Take that, Cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, Herceptin, diet, vitamins, exercise. While I’m doing whatever it takes to stop you in your tracks, Sunday’s race shows you can’t stop me in mine.
Quick summary: I strapped on my new running shoes, pulled on a pair of earphones, and ran my way through the entire Zombie Runner Bay Trail Half-Marathon in 2:06:49. This was not only a personal record (PR — not that this says too much since I’ve only run the one other half-marathon back in February), but I was stunned hours later to find out I’d actually placed 3rd in the Female 40-49 group. After I crossed the finish line, I took a 23 minute break to socialize, freshen up, and refuel. And call me crazy, but instead of hopping back into my car to head home, I went back out and walked another half-marathon in 3:08:13.
Fine, maybe I am a little crazy, but mostly I chalk this up to being plain stubborn.
You see, the second half-marathon was entirely premeditated. After completing the Kaiser Permanente Half-Marathon earlier this year, I mentally logged a full marathon as a personal goal to complete by the end of 2011. Unfortunately, a mammogram the following month set the year’s overriding agenda, and running (along with most everything else) took a distant back seat to cancer treatment. Months of surgeries and recoveries prevented any sustained return to running, although I was determined to copiously continue walking throughout.
From what I’ve read, a safe build-up to running a marathon’s 26.2 miles can take around 4 months. Since reconstruction surgery was just 11 weeks ago and my doctor granted permission to resume running only 6 weeks later, could I seriously ramp up to a full marathon in a paltry 5 weeks? No. But with a little creative maneuvering, I reasoned I could run a half-marathon, check conditions, and if favorable, walk the second half without injury.
Two and a half hours after the start of the day’s races, when the large crowd of 5 mile and half-marathon runners had largely dissipated, I strode back out onto the trail. At my ambulatory pace, I was passed occasionally by running marathoners, but for the most part made my way around the second half without seeing too many more participants.
The second half was by far the more difficult portion. After Mile 8 (total 21 miles) my left foot and right thigh became sore and the rocky path failed to provide a comfortable walking surface. Also, with almost no one else around to pace myself against or to provide visual interest, and with landfill as a backdrop, the next few miles became indisputably boring. All I could do was reassure myself that there were only 5 miles left to go, not to mention the fact that I was closer to reaching the finish line than turning around and heading back to the start.
Four miles. Three miles. Both legs were complaining and I had to mentally steel myself to put one foot in front of the other. Two miles. Whose brilliant idea was this anyway??? Oh, right. One mile. Finish!
The race rep who had earlier given me permission to unofficially continue with the second half was waiting at the finish line. She offered to change my official race to the marathon instead of the half-marathon. I considered briefly: PR and a 3rd place medal vs. my first completed marathon, not to mention one completed in the middle of chemotherapy. The decision took only a moment. I swapped my black ribboned half-marathon finisher’s medal for the purple-ribboned marathon medal and, as a generous surprise bonus, I was allowed to keep the 3rd place medal for the now erased half-marathon time.
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