26.2 Miles of Mixed Emotions: The St. Pete Beach Classic

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First and foremost, the company I had this weekend was top-notch. This was the most time I had ever spent with my running buddy and I will admit, I was a bit worried at first. I mean, I have like eighty thousand things that can easily give me a facial twitch: sleeping in the cold, eating avocados, too late of a lunch, people making weird noises in their sleep, personal space, this list could easily get very long. But, her personality is just as vibrant and entertaining 48 hours into a trip as it is 2 miles into a run, so everything went off without a hitch. There was tons of laughter, great conversation, encouragement and of course support, meals shared that were fantastic and moments that I’ll store away forever. In life, there are just some things I would not, COULD not, do alone and this weekend was certainly one of them. Sitting here the day after, I could not be happier that I convinced her to join me and that thank goodness, she accepted this extremely crazy challenge.

Two months ago, when I signed up for the St. Pete Beach Classic “Individual Marathon Challenge”, I had a top-notch training plan in store for the two of us, with a two-a-days and long runs ranging from 9-15 miles. I was confident that we would go in there strong. I was determined not to let the holidays screw me. And, when I found out I was running the Boston Marathon, I was convinced that this was the perfect segway into my training for that. Then, on December 18, 2013 I broke my toe/foot, the Metatarsal bone in the 4th toe/foot (the toe next to my pinky toe). Because of the location of this break, there wasn’t much the doctor could do about it. He asked if I wanted an air cast and crutches but said it wouldn’t make too much of a difference. The best medicine was to wrap it for 2-3 weeks with no running and then if I absolutely had to get back at it, just learn to cope with the pain. I said screw the crutches, I’ve got shit to do and walked out of there feeling broken-hearted and like I wanted to punch someone in the face.

I let two and a half weeks go by and decided that there was no more resting for me, otherwise, I was toast at this race. I managed to squeeze in one lone run of 10 miles, yes just one, and one decent week of running the week prior to the race. I tried to be a really good sport but I was nervous going into this. When I arrived Friday, I said my prayers to myself, just hoping I could keep it together.

Saturday morning was the 10K which was followed shortly by the 5K. I ran better than I thought I could and although the pain was evident, my toe felt alright. Come the 5K, things seem to go down hill fast and by the end of the race, I was wincing in pain, just praying that I could keep going. Which I did, and my time was respectable considering but still disappointing to me. I knew Allison could have made a leap for the finish, I could tell she was going strong, but she’s die-hard loyal and stayed by my side till the finish. We had a nice break until the beach fun run which was 3.8 miles. I iced my foot by literally sticking it into a bucket of ice, we went and got fantastic massages from some place in the ghetto and at that point I felt pretty optimistic. And I’ll admit, the beach run was horrible for my foot, even though it was pretty packed down, the traction was different but I was so wrapped up in my surroundings, I didn’t really care. The sunset was before us as well as the water next to us and as I reached the finish line, about a half of a mile before, I just started crying, I just couldn’t contain it anymore. No one noticed, thank god, because I was sweating so bad. It was a mix of pain and happiness. It was like everything pouring out. By the time I got to the finish I had pulled myself together, just happy to be done. Those moments to me are quiet secrets, ones I never share. Truth be told, I cry a lot near finish lines, I feel so blessed to be alive.

The next day was the half marathon, which was my complete and utter unraveling. By mile one, I was in tremendous pain and every step hurt. Every. Single. Step. My music and the pacer kept me distracted but my gait was off, everything felt wrong and I couldn’t keep a rhythm. By mile six I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. At mile 8 Allison, which came back towards the start and finish line, asked if I wanted to go back, a thought that had never crossed my mind. All I could think of was “Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.” I kept saying that again and again to myself. I said no, I didn’t fly all the way down here to quit, and I continued down the road like a hobbling dummy. At mile 10 I felt relieved, there wasn’t that much left, by mile 11, there were some little girls cheering that made me smile and somehow, someway, I managed my way to the finish and with my favorite song playing and Nike commercials in mind, dying at that point from the pain, I sprinted to the end, I just needed it to be over. I wanted to sit on the ground and weep. I wanted to kill everyone. I wanted to hug Allison but I was too sweaty. I wanted to be alone and with everyone all at the same time. I felt like someone had just killed all my hopes and dreams.

And then I took a shower.

The best thing about having someone by your side who is rational and inspiring is that they talk you out of the irrational places. With a total “marathon” time of 4:28, I still completed 26.2 miles over a weekend with a broken bone in my foot, an injury that just happened 4 weeks ago. And if I can pull myself through something like this, I can probably do anything. If it wasn’t for her logic, I would still be beating myself up over this weekend, but I know, after lots of encouragement from my dear friend, that I did something great. WE did something great. I know it wasn’t easy for her either. I could see her having a hard time as well in the half. But her persistence is something out of the movies. She never ever quits. It’s remarkable to watch.

I could not have done this alone. So although I sit here with a swollen toe, I’m alive with memories and happiness. I know I have said this a million zillion times but I am SO lucky. SO lucky. To be in the presence of such greatness. Her will is powerful. I’m blessed to be a part of it.

 

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