Sunday, May 1, 2011

Miles To Go

"A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts." -Steve Prefontaine

Preparing for a half-marathon is a lot like packing for a road trip. You gas up the car, you make sure it's stocked with the music and snacks you'll need, and you get as much rest as you can.
But no amount of planning could prepare you for an unexpected tire blowout just a quarter mile in.

That's right. A quarter of a mile.

I had tweaked my left hamstring during what was supposed to be a non-stressful short training run earlier in the week. Five days of rest, ice, heat, and stretching made it as ready as it could be. I wasn't worried about it, but it was definitely in the back of my mind.

I felt good. Confident. And a quarter of a mile in... less than three minutes... my hamstring grabbed. And I thought to myself, "There is no way I'm not running this race."

I pulled to the side and stretched it as much as I could. For about two minutes. Then I started running again. And there it was again. Like someone punched me in the back of the leg. Would it get worse if I kept going? Probably. Will I reach my goal of finishing in less than two hours with this injury? Probably not.

Hobbling, I swore under my breath. Hobbling some more, but faster, I swore out loud.

And then, a man with a prosthetic leg - his left leg - passed me. And that put it all into perspective. "I have nothing to complain about. No excuses to make," I thought to myself. And I ran the last 12.85 miles slightly hobbled. Sometimes grimacing.

As I sit here icing my hamstrings (the right one is really sore because I was over-compensating), I'm thinking about all of the wonderful people I saw along the way. The two funny guys running the race dressed as bananas. All of the kids lining the course offering their hands for therapeutic and inspirational high fives. The most wonderful of all, of course, being my wife and my daughter.

I dragged the two most important women in my life out of bed before the sun rose, drove them an hour away, then left them in a parking lot to fend for themselves so I could get to the starting line on time. Neither of them complained. Not once.

The peanut even made a joke in the car ride there, as we sat in a bit of traffic heading to the parking lot. Hearing the voice of the GPS, she chimed in with, "What are you talking about, lady?" Shortly thereafter, sensing my mounting frustration at the traffic, she informed me that "Everyone is at the race right now daddy but not you." She sure knows how to break the tension. Or pile it on. Depends on your mood.

Mile 9
During the race, they smiled and cheered and clapped every time I saw them. I caught a glimpse of my daughter around mile nine (1:23:20), my hamstrings screaming, her little face smiling, her little hands clapping. I wanted so badly to stop and walk a couple of dozen paces just to give my legs a quick rest. But I didn't. Not until I saw them. I wanted to look strong for them. I wanted to look happy. And healthy. They didn't know a thing. Later, my wife told me how great I looked. How fast I was running.

Little did they know they carried me.

My iPod was filled with songs about them. Songs they play in the peanut's dance class. A Bruno Mars song for crying out loud because it makes me think of my wife. I had Guns 'N Roses and Bruce Springsteen too, of course. My wife and my daughter were with me every step of the way.
Half-marathons are exhausting
I guess that's why the peanut was so dog tired that she passed out the minute we got back to the car, sleeping with her mouth open like some drunk on St. Patrick's Day (coincidentally, her mother sleeps like that too).

Few things in life are more rewarding than crossing a finish line. Even though it took me more time than I had anticipated (2:04:22). But to have your child witness it every step of the way, from that first frigid training run in February to your grimace-inducing half-sprint down the homestretch of the race... is a parent's dream.
Mission Accomplished. For now.

I hope I showed her that no matter what life throws at you, now matter how hard you've prepared, there are going to be obstacles. And overcoming those obstacles takes guts. Takes character.

And I'm not done yet. There's a half-marathon in Seaside Park in October and I'm seriously considering it. Without injury, I can get under two hours. I know it.

There's always a next time. But for a few days at least, I'm going to enjoy this time.

1 comment:

  1. This is inspiring!! Way to go Daddy knows less! I love that your daughter watched you run this. I think its really important for our children to see us achieve our dreams. My son watched me study and earn my Bachelor of Arts degree. I did it for him.

    Thanks for this.

    Kell - Single Lesbian Mother

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