Tuesday, 27 August 2013

My first half marathon

I can't believe it, I did it! I didn't die. I didn't stop running, not even for a moment, and yes, I finished. I finished! I am a half marathon runner and I barely recognise myself.

But to go back a little to the beginning, or at least, to the night before. For the first night EVER in nine and a half years, both our children went to a sleepover at a friend's house, and hubby and I found ourselves alone and childless. It was a very strange experience. The plan was to enjoy a carb-ish dinner (tuna macaroni bake) and an early night's sleep. I've been battling ITB for five weeks so before bed I did my stretches and a final, painful session on the foam roller. Or should I say, pool noodle. No wait, foam roller sounds so much more like I know what I'm doing. I took two nurofen (they have anti-inflammatory properties) and we headed to bed.

It wasn't a great night, to be honest. My leg hurt and my head raced, and hubby and I both slept fitfully and not much. Finally I drifted off at around 5.30am only to be roused at 6.30 and having to race through the morning preparations. I didn't meditate, which I had planned to do. I did however, eat breakfast (which is rare for me), gulped the indispensable coffee and sought some advice from hubby who is a far, far more experienced runner than I am. He was very consoling, reminding me that I had done the miles, and kindly omitting the obvious point that I hadn't run in five weeks. He assured me he was proud of me and that he would run at my side, at my pace, the whole way.

I knew that the key to a successful day would be entirely mental. I hadn't slept, I hadn't run in five weeks and I had an excruciatingly sore leg. But I also had an enormous store of inspiration and to make sure I didn't forget, I scribbled some notes on my arm. I wrote the names of all the generous believers who sponsored my precious Miracle Babies cause. And I wrote my new mantra "pain is temporary, pride lasts forever" which I read on a running blog a few nights ago. And then we headed out the door.

The trip to the starting line was easy enough, we caught the train and walked to the Perth Convention Centre. We dropped off our bag containing dry clothes for after the race and joined the throng in the waiting hall. We did our best to warm up and stretch, and keep the nerves at bay. I took another two nurofen tablets even though I know you're not supposed to. But I wanted to keep the ITB pain at bay for as long as possible, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Then it was time to go!

We actually had to walk almost a kilometre to the start line from the waiting hall, and during this time my garmin 210 went back to sleep which means I missed the 'start' and only really began recording my run a few hundred metres in to it. The first few kilometres were a bit of a blur, as I did everything I could to take the focus off my sore leg (which began complaining straight away) and find ways to distract myself. I looked at my arm. A lot. I dedicated each km or so to every friend who had sponsored me, and I thought a lot about who they were and how my life was richer for knowing them. And slowly as the kms slipped by, I realised I was enjoying myself. The pain in my leg was still there, but it wasn't getting any worse and this knowledge began to give me confidence. As we streamed through Kings Park I feasted on the boundless vistas over the river, across lakes and through trees. I revelled in the music that was pushing me along, and I marvelled at the smile that was constantly spreading across my (goofy and sweaty) face.

To be honest, I loved it. It felt a lot easier than the 12km run last year, across much of the same course. Perhaps I am fitter now? I just know there were times when I felt I was flying, that I was free. Of course, that elation gradually wore off as the course wore on and to be honest, the last 4 kms or so were really, really hard. Hubby began counting down the kilometres to go and we high fived as each one passed. But the hills by now were pure torture and I glared at drew strength from my arm constantly. I knew more than anything what I wanted from the day. And that was to run without stopping and to finish. So I chanted 'I did not stop, I did not stop' like the little train who was desperate and forced my cement-laden legs to the top. I tried not to pay attention to the walkers who were going at the same pace as me. I ignored the lady in the wheelchair who sailed passed. I was breathing like a steam train and finally, finally the finish line appeared like a mirage and Hubby and I approached it arm in arm. The feeling just defies description.

The instant I stopped running my legs swore viciously at me and vowed never to bend again. I had to walk down the slope like my legs were solid metal spokes but as soon as I was handed my medal I didn't care. I allowed myself the indulgence of a tearful moment and Hubby and I shared a triumphant kiss. Running at my pace must have been sheer torture for him but the fact that he was prepared to do so, and to be proud of me for my efforts, speaks volumes about him.

