More than 15,000 women (and lucky men) laced up this past weekend for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, DC. This was my second half-marathon, and my first destination run. Sort of like a mini-vacation with a race squeezed in-between. And instead of finisher medals, participants received custom Tiffany’s necklaces. How fun!!
But for the past several months leading up to the race, I hadn’t been running at all. No, not out of sheer laziness and aversion to the cold weather — but because I had a skiing accident back in January that resulted in 3 torn ligaments to my left knee (MCL, LCL and ACL). To say I was nervous about the race was an understatement. I couldn’t even walk properly — let alone run. I didn’t think I could do the race anymore.
The thought of having to pull out of the race was devastating. I felt defeated, disappointed, and depressed. But after days and weeks of self-doubt, I realized that I was not ready to give up (even though I needed a lot of support and encouragement before I finally recognized this).
So I trained — not by running, but by religiously seeing my physiotherapist, stretching, and foam rolling. I figured that if I can’t run the race, I would walk it. And there is no shame in that. After weeks and weeks of therapy, I finally regained my mobility. I slowly eased back into running a month prior to the race, trying to rebuild all the muscles that I lost in my injured leg. The runs were physically and mentally challenging, but each run gave me more confidence that I could do the race.
When I woke up on race day, I was surprisingly not nervous. Perhaps I knew I would finish the race in one way or another, so the pressure was off. I was just happy to be there and to do something that I thought was impossible only a few weeks ago. Or I was probably too tired and groggy to really feel anything else. We had forgotten to buy breakfast the day before, so we munched on some trail mix for breakfast. Not sure if that was such a great idea, but I’m sure it’s better than running on an empty stomach.
We left for the race, following a trail of fellow runners. We secretly hoped that they knew where the starting line was, because we didn’t feel the need to find it prior to race day. Among the 15,000 runners, one of them must know …right? We warmed up with a little pre-race run to our corral, and got there just in time for some inaudible race instructions and warm-ups.
At 7:00AM the horn blared and the race began. One mile, two miles, three miles. I felt great so far. Knee was not killing me. Four, five, six, seven miles — I can do this. I can run the entire thing!
The 13.1-mile race trailed through DC’s landmarks and monuments, making the run very scenic and beautiful. Supporters stood on the sidelines with amusing signs and inspirational cheers, and bands were lined up at every few miles to give you that extra adrenaline kick. There were more than enough water stations and food stations that kept us occupied throughout the whole race. Shot Bloks, Oreos, Luna Bars, chocolate …it was like a meal! I was hoping to run off the dinner I had the night before, but it felt like I was adding on more pounds. Yikes.
Ten miles. Eleven miles. I was definitely hitting a wall. I started my mental count down with the number of songs I had to listen/sing to before the race was over. The fans and supporters definitely gave me that extra boost needed to carry me through, but I was definitely regretting that last chocolate I ate. Damn, don’t throw up. Keep pushing.
On the last mile, I really felt myself amping up the pace. I had tunnel vision – all I wanted to do was to cross the finish line. At the last corner turn, I thought I saw the glorious finish arches, only to be sorely disappointed that it was a photobooth arch. Damn, I was about another 500m out. It was heart wrenching and a little cruel, but I did feel myself speeding up knowing that a small portion of the race remained. I pushed myself to keep going, using up all the energy I had left to get myself under those giant yellow arches. At the very end — at 2 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds — I jumped over the finish line, elated to have survived my second half.
And then I was handed my Tiffany’s race bling by a guy in a tux. Not a bad way to end the race, right?
I gave it my best, and I am proud of myself for continuing to push forward even when I was struggling to overcome those mental and physical barriers. Some people cared about their time, while others wanted to have this accomplishment under their belt, or do it in memory of someone or for someone who can’t run. I just wanted to finish this race — knowing to never give myself up.
And I couldn’t have achieved any of this without all the love and support that I received. Their belief that I could do this made it so much easier for me to understand that it is possible. So thank you – for believing in me, for pushing me forward, and for not giving up on me.