All summer, I have been building for the Tupelo marathon. I have had a great summer of training during this build. I had a milestone 50 mile week and lots of quality runs in some serious heat and humidity. So, I was ready. Until my last long run a week ago. Insert dramatic music here. I was finishing up a great 16 mile run. I had my tunes in my ear and was cruising in on the last mile, which would be my fastest mile. With a little over a 1/4 mile to go, I felt a twinge in my lower right calf. No biggie, stuff aches. A moment later, something that compares to a knife or a shot in my calf stopped me dead in my tracks. Wham. My run ended just like that. I couldn't walk. I certainly couldn't run. I painfully limped back to the gateway. I had a slightly swollen spot on my leg, and it hurt to even touch it. I took the next couple of days off and did some walking/running. I even went for a massage on Wednesday while hydrating and taking in extra electrolytes. After consulting with coach and a PT he is friends with, we figured it was a just a cramp or possibly a small tear. Either way, I was nervous. By Thursday, I was able to run a 6 miler, but not without some pain. Tupelo was coming closer. Another off day on Friday with some packing and an early bedtime. Saturday morning, I went for a pre-race 2 miler, and I was very happy to report no pain. I thought I was fine and ready. Bring it on Tupelo!
Terri, Ginny, Terry and I pulled out about 10 a.m. Saturday morning. After a quick lunch in Meridian, we arrived in Tupelo about 2. We ran some errands, like picking up race numbers and picking up some gels (that was for me), we went to our hotel for a little rest before dinner. Dinner was at Ginny's favorite place, Vanelli's, and it was yummy! Back to the hotel where we were all in bed by 6:30 watching a little college football. By 8:30 or 9, most of us were asleep, except for ME! I did a lot of tossing and turning and dozing until 3 a.m. Of course at 3 a.m., when we all started getting up, I was sleeping well. Figures! So we dressed and left around 4 for the start. After 3 or 4 last minute bathroom trips for us, it was time to walk to the very dark start. For some reason, I had some anxiety I wasn't prepared for. All week long before the race, I felt as calm as ever, so I was not expecting this anxiety at all. Maybe it was the darkness all around at the start. The sudden start of running without so much as a pop gun. Maybe it was the nervousness in the back of my mind my calf really wasn't ready to run 26 miles. Whatever it was, I was not on my game. I was running the pace I was supposed to, but something wasn't right. I ached, especially in my right leg. Terri and I let the crowd thin out and as the sun came up, I expressed how I was feeling. I think I complained a bit too much, but she was great and let me talk through it. I started needing extra steps at the water stops. I even needed a walk break a little further down the road. My heart wasn't in it, and I felt terrible. I began considering that I might not be able to make it. But I had the hardest time making that decision. I literally debated and battled it for miles and miles.
At 13, it was decision time. There was a turnaround, and full marathoners went back the way they came. 14.2 ers went straight in for another mile.2 to the finish. For the last 2 miles, I had pretty much figured I would stop, but when it came down to it, I had a hard time pulling the plug. I was hurting, the leg wasn't going to get any better and neither would my mental state. The guy at the turnaround yelled at me that marathoners needed to turn around. I said I knew, but I needed a minute. There was no going back once I went either way so I needed to be 100%. Even as I decided to go 14.2 and finish there, I was wondering. I walked / ran that last mile and the whole time, I was telling myself I had done the right thing. I was hurting. Finishing 13 more miles would have been a bad decision, but in that moment, all I could think of was I had quit. Wimped out. And that I wouldn't be running my 12th marathon that day. I wouldn't have the bragging rights. But when running, you have got to leave the ego in the car. There is no room for it. The ego is what causes problems. And in my case, it would have caused greater injury.
So, I finished the 14.2 and there was no celebration. Terry had finished an hour before me, so I figured he was back at the hotel cleaning up. A littler later, he was back and told me he wasn't surprised to see me after the week I had with the calf situation. That made me feel a good bit better. We hung out while waiting on Terri and Ginny. They came in an hour or so later and we headed back to shower and go home. Yes, it rained, more on Ginny and Terri than Terry and I, but it was damp the entire time. Including on the trip home. But we made it. And we had a great time with lots of laughs and fun.
I've had some time to reflect. Do I regret anything? No. But am I disappointed? Yes. I trained all summer through heat, humidity, 4:30 a.m. wake ups, sweat, chaffing. So of course I'm disappointed I couldn't finish what I had started. I worked hard this summer. But I can't help what happened with just a week to go. And Tupelo was just a run, not a race, and certainly not the race I'm working toward. Years ago I would have tried to keep going and risked further injury or damage. I realized I am a more mature runner that can now make smarter decisions based on what is the right thing to do and not what I want to do. That's a pretty good feeling, and I'm proud of myself for being strong enough to say, I don't need to do this today. I will live to race 26.2 another day!