number of medical and physiological treatments, my shins require constant care and attention. They have held me back in the past and for a long time I’ve been fearful about doing significant distance on them. For me running a half marathon was more than just covering 13 miles. My shins have held me back time and time again in the last 10 years, running the half marathon was the first time since being diagnosed that I didn’t feel their burden.
At the end, it wasn’t easy. Un-lady like thoughts buzzed through my head through mile 12, which was marked every .25 of a mile. Each quarter of a mile felt like an eternity and when I finally saw the finish line I was ecstatic. Without much fanfare (the cheering section was lost in the crowd!) I crossed into the welcome arms of a volunteer who held out water and a banana. Regaining my composure I quickly posed for a victory picture, and then another and another and another before getting out of the runners coral.
This was a very personal accomplishment for me, and one I’m very proud to cross off my bucket list. I’m not sure what’s next off the list. Perhaps something fun like skydiving?
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Toomas Hinnosaar.