I absolutely loved running the first half of the marathon. I was able to get into a rhythm and cruise along at a nice pace. Sure, I had niggles in places I never had niggles before, but I was able to adjust my stride slightly or my breathing or my posture and manage all of them. I had my family cheering me on at the Burleigh turn around point and it was so cool to be lifted by them. Little did I know that my left knee was about to blow up, out of what seemed like no where.
I don’t really remember exactly what happened. All I know is that between about 21km and 25km I started to experience pain in my left knee. When I walked through the drink stations it became increasingly difficult to get started again. Between 25km and 30km I had to walk some of the way as my knee started to give way on me. And then what was most distressing was I then found I couldn’t even walk because the pain was so intense and my knee kept giving way. I sat and stretched and somehow managed to get the pain under control and realised I was going to have to adjust everything. I had to adjust all my expectations, my goals and my race plan. I had to get into a rhythm of walking and let my knee settle.
The things that were going through my head in these times were both positive and negative, constructive and destructive. Last year I had to pull out of the marathon because of a chest infection, so I was determined to finish it, yet, I couldn’t see how I would be able to and the lure of pulling out was strong! Especially since I had to go past the finish line anyway. The year before that I had a great run and nothing went wrong, so I knew I could do it and wanted it to be like that again!
Regret, doubt, fear, shame, anger, frustration, pain, sadness.....you name it I felt them all. Then my buddy Daz came along beside me and it lifted me enough to be able to try running again.......for about 200m. At that point I had made my decision I would pull out, all I had to do was walk about another 1 km and I was back at the start/finish line. If I had to walk to whole rest of the way I would take too long and my friends waiting for me at the finish line would get annoyed. Because I had made my decision and I couldn’t walk, run or stand without excruciating pain I decided to sit on the curb and gather my thoughts.
In that moment, so many people running past gave me a cheer or a word of encouragement. And it was in that moment that I began to see what happens to the human spirit when everyone is facing fears and adversity. I kind of wanted to say to those people, “hey, do you realise how much pain I am in!”.....yet I realised they were all in the same amount of pain.....it was just presenting in their bodies in different ways.
So I stood up and did something like a walk run shuffle hop skip run, and still the lure of pulling out was strong. And as I got closer to that mark of where I could pull out my head said just walk over there and sit on the grass, but my heart wouldn’t let me. I physically couldn’t bring myself to stop. I kept walking and just adjusted to the fact that it was going to take me a long time.
I was really emotional and then saw some friends on the side line which made me laugh and cry all at the same time. Al came and walked with me for a bit and gave me some encouragement and I remember saying to her with absolute conviction “I am not going to pull out”.
It’s funny how when you make that choice, things are a little easier and your body can go about adjusting to what you are doing. I didn’t have to expend any energy deciding what I was going to do, I just had to keep going. One foot in front of the other......what ever it took.
It was a nice day for a walk.....plenty of people out there to keep me company, nice weather, drink stops on the way.......that’s when I remember just laughing and deciding to enjoy what I could. Respect the body I had and be thankful that I was out here and was able to walk.
Every now and then I would try to run, with very little success and every couple of hundred meters I had to stop and bend my knee to take the pressure off it. I could feel my head getting hot and my body getting cold.
Seeing my other running buddies out there was awesome. I saw a lot of them coming back in as I was heading out to the 36km turn around point and it was so cool to share a high five and a look of knowing. Knowing the pain and knowing the courage it was taking to be out there.
The thing is when things go wrong, or they don’t go according to plan, the satisfaction of crossing the line is even greater. I was so determined to run the last kilometer and the energy of everyone cheering from the sideline got me through. I was crying with the pain and the relief for that whole kilometer and when I came to the finish line and my friends were standing there waiting for me it was an overwhelming feeling of trust and respect.
I finished it! 5 hours and 20 mins is a bloody long time to be out there and I would be happy to never experience such pain again. But the feeling of the friendship, of the camaraderie, of the human spirit being tested and held together by the pain and adversity......you can't buy that in a bottle and I would do it all again for that. I have a new level of respect for my body, a new level of respect for the training required and the distance of the marathon. I can take the lessons I have learnt from the run into other areas of my life.
And, what happened after the finish line is an even better story......with even greater lessons. But that will have to be another blog.
Thank you to Chisel Runners and GC Marathon for the experience. Maybe even see you out there again next year!