I was so on the fence about whether to do the Mercer Island Half Marathon this year. It’s usually hard for me to resist a half marathon, especially one that’s local, in the spring, on pavement, and a loop, i.e., all my preferences. Plus this one is a fundraiser for colon cancer prevention, and as I’ve mentioned before, I am firmly anti-colon cancer. You’ll never hear me say a nice thing about colon cancer, so don’t even try.
Having said that, I still debated quite a bit about registering for it this year. Mostly because my dumb foot issues threw my running so out of whack that I wasn’t at all sure I’d be half marathon-ready by March; I went three full weeks without running at all in February, which is an eternity for me, and afterward I felt like I was starting from square one. On top of that, I’d done this race the last three years and really struggled every time. This is a pretty challenging course, and even though I’m very comfortable with hills, this one always seems to do me in. I looked a little closer and realized that each time I ran it, there was something else working against me.
The first year, I was training for a marathon, and for some reason, I decided to use that race as an experiment to see how much difference carb loading really makes for me. I learned the dumb lesson that eating a bunch of broccoli and no starch the night before made me feel queasy and undernourished on race day. (See also: duh.)
The next year, I trained and prepped just fine, but our smoke alarms went off for no reason around 2 a.m., then 4 a.m., then again around 5 a.m. Super restful! That year’s lesson: fatigue is not great, Bob.
Last year, I’d trained and prepped and slept just fine, but I’d been starting to have a little trouble with my pace and stamina, and I was wondering if that had anything to do with that thing on my foot…nah, I’m sure it’s nothing. FORESHADOWING! It wasn’t nothing.
Even though I finished with a pretty decent time all three years, each time I ended up walking for a brief stretch because of my various handicaps. I really never walk even a step during a race, and that, for me, is a bigger goal than pace. One of those years my time was 1:53 and I still beat myself up over the maybe one tenth of a mile that I walked. If I am not my own worst critic, I really don’t want to know who is.
I finally decided to just go for it this year, even though I wasn’t in great condition, and it’s not historically been a favorite for me. I wish I could come up with something more profound, but I just knew that once the time passed, I’d instantly regret not doing it if I skipped out. I didn’t fundraise for it this year, so I went into it with no pressure and the lowest of expectations. I assumed I’d achieve a new personal worst (I did) but I was absolutely determined that this would be the time I ran every step of this race, no matter how slow. (I did!) I’m so glad I decided to do it. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and turns out, it’s a beautiful course. Somehow I had never noticed that when I was struggling and mentally destroying myself. Since I’m turning 45 this week, I am in love with this medal:
This is now the third race in a row that I have gone into with lower than normal expectations, and I’ve enjoyed the race so much more because of it. Still, I do want to work on getting my pace back, and I am really hoping that I haven’t done my last sub-2 half, and that maybe a sub-4 marathon is still a possibility, and maybe I’ll even be able to set a new PR someday…so, lesson learned, apparently I just don’t like enjoying stuff.