I ran the Brooklyn half last weekend. I really had no business running it. I was injured from running two races the weekend before. But I’m stubborn. Most runners are. So, I ran it. And I loved it. I’m proud of myself for finishing at all. Due to injury, I was betting against myself. And looking back, I do wish I’d run it better.
You see, I’d been excited about this particular course because, unlike the course in DC, you get the hills out of the way by mile 7 and then it’s super flat for the entire second half. In fact, when I signed up for it, I was pretty sure I’d get a “Personal Best”. I was wrong.
I started off solid. I started off steady. Everyone will tell you, “Never go out strong! Slow and steady wins the race!” Blah blah blah. They’re right. So I went out at my comfortable 10K pace (10 minutes per mile for hilly runs). And behold, I hit the 6-mile mark and felt great. I had the energy to continue! I was on pace. I was doing really well.
(Incidentally, I’ve no idea what’s up with my legs in this picture. They aren’t dented. Strange light? Weird.)
As I exited the park, the hills behind me once and for all, I spotted a little girl holding a sign that read, “Don’t stop running! People are watching you!” And I laughed out loud.
Laughter makes for great fuel.
Another guy had on a t-shirt on that read, “HALFWAY THERE!”
We were! We were halfway there! And I had the energy to finish!
As I merged onto Ocean Parkway, I ran over a dead rat. Perhaps it was a sign, because half mile later, I started to fall apart. First it was my right knee, then my left ankle and finally my right hip.
At mile 8, I saw a dead parrot, a fully intact, beautiful green parrot. Someone’s pet? This bummed me out a great deal. And of course I read meaning into it. Who wouldn’t?
Things got worse.
I stopped at a medical tent at mile 9 and grabbed a bag of ice. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the bag of ice, especially while running, but I had it.
I thought about quitting several times. I walked and held the ice against my knee. Things were getting uglier by the minute.
And then I started fighting with myself.
“You’re carrying ice, Michele! You look like a fool! You should stop. Just stop, Michele. Sit down. Just stop. You can stop. No one will care. You’re injured!”
“I can’t stop.”
“Yes, you can. What if you’re so injured you can’t run at all anymore?”
“I can’t stop. This is Brooklyn. And if I stop I can’t wear the shirt. You know how I am about wearing shirts for unrun races. I want to wear the stupid shirt.”
“What are you going to do with this bag of ice? Carry it over the finish line? You’ll look ridiculous! You look ridiculous now, carrying a bag of ice during a half marathon. Just quit.”
Then I heard the sound of flesh hitting the pavement. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard her body hit the ground hard. Someone behind me had fallen. Another female runner stopped and waved over a NYRR volunteer who was on it immediately. The woman who’d fallen said she was fine. I was still fighting with myself while jogging. I was also still carrying the bag of ice. I had an idea. I stopped jogging and walked back to the woman who’d fallen. I touched her shoulder and said, “Ice?”
It was as though I’d offered her a ride. She lit up, “Oh my goodness! Yes!”
I gave her a quick rub on the back and jogged away.
“There! It’s gone! Now shut up about the ice and looking stupid!”
And that other voice, she didn’t say another word. She remained silent. (Or perhaps I’d left her behind.)
During both half marathons, I’ve lost consciousness. Not in the true sense of the word; I’m still blinking and breathing and alive; I’m still functioning. It’s more like my brain just stops thinking. It happened at mile 10 during both races. After mile 10, I simply can’t tell you what actually happened, or anything I thought about. It’s thoughtlessness, pure stupidity, beautiful brainless enlightenment. Simply put: it’s f*cking awesome. There’s no last minute. There’s no next minute. There aren’t minutes at all. There simply just is. There’s just a right now and even that’s gone right away. I LOVE that feeling. And even though I don’t usually know it’s happening while it’s happening, it’s the most profound, amazing feeling ever.
I think that’s why I run. I’m chasing nothingness.
And that feeling (or lack thereof) saw me to the Coney Island finish line. It also had me grinning like an imbecile.
