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Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Posted Jan 22 2009 3:56pm
I've been working hard with my running and nutrition, and it's definitely paying off.

I traveled to Arizona this weekend for PF Chang's Rock N Roll Half Marathon. My goal was to finish in under two hours. After all, I ran the City of Angels Half Marathon in 2:06:42, and a few weeks ago, I did an 11-mile run at a 9:30 per mile pace.

Then again, things don't always go perfectly as planned on race day.

This is me and my friend Jessica who roadtripped with me from Los Angeles to Phoenix, early on race day.

I was wearing a race bib on my back with "2:00" on it. I planned to run with the 2-hour pace group. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the start, and when we finally found it, there were just thousands upon thousands of people there. I got into the start corral, but could get nowhere near the 2-hour pace group. However, I could see their wooden