You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement
That quote by Steve Prefontaine nicely sums up my experience. I am brimming with self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement right now. SPOILER ALERT: I’m so proud of myself. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Let’s back up.
After falling asleep at 11 pm (SHOCK- especially for the night before a race), I woke up at 5:30 ready to run! I was obviously quite nervous about the race because of the IT band pain I’ve experienced over the last few weeks, but I was ready to fight it out! After my traditional race day breakfast (12 oz orange juice, 1 banana, 1 Luna Bar), I headed out from the hotel (Courtyard Inn on Senate Avenue, where I also stayed for the Indy Mini Marathon in May) to check in my gear. I headed into the Convention Center which was open to all runners (HEAT! FLUSH TOILETS!), where I warmed up and got ready to race. At about 7:50 we all ran to the start, and just after 8 am we were off!
This race didn’t have assigned corrals, and we were each allowed to pick which pace sign we wanted to stand by. I lined up somewhere between the 10:30 and 10:50 time, and hoped that I wouldn’t have to weave around people like I did during the Indy Mini. My race strategy was to run the way I trained: using the galloway method and running three minutes, walking one minute. I’m going to break this recap down by mile:
Mile 0-1: This mile went by pretty quickly and it was all about finding my rhythm in the race. The crowds were energetic this mile, so it was great to start off on a great foot! Right at mile 1 (I believe) we ran past Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts play and the Super Bowl was held in 2012.
Mile 1-2: Uh oh- my fear happened and my IT bands started aching around 1.5. I mentally panicked a bit about having to go so many miles while being in pain. This is where I decided that I wouldn’t give myself any choice or option in the matter. It didn’t matter how much I ached, I wouldn’t give up. Not allowing myself to question this was really beneficial I think.
Mile 2-3: Somewhere along here we ran through Monument Circle. The sun was rising at this point, and the sunrise was beautiful. My pace was under 10 minutes a mile, which is definitely too fast for me. I tried to keep slowing myself down, but every time I thought I was inching along I’d check my pace and it would be somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30. It was a fight to slow down
Mile 3-4: I passed the 5k mark at 29:25, a full minute slower than my previous 5k PR. Even though this was part of a bigger race, does it count as a PR? I got pretty nervous here wondering if I’d crash later in the race. I saw a sign here that said “You actually paid money to do this??” and that made me laugh. Yes I did, and it was worth every penny.
Mile 4-5: Right at mile 4 I had to stop and stretch for the first time because my IT band was aching badly. I also ate 2 shot blocks around 4.75. Somewhere this mile I saw a sign that said “Someday your body won’t be able to do this. TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY.” This was definitely encouraging to me and I repeated it a few times throughout the race.
Mile 5-6: I finally took off my throw away sweatshirt at this point. I was definitely happy I hadn’t tossed it right at the start. We were running through neighborhoods at this point and lots of people were in their front yards cheering which was really great!
Mile 6-7: I hit the 6 mile mark and my average pace was right under 10 minute miles. I never even go that fast on short training runs, so I was pretty amazed that I was holding that pace, especially with my IT bands aching the way they were. At about 6.5 I had to jump off the road to stretch for the second time to stretch my IT bands.
Mile 7-8: We separated from the marathoners this mile so the crowd definitely thinned out a bit. Half way through this mile I ran past a yard that had a waist high wall in the front. I hopped off the road again and used it to help stretch for about a minute. It felt SO good and definitely helped quite a bit.
Mile 8-9: I took 2 more shot blocks here, and they continued to sit well in my stomach the entire race. The miles started dragging a bit here. At this point I hadn’t used music at all, and there were less crowds out cheering too. I was getting pretty achy.
Miles 9-10: Immediately at mile 9 I grabbed out my phone to text my family to let them know where I was. I was holding about a 10:30 pace at this point, which is still really fast. I was aching pretty badly and knew that I needed a distraction from my IT bands. I turned on my music at that point and decided to pull completely inside myself (as much as you can in a race) and dedicate each mile to a family member. This mile was for my parents who have been a huge support to me and have been so encouraging in my racing journey. They are always there to listen to my splits, thoughts on training runs, and my mom’s had to endure long phone conversations every day this week as I talked out my obsessive thoughts.
Mile 10-11: I definitely felt a surge of energy here as I thought “only a 5k left”. I wasn’t feeling tired or out of breath at all, which was great. I knew I could push through the pain the last 3 miles. I KNEW I was going to make it. This mile was for my brother (this one) who’s the real athlete in the family. He’s so encouraging and is always there when I have questions in the field of exercise science. During this mile I was passed by the first elite marathoner who was between mile 23 and 24 at this point. Humbling, that’s for sure.
Mile 11-12: I was feeling pretty great at this mile (minus a few calf cramps in my left leg), and the music was definitely helping to lift my spirits. The crowds got a bit thicker here which also helped with the energy. This mile was for my other brother (this one) who, after my first run 2 years ago that went terribly, encouraged me to not give up and to keep running. He’s a great cheerleader when I doubt myself, and encourages me endlessly. He’s in the military, and I’m just so very proud of my baby brother.
Mile 12-13.1: This mile was for ME. Having postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, the fact that I can go 13 miles at all is pretty amazing. I’ve struggled through 9 years of health issues, and I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness that I’m running at all. A montage of scenes played out in my head this mile as I thought of all the tests, trips to the ER, illnesses, and other things associated with this diagnosis that I’ve gone through. I was pretty emotional at this point, thinking of all that I’ve fought through to get to where I am today. It also sleeted for about half a mile, and I was glad to almost be at the finish. I kicked it that last .1 and was really happy to cross that finish line.
I finished the race in 2:31, which is a 22 minute PR from my first half marathon, the Indy Mini in May. In 6 months I was able to shave 22 minutes off my time, and I know that without the IT band issues I could’ve gone even faster and hit under 2:30. I guess it gives me something to still fight towards:) Overall I really liked the course, things were organized really well, and it was pretty flat, which combined to create an awesome race! Despite the weather being in the mid 30’s, my outfit for the race was perfect, and I was comfortable the entire race!
On the drive home I stopped by to see my massage therapist friend who gave me a quick 10 minute massage! It was so nice but far too short- I’m achy! The rest of the drive home was really emotional. I kept playing the race over and over in my head, and there may have been some tears on and off. Tears of pride in what I had accomplished.
Like I said, having POTS adds a whole set of variables into running, and adds some difficulty into the sport. In part, I run to show that my diagnosis doesn’t have to define me, that I can fight through. I am so proud of myself for running the race I did today, and I’m definitely happy with my time! I fought through the pain and conquered my previous time and this course. I’m a half marathoner for a 2nd time. I’m content and so very thankful.