It has taken me two weeks to write about my fourth marathon experience. To be honest, it is not because I am ruminating over it but rather that I have already moved on in my mind.
I was a DNF.
Yes, a “did not finish”.
Don’t worry – no medical tent for me. I just walked off. Totally, just walked off the course. It was so easy. I wandered off down a side street, called my husband and told him where he could come and get me. Simple.
The decision to do that was also simple in some regards but nonetheless extremely difficult. As I said to my husband during one of our phone calls while I was still running, my decision is between how much my heart will ache from quitting compared to the heartache of knowing I was about to run my slowest marathon.
Let me take you back a few weeks. I have participated in an outstanding 20 week heart rate training marathon plan. During week 18 I completed an enhanced, anaerobic threshold run, the numbers from which informed myself and my coach that I could run a 3:45 marathon on a perfect day. My official BQ time needs to be 3:55 (although more likely around 3:52). I was extremely excited and a little bit in disbelief.
Two weeks before race day the weather turned and I started to get horrendous hayfever. I did everything I knew how to do to get it under control. I thought it would all be ok. The Saturday before race day I was so overwhelmed by it that I had to take a nap to reduce some of the effects. Perhaps that should have been the tip off. Perhaps someone I little less one-eyed, blinded by their training numbers, might have been able to see the writing on the wall.
Race day was warm and windy. Much warmer than the conditions I had trained in and also the wind was gusty from the north – hayfever wind. I popped an antihistamine and headed into town and the start line with a friend. I was so hopeful for his race after all his efforts as well. It was great to be hanging with him amongst all the excitement of a marathon start line. I love the atmosphere.
Long story short. At about 5k I was going slow but was ok with it. By 10k mark I knew my plan was out the window. At 15k I rang my hubbie to tell him not to hurry into the finish line as I would be a while. At 20k I started to think about whether I should just pull the pin. I was having trouble keeping my HR under control and my pace was awful. My nose wouldn’t stop running and my lungs were starting to hurt.
I did enjoy chatting to a New Yorker who was running his first marathon – that distracted me for a while.
The most heart wrenching part of the run was finding out that my brother, sister-in-law and their kids had come down to see me. My brother jumped into the race and ran with me for a few km’s encouraging me to keep going. He was the person who had inspired me to run in the first place. It hurt my heart to think that I would let him down by quitting.
After hugs with all the family including my husband and kids, I was on my own again running into the head wind at a slog of a pace. Despite a previous walk break my HR was still out of control. I was hating it. I had 14k of head wind left ahead of me. I just couldn’t stomach the thought. This is not my first time at the rodeo. I had pushed through adversity at my previous marathon.
I had nothing to prove to myself, or to anyone else.
So I decided not to. Running is my hobby. I do it for fun. I wasn’t having fun. I turned right, I started to walk, a looked back over my shoulder at the other runners still moving up the road, looking tired and defeated. I thought, “no thanks”. I am done. There are better ways to spend this Sunday morning.
I rang my coach. I rang my husband. My race was done. No regrets. It just wasn’t my day.
You can’t win them all.
I did get to enjoy the sting of disappointment. The ache of a breaking heart as all your effort and plans turned to nothing. As a dear friend told me, I deserved that sting, that pain. It was mine.
I was incredibly unwell for the week after the marathon so I have no regrets about my choice. I am now turning my mind to getting stronger and hopefully faster and will try again for a BQ next May. For now, it is back to enjoying running and having more time with my family.
Thanks for all your support.