I’m super proud of myself for finishing, but I sincerely wish I’d done better. I want better times. I want to be a better runner. That’s my new goal.
Stats and Boring Stuff
I’ll be honest, it’s hard to write on here lately because all I want to write about is running and I know that’s really boring. But I think I need to now because I want a record of what I’ve been doing. So, forgive me, but I’m going to ramble for a bit and document some stuff. I need to see progress eventually because I’ve been growing a little discouraged.
I’ve been beating myself up over my inability to beat a personal best for a 4-miler in Central Park, so I decided to look back over my stats on RunKeeper. In May of last year (3 months postpartum), I was running up to 2 miles at a 12-mile pace. Not great, but not too bad for just having had a baby.
In September, after running at most 2 times each week, I was able to finish a 4-mile run with NYRR in 38 minutes 45 seconds. That’s an average pace of 9 minutes, 41 seconds per mile. (I should mention I was also 10 pounds thinner than I am now thanks to an overactive thyroid.) I was VERY proud of my progress especially considering I was still just 7 months postpartum.
I ran here and there into the fall and winter, probably 8 to 10 times a month. I never did more than 2 to three miles unless I had a race. Running helped me clear my head. It was my alone time. That’s why I did it.
But I craved a bigger goal. So in November I signed up for the lottery to run the NYC half marathon. I told myself that if I got in, I’d train properly. I’d make a schedule and put my all into running. Finally.
On December 30th, I found out I didn’t make it into the half. I was heartbroken, frankly. But my brother came to the rescue suggesting I run the DC Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon scheduled the day before the NYC half. Perfect! I signed up.
I began my training on December 31st. From that day until the first week of March, I ran four times a week with one long run on Saturdays. I followed this schedule. I saw progress, but more importantly, I didn’t see injury.
I signed up for a bunch of NYRR races. They offer a 9+1 option. Basically, any member who finishes 9 races and volunteers for one during a calendar year is guaranteed a spot in the NYC ING Marathon for the following year. As testament to how much I’ve run since January, I finished my 9 last Saturday. So, should I ever decide I am actually able to run 26.2 miles, I have a chance to in 2013.
Anyway, on March 17th, I ran the DC half. And I was proud of myself and my time. So with Brooklyn, even though I was injured and betting against myself, I wanted to see progress. And I didn’t. I was a little bummed.
My brother tells me I’m running too much and I think he’s onto something. I’m doing too much, too soon. I started reading this book and they seem to think the same thing. Because I’m getting slower, not faster. While my 4-mile and 10K race paces are very consistent, anything more than that, I slow way, way down. My half marathon pace is SUPER slow—at around 2 hours, 30 minutes. This is partly due to injury, but it’s also that I simply slow down after 7 miles.
I want to finish faster. I want a new goal. I want to be faster and more efficient.
I’m 38. I won’t ever be a really fast runner. But I want to be steady and good at it. I don’t really have many regrets in life. But not running earlier—like, not sticking to it all those times in the past I’d start and then stop—well, that’s a huge regret of mine. Had I stuck with running at age 27, when I realized how much I enjoyed it, I might be pretty damn great at it by now.
Let’s wrap this up, shall we?
By November of this year, I would like to run the half in 2 hours, 10 minutes. Is that crazy? Can I do this? I’m not sure, but that’s my new goal. We’re running the Disney Wine and Dine half in November and I want to look back on this post and see a difference. I want to be really proud. I simply want to be faster.
Are There Any Runners Out There? A Moment of Your Time!
Are you a runner? I want to hear from you. When did you start running? How long did it take you to run 13 miles straight? What was your time? I think I’m looking to feel better about my terrible times. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself; maybe I’m not being hard enough on myself. But right now I just want to hear from others. So, if you’re reading this and you’re a distance runner, tell me about yourself. How long? How fast? Suggestions? Help? Anything goes, my friends. Rant, rave, brag. Show off. I want to learn from you.