I typed that title and thought, wow, never did I think I’d ever type those three letters. Ever.
But, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you already know, I did not finish the race.
When I shared with you all my final thoughts leading up to the marathon, I mentioned my goals and how I’d be super disappointed if I didn’t at least PR. The possibility of not even finishing the race didn’t even occur to me. Like, I didn’t think, “And lastly, if nothing else, my final goal is to just finish the race.” I just thought it was something that would happen, because that’s what you do. You finish.
Except I didn’t.
After I wrote Friday’s post, I headed over to the expo which was absolutely amazing and the highlight of the weekend. I’d like to recap that separately as it’s completely opposite of the events that occurred the following day.
My alarm went off Saturday morning at 2:30 and it didn’t take me long to get ready. I had everything prepared and woke up feeling pretty much the same I’d been feeling all week. Not horrible but definitely not 100%.
I picked up Runner Jenny at 3:45 and we made our way to the busses that would drop us off at the start line. I was prepared with throwaway clothes, water, and a morning snack as I knew we’d have about an hour and a half wait before the race began.
I felt okay. I was warm because of my layers, and I sipped on water as we walked to find the rest of our group.
My run club friends asked how I was doing (as they’ve known I’ve been sick for a while) and I told them the truth, okay but not 100%.
Once the clock crept closer to gun time, we made our way to the start line and began shedding our layers. It was then that I felt how cold it really was. Now mind you, the weather was actually beautiful (no rain!), but this Arizona girl gets cold when it’s 50 degrees out. I took off my sweats and sweater but left on my ear warmers (my ears were still achy).
We all exchanged our good lucks and then it was time to start. Me and Runner Jenny had a game plan, to start slow the first initial downhill and not let it sneak us into starting too fast.
So that’s what we did. We were about a quarter of the first mile in when I coughed. And then continued coughing. And then looked and Jenny as I continued to cough. This was not looking/sounding good.
I passed it off and kept going. First mile, 9:37. Okay, a little fast, but not bad. Not bad, at all.
Half way into mile 2, Jenny asks me a question and as I opened my mouth to answer, a cough came out instead. No, this was definitely not good. She tells me, “No worries, I won’t talk. You don’t talk. We’ll be okay.”
This was mile 2.
The lone hill began at mile 4 and it was here that Jenny began to distance herself. I told her to go. We both knew I was on the struggle bus already. I saw her keep steady and felt myself began to falter and that’s when I knew that this was going to be the hardest race of my life. My left calf flared up and I kept running, hoping that running would make the cramp dissipate. I couldn’t believe this was happening at mile 4. Couldn’t. Believe. It.
How the hell was I already struggling so bad? How the hell had I already let Jenny down? At mile freaking four?
My right quad began to flare and at this point, I began to think the running gods had it in for me. I was cramping like I’d never in my entire life cramped before. All before mile 6. I took my first GU at mile 5 hoping that would help but I felt nothing of its benefits. I had picked up water at the two stations I’d already passed and still was a complete mess.
I finished that long uphill and rode the decline hoping it’d start jump me and give me some energy. I was hurting but I was running. Mile 8 came and went. And then mile 9. It was here that both of my legs, both calves, both quads, whatever the heck the muscle next to my shins are called, all were squeezed tight into massive balls of crampage. I knew I was done at mile 10. Done.
My husband was waiting for me at the mile marker and he knew. I didn’t have to say a word. He asked me if I was sure about wanting to stop and I said yes, there was no way I could keep going. My body ached from coughing and cramping and I was shivering and I still had a shitload of miles left.
I had never in my life hurt so bad.
He told me that he wanted me to be absolutely sure. To keep running and that maybe I’d get a second wind. (In my head I was like, this is mile 10. I would hope that I wouldn’t need a second wind at mile 10. Mile 18? Mile 20? Yeah, sure. But how the hell did I need a second wind at mile 10?)
I kept going. I hoped and prayed his words would work their magic and would help to dispel the negative thoughts going through my mind and the pain searing through my body.
But they didn’t. I started to walk/run, trying to stretch my legs on the curb of a sidewalk periodically, but nothing was helping. A spectator asked if they could help, but my coughing wouldn’t let me respond. I knew then I had to make my decision.
I felt that I could somehow muster up whatever pride I had left to finish and drag myself across the finish line. It would be ugly, but it seemed feasible. Maybe. I knew that it would wreak havoc on my body though and that I would be pushing my body to limits unknown. I’d get my medal and maybe pneumonia too.
My two kids, my two rambunctious toddlers came to mind and I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be selfish and finish a race for pride, pushing my body to where I don’t know how it’d end up. I had to go home to them in one piece.
So at mile 12 I stopped.
It was a little past mile 12; I could see the half marathon flags and I could see two of my run club friends cheering on the sidewalk. I walked up to them and they instantly put their cameras away. They could see I wasn’t doing well and that I wasn’t a sight worth taking a picture of. I asked for their phone and where we were, and I called my husband. I was officially not going to continue.
I stopped my Garmin and waited for him in their car to try and get warm. I was coughing and coughing and the coughing was making me dry heave. I kept opening the car door just in case anything came out.
My husband found me not too long later and I climbed into his car. And it was here that I began to cry. We drove away in silence and after a few minutes, he told me that I had done the right thing.
In between crying and coughing, I told him how much pain I was in. How bad the cramping was and that I just couldn’t understand why this was happening.
It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, he kept repeating.
But I just kept on crying. And coughing.
He asked me if I wanted to go home and I said no. I wanted to see Runner Jenny finish. I wanted to see my friends finish.
I had discarded my sweats at the start line so we stopped at a nearby store to pick up some warm clothes. I was shivering (my husband was not) and knew I couldn’t/wouldn’t last with just my shorts and running shirt.
And then we went back to the race. I walked towards the finish line and waited. While we were waiting, my husband’s phone rang. It was my friend Nadia asking where I was in the race so she could find me. He passed me the phone and I began to sob, telling her that she could find me at the finish line, except I didn’t finish.
My friends began approaching the finish line and one by one I cheered them on. I saw several snag PRs and I saw a few struggling as they crossed, but they finished.
And then after a while, there she was. My partner. Still running with a huge smile. She saw me and waved and I yelled as loud as I could for her as she crossed the finish line of her first marathon. I wasn’t there to do it with her, but I was there to cheer her on.
Soon after the race, I went to Urgent Care where I was diagnosed with bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. The doctor told me I was silly to think I could run that day.
I don’t know. I don’t know if that even makes me feel better. But, there it is. There’s what happened. I’m still collecting my thoughts on it and still trying to absorb this thing of not finishing something I trained and worked so hard for. I know ultimately I made the right decision; it’s just difficult to think about this race and say out loud, I didn’t finish it.
Thank you guys so much for your kind words of support on facebook, instagram, and on my blog. I know you guys know how important running is to me–because it is to you–and I know you guys understand in a way a lot of other people can’t. I’m so thankful to have all of you in my life.
❤ , helly