Our finish time was 2h27 I think. (Snails and turtles were faster.) But truly, I don't care. Once again I had garmin problems at the finish line, this time forgetting to hit the 'stop' button so I inadvertently added about 3 minutes and several hundred metres to the stats.

At the finish line we spent a bit of time looking for the other runners from the Miracle Babies team but sadly couldn't find them. And we didn't have a whole lot of time to spare since our kids were being babysat so we headed out to the buses and back to the train station, and then home.

I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to the extended team who got me to the start line and all the way home again. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me. Thank you to my dear friend down the road who babysat my kids. Thank you to my family and friends who believed in me. Thank you to my darling husband for all the reasons he already knows. And finally, a great big middle finger 'up yours' to all my doubters, most of whom lived in my head.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Nerves and inspiration

I have a big personal milestone looming, and I am both excited and terrified. A year and a half ago I set myself the goal of running a half marathon. So I signed up to run last year's Perth City to Surf but then got quite seriously ill, and downgraded to the 12km due to lack of training. Even that 12km was a milestone though, I think at the time it was the longest distance I had ever run. I gloated in my sense of accomplishment for a while, then set my sights on this year's half marathon.

Twelve months later I find myself on the eve of the big race. I have done a year and a half's worth of training and it has all gone very well, apart from the last five weeks. I developed an excruciating ITB injury although I was initially mystified as to why. The books say its an overtraining injury which makes me snort, because hah! Me? Overtrain? If only they knew. As I have previously written I am slow, ridiculously slow, as in grannies with walkers can overtake me slow. Also, I only increased my distance by 1km a week and sometimes not even by that much. But on getting lots of advice I realise that I really haven't been doing everything I should. I haven't really been cross training. Or stretching. My glutes are absurdly tight and weak and my feet clunk. Yes. That's a technical term.

So for the last five weeks instead of training, I have been visiting a sports injury specialist and yesterday afternoon I persuaded a rheumy doctor to give me a cortisone injection. And despite never having run more than 15km in one session and not having trained in yes, five weeks, I will be lining up at tomorrow's start line.

I have two main reasons. The first, is that I am nothing if not goal focussed. And what's the point of having a goal if you don't at least give it a try? The second is that I have been fundraising for a very special charity called Miracle Babies. Five years ago I went into extremely premature labour at 23 weeks gestation with our second and much longed for son, having spent five years and ten IVF cycles trying to conceive him. We teetered on the brink of losing him for several excruciating weeks and I was hospital bed bound for the best part of three months. During that time I got to know the staff and the parents in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Ward very well, and the experience has left an indelible mark. In the end, our son was born early but safely, and is now a thriving and healthy four year old. However I am cripplingly aware that many stories don't have our happy ending, and that many babies are born even earlier, or with more complications. I remember the time spent sitting beside that bleeping, dimly lit fishtank containing my morsel of a boy whose nest of wires and tubes made him look like a cross between a chicken and a science experiment. I remember the fragility of those moments. I remember the heartache and the tears. And I remember being so deeply moved by the tenacity of those babies and their parents, and the genuinely concerned and tender care we received from the amazing staff.

Thinking back to just before he was born, I remember one particular night vividly. I went into labour again and I was only, I think, around 25 weeks or so. The staff in hospital explained that despite having taken every precaution, the beds upstairs in the NICU were full (there was a rush of preterm babies that night) and so while they had a bed for me the mum, there was nothing available for the baby should he be born. So they rushed me into an air ambulance (thank you Royal Flying Doctor!) and FLEW me to another hospital an hour and a half away, where I stayed for a few weeks until things settled down as much as they were likely to. I am both grateful for the experience and cognisant that the lack of NICU facilities can be a real problem.

So I signed up to support Miracle Babies and so far, have raised $680 just by fleecing my family and friends. (Thanks guys!) If I'm honest, its this knowledge that is the real wind in my sails, and I will be running (or hopping, as the case may be) partly out of sheer gratitude for the support I have received from so many amazing people.

I am going to write a few things on my arm to keep me going. And one of the most dominant will be a quote I read a few nights ago, that "pain is temporary but pride lasts forever." I am proud of my family, my prematurely born son, my husband's phenomenal support and the achievement of just showing up on the day. I am proud of who I will be when I finish but even if I don't, and its a real possibility that I won't, I can be proud that I tried.

Support my Miracle Babies Fundraising efforts here. Please?