Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sick? No matter. PR anyway.

After a comment by a friend, a friend who ran a personal best at her last marathon despite being ill, my intent to begin Grandmas Marathon yesterday on personal record pace despite battling a nasty virus was set. So that's what I did. Despite waking up with a sore throat, body aches, and congestion, I began yesterday's race on pace to run a 3:34, or 8 minutes 10 seconds per mile for 26.2 miles.

It was a perfect day to run fast. It was 50 degrees and cloudy with dense fog at the start. The conditions remained the same, with the addition of a cool tailwind, throughout the entire race. I ran as close to my intended pace as I could for as long as I could. That was the plan, and I stuck to it.

Mentally, it was difficult. I kept waiting for the inevitable fatigue. I knew running a PR would be difficult even on a perfect day, and here I was attempting it despite my less-than-perfect physical condition. I didn't know when the proverbial wall would hit, but I expected to smack into it at any time. I ran the best I could in the meantime.

Surprisingly, the halfway mark came and went, and I was still running close to my intended pace. I had lost a few seconds here and there, but for every mile I ran over 8:10 pace, I seemed to run one under pace as well. My elapsed time at 13.1 miles was within 40 seconds of my target time, and I could see the 3:35 pace group running just ahead.

You might think I'd have been overjoyed at that point, but I knew there were still 13.1 miles left to run, and the fatigue had been settling into my legs for several miles already. Nonetheless, I continued as best I could. I glanced at my pace every mile, but it was more-or-less just to note it, rather than to adjust it up or down. One foot in front of the other became my mantra, and clicking off one mile at a time was my focus. I had let go of achieving my goal, but I hadn't let go of finishing as fast as I could.

As I became more fatigued, I focused on my secondary goal of running every step of this race. I've run Grandmas at least 8 times, and I had never before finished it without walking at least part of the course. Unfortunately, my secondary goal fell away, too. I gave in and walked through a water stop at mile 21.8. I slowed in order to completely take in my fluids. That probably cost me 20 seconds, but it allowed me to run, without walking, up the infamous Lemon Drop Hill at mile 22, the steepest hill on the course.

I walked again just before mile 24 in order to consume a couple of strawberries and an orange slice, serious carbs for my seriously depleted body, which likely took another 20-30 seconds from my overall time. But again, I think I needed the boost to keep me moving forward.

The last 2 to 3 miles were almost entirely mental. I didn't want to give up. I knew I was doing well. I knew I was running a great pace considering the circumstances. I knew I had run faster, longer than I had thought possible just 3 hours before. I kept focusing on running to the next mile marker.

I planned a short walk break at mile 25, an incentive to keep me running. I had long since stopped looking at my watch. Mile 25 approached, and I could see an official race clock beside the course. The official time clicked over to 3:26 as I passed. I realized I had 9+ minutes to complete the last 1.2 miles and still run under 3:35! (It took me at least one minute to cross the starting line, so I knew my net time was even less than 3:26 at that point.) I was shocked, and the planned walk break went right out the window!

That last mile, during which I thought, perhaps out loud, "I'm never going for a marathon PR again," sucked! But I ran it as hard as I could. I'm sure I didn't look pretty. I certainly didn't feel pretty, or efficient, or fast. I came around the final corner, 0.2 miles from the line, and saw the finish line clock clicking toward 3:36. I sprinted. Well, I thought I was sprinting. I gave everything I could. As I stepped across the final timing mat, I stopped my watch. It said 3:35:01. I remember thinking, again perhaps out loud, "Damn!" I so wanted that 3:34.

I had the nerve to be disappointed, just for a minute, at coming so close. I gathered my things, refueled, and made my way to the changing tent. I had just run a PR. I couldn't believe it, yet I was still a little disappointed. I admit it. 

In the changing tent, I dug my cell phone out of my bag and turned it on. It buzzed with several messages, but it was a message from my friend, T., which washed all the disappointment away. She congratulated me on accomplishing my goal. I had gotten my 3:34 after all. My official time, she reported, was 3:34:58. I did it!

I'm proud of myself. And I can't believe it. By mile 16, I had given up the 3:34 goal. Though I knew I was running better than I expected, I thought the building fatigue would soon slow me. I thought maybe I could hold it under 3:40 if I was lucky, and I was okay with that. I ended up recouping more than one minute in those last 2+ miles. I wasn't expecting that. I'm glad I persevered.

It turns out it was a great day to run, despite being sick. I'm grateful to God for my ability and for the opportunity to run as I wish. I'm happy my preparation paid off, and despite swearing off another attempt at a marathon PR, I wonder. What could I have done had I not been sick? I'm still sick, so I guess that's a question for another time. Right now, I'm going to bask in the glow as I head back to bed.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Congratulations! That's so great that you kept going, mile by mile, knowing that the fatigue could catch you but giving it all you had anyway. That says a lot about your persevering spirit!

TriTrish said...

Congratulations, you are such an inspiration! I'm training for NYC this year and hoping for a PR of 5:30. I wish I was kidding :)

TriTrish said...

Congratulations! You are such an inspiration. I'm training for NYC this year and also looking for a PR to beat 5:30. Seriously. My first time training sans booze. I will re read this post again when I feel like giving up.

The Blue Morpho said...

I admire your ability to set a series of goals, and when thinking you've missed one, you go on to the next. That's really inspiring. I hope you feel better from that cold soon. Congratulations on your great time!
Adventures in Anxiety Land

Megan said...

Congrats!!! What an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

COngrats!!! You are amazing and what a HUGE accomplishment!!

Christian said...

Very inspiring indeed! If I was feeling such fatigue, I would’ve simply turned off my alarm and sleep until noon. It takes more than discipline to do what you have done. I just realized that there are times when we tend to let a great opportunity pass because we always focus on excuses. Sometimes we just got to stand up and just focus on what we want to achieve despite all the challenges, and before you know it, you’re just one step away to your goal!