When It Just Doesn’t Go Your Way: A Half-Marathon Recap

Maybe the title gives away the punchline of this weekend’s race recap?

For my first real out of town running event, it seemed like a no-brainer that I would choose to run Fargo’s Half-Marathon. Fargo is a city that holds a special place in my heart. As a student at North Dakota State University, Fargo is the place where I fell in and out of love for the first time, where I discovered my life’s passion and vocation, where I found my two feet, stood on them, and first started to run on them. It is where I learned that the path from a D- to a B+ is a lot of hours in an anatomy lab and early mornings in a quiet coffee shop. It is where I learned that parking tickets on campus (for parking in the President’s spot) are only 5 dollars, that you can get frostbite walking across campus without a hat, and that the cure to a bad day is at the bottom of a Kroll’s Diner milkshake. Unless it was a really bad day, then the cure is at the bottom of a Chub’s Pub Stumplifter.

Fargo is the place that holds “my simpler days” with both youthful anticipation and the satisfaction of coming of age.

On Saturday morning, I lined up at the Fargodome– the place I watched football games and received my diploma– and looked excitedly at the starting line of my first half-marathon. I felt relaxed, mostly prepared, and ready for a burger. My running life was in its infancy while I still lived in Fargo so I was ready to return and relive so much of the city by foot for the first time.

But, as the title of this post suggests, things just did not go my way on Saturday. I think I ate the right foods. I think I trained well. I knew that some nagging injuries might slow me down, and I was prepared for that. I was anticipating just enjoying myself for 13.1 miles. I was not anticipating that the plantar fasciitis that has been bothering my left foot would wage a complete and total war against me and my race-day goals at mile 4. But that is exactly what happened.

As I ran towards downtown Fargo, the pain along the arch of my left foot became quite a bit more severe than a “nagging.” And when I refused to heed that warning and relent, my foot simply failed to support a running stride. Every step of my left foot felt like my foot/ankle/lower leg were going to collapse. I had no choice but to slow to a walk and my mind began to race: What was I going to do? Was I seriously injured? Did I need to go to the ER (again?!)? Would this be my first DNF (Did Not Finish)?

For a full mile I walked and restrategized. I was not going to be able to run the entirety of the remaining 9 miles. My only option was to do my best. So I walked/jogged/ran for 9 miles. I deliberated the Medical Drop Out tent as I ran by it longer than I have in any event before. I more than once thought about asking a spectator to borrow their phone to call Aaron and tell him I couldn’t do it and to come get me and take me all the way back home to Minneapolis. But no matter how many exit strategies I devised, the letters DNF weighed so heavily on my mind.

There is nothing embarrassing about a DNF– some days our bodies or the route or the weather get the absolute best of us. Most of the best runners have at least one DNF under their belts. But I always told myself that I would only use a DNF if I was in a situation of CNF (Could Not Finish). And I knew I was not in that place on Saturday. I was not going to finish at my anticipated pace. Not even close, really. I knew that my time would maybe be a bit embarrassing. I knew race photos would not show the confident runner that I hoped to be, but rather a young woman beaten up by injury and battling mentally and emotionally for every step. But I also knew that I could finish and that people were cheering for me regardless of how I got across that finish line.

And I did cross the finish line. 2 hours and 38 minutes after I crossed the start. Not even close the the 2 hours 15 minutes I thought I might finish in. But a lot of lessons learned in those extra 23 minutes. Some about running and injury, but most about acceptance and flexibility and finding some light in the darkest of minutes.

I want to be angry about Saturday, and if I view it as a single event, existing in a vacuum, then maybe I could be. But as a part of the bigger picture, Saturday was still another day I got to run. And a day I tried something scary and new (my first half, my first time traveling for a running event). And a day that I didn’t quit when every opportunity to do so was laid out before me in an air-conditioned medical trailer. A day I earned a PR, even if only because every first time you run a distance is an automatic PR.

There will be better days. Maybe there will be worse ones, too. Maybe there will come a day when I can no longer run. Thank goodness Saturday was not that day.

The finisher’s medals are gorgeous, and I am glad I held on to receive one. And on the back, this gem:

2013-05-19_21-43-45_336

Might I add, “Let us not be confused as to think the race is actually measured by distance or time.”

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5 thoughts on “When It Just Doesn’t Go Your Way: A Half-Marathon Recap”

  1. I love your perspective on the situation of a CNF.

    Congrats on your PR — you should be very proud! And I hope your PF clears up soon.

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