World’s Okayest Runner

I’m so behind on my race recaps, but then again, I don’t think I have that many captivated readers who have been waiting with baited breath for my marathon recap. (If you do read these exercises in word vomit of mine, leave a comment! Until then, I’m going to believe I’m typing into the void.)

I celebrated my birthday one week before the Pittsburgh marathon. Dave took me to breakfast and then we saw Avengers: Endgame. It was exactly what I wanted to do for my birthday. Afterwards, we parted ways and I went grocery shopping to complete my weekly meal prep. I placed one grocery bag in my trunk, and then a second. I leaned forward to push the second bag back a bit when I felt a muscle pull in my left shoulder.

That’s right. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder on my 39th birthday putting groceries away in my car. It hurt so bad that I yelped loudly. Really? I injure myself putting groceries away? Come on.

For the week leading up to the marathon, I refrained from running or anything physical really. I iced my shoulder and rested. I also worried like a crazy person, filled with anxiety, like, “Am I even going to be able to run the marathon?” I could barely rotate my left arm without pain radiating throughout my shoulder, and I’m going to run 26.2 miles? I kept thinking, “I may be cursed to never run this fucking race. Unreal.”

The night before the race, I still didn’t feel remotely good but I decided to go for it anyway. I figured that I would try and if it got to be too much, I’d stop and do a Do Not Finish. I wanted to try because this is The Race I have been wanting to conquer since 2015, 2016.

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I may be smiling but I was thinking, “If anyone bumps into my shoulder, I will probably cry.”

I did make a crucial error the morning of the race. It was raining, and I did not lube up my feet. I had vaseline with me, but Race Day excitement means I’m more forgetful than my normal. You’d think I haven’t been running since 2013, but sigh… welcome to my brain.

During the first 16 miles of the race, my friend Emily stayed with me. She and I trained together a good portion leading up to the marathon. Throughout the race, I had a couple of close calls where I came close to someone colliding with my shoulder. As a result, Emily stayed on my left to prevent anyone from getting near my left side. I am so grateful to her.

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She was ahead of me on the hill but I wasn’t that far behind!

Mother Nature was not kind to us runners that day. It rained a bit during the race, and so I formed a gnarly blister on my right foot. I was feeling it bad. I also kept having to stop and clear my glasses off so I could, you know, see. When we were approaching 16 miles together, I could tell the wheels were starting to fall off for me, and my friend was holding back for me.

My shoulder hurt, and because my shoulder hurt, I wasn’t rotating the way I normally do when I run. On top of that, the blister on my foot was killing me and for the first time in years, I felt IT band. Before I pulled the muscle in my shoulder, my training was pretty solid and consistent. My 20 mile runs were each around 4 hours. I thought I could get 5:15 or thereabouts.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen for me, and I will be damned if I hold anyone back.

I told Emily to go chase her PR and I would be fine running by myself. Besides, if something bad happened to me, I was never truly alone. I’d be fine. I appreciate that she wanted to make sure I’d be okay before she went chasing her PR (spoiler: she got it!).

During the last 10 miles, once I accepted that I wasn’t going to hit my time goal, I just focused on enjoying the beauty of the marathon. I looked to see if I recognized anyone, and I thanked the volunteers who braved standing in the cold, rainy weather to help crazy people like me. When I hit mile 18 (aka the greyhound mile), the rain was coming down pretty hard, so the greyhounds who normally like to run with the runners, were all taking refuge under a bridge. I didn’t blame them!

The last couple of miles were a real struggle. My shoulder hurt, the blister was taunting me at that point, and I was overcompensating all over the place. I later saw a video of me close to mile 26, and I was run/limping, hop a long Huffman.

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Yeah, take a closer look. I’m in a lot of pain here. My foot is really not supposed to be turned in that direction.

For no reason other than pride, I was hustling as much as I could the last couple of miles because I wanted to come in before the 5:30 pacer. My first marathon in Columbus, I was at 5:00:58. For my second marathon in Indy, I was 5:28. I wanted to beat 5:30, so I can still stay this is my range.

I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT 5:28:58. That’s right! Pittsburgh is much harder than Columbus or Indianapolis, and I ran that sucker all banged up and still managed the same time I did for Indy. (Granted, I didn’t cross train at all before Indy, and that murdered me.)  That still shows how much I really worked hard for this race.

Now, if my health does a nose dive into the crapper again, I’m not going to be haunted by the race I never got to do. I did it, y’all. [Redacted] can never take that from me. If I find myself in the chemo chair again, and given [redacted], it could very well happen, I’ll tell everyone who’ll listen to me about that one time I ran a marathon a week after I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Stayed tune for the next post, where I provide my Glacier Ridge Trail recap. Why yes, I ran a 30K trail race 6 days after running a marathon.

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