Saturday, September 25, 2010

Perseverance, Heart, Adrenaline, and . . . Inertia (i.e. Rock'n'Roll Philly Half Marathon)

If there was ever a race I did not want to run, this was it. Originally, back in June, I signed up for the Philadelphia Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon thinking that it would serve as a good barometer for how well my training was going for the NYC Marathon. The full marathon was scheduled for early November, so the half marathon, which would take place in mid-September, would occur right around week 10 (out of 16) in my training. By that point, 13.1 miles should be a breeze.

Alas, this is not how things worked out. About halfway through my marathon training, I suffered an injury to my left thigh. This brought my training to a screeching halt. Not only could I not run for three weeks, but every step I took for that first week-and-a-half put me in excruciating pain. Unfortunately, living in New York City (or, in actuality, Jersey City--but a cosmopolitan location either way) is not conducive to bed rest. Literally every form of transportation requires walking, whether this means to the grocery store, to the subway, to work, or just down the three flights of stairs out of my apartment building. Thus, with the help of some anti-inflammatory drug prescribed to me by the othopedic surgeon I visited, I gritted my teeth and carried on.

Not one to give up without a fight, I attempted to run during week two of my recovery with minimal success. I couldn't even manage half a mile without pain forcing me to stop. Once I reached week three of not running, I eeked out two paltry three-and-a-half mile runs without crippling myself. It was progress, but it certainly wasn't enough.

The half marathon was to occur that Sunday (September 18th), and even by Thursday, I still hadn't decided what to do. Even if I could handle the pain, I was in no condition to run 13 miles. Swimming for an hour three days-a-week is no substitute for consistent multiple-mile runs. Yet, with the full marathon looming ever larger in the distance, I needed to know what my body could handle. If I could complete the half marathon, then maybe there was still a chance I could re-start my training in time to be adequately prepared for 26.2 miles in November.

So I went for it. I rode the bus ticket to Philadelphia, stayed overnight with my cousin and his wife, and, at 8 a.m. on Sunday, November 18th, set out on my 13.1 mile test.

And I made it. My goal was to run for the entire race and try to finish in under 2 hours, and I did. I can offer no plausible explanation for how I accomplished this other than through perseverance, heart, adrenaline, and inertia. Perseverance because I made it through the pain and exhaustion; heart because I am a competitor at the core; adrenaline because nothing can offer that boost of motivation and determination like being surrounded by thousands of runners; and inertia because sometimes it's easiest to just keep going.

It was painful, it was exhausting, and it offered me only the very faintest sliver of hope that I might be able to start training again for the marathon. Still, if I can summon the same degree of determination, with a little bit of luck and a considerable dose of healing, I still might be able to compete in the NYC Marathon.

Regardless of my finishing time, the Rock'n'Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon was one of my most challenging and, therefore, impressive athletic accomplishments. I proved to myself that perfect training isn't everything, that heart and determination can get me through a lot, too. So regardless of if I race in November or not, it's my heart and determination that will carry me through whatever challenge I tackle next.

Race LengthFinishing TimeAverage PaceOverall PlaceGender Place (All Women) Age Group Place (F20-29)
13.1 miles1:43:577.55/mile 1974/15411452/8641 68/966


Anonymous said...

you are one crazy lady.

V said...

Here's to sendign some luck and hearty hopes for healing. You're a beast, Ali!

Gordon said...

Whether you end up ready to run the NYC Marathon or not, this is an awesome post. Best wishes for the rest of your recovery.

joely said...

Everyonce in a while Murphy's Law reinvents itself and works out for the better. I love when just expect to eek out a run I do way better than expected. Unfortunately it usually works the other way around. Nice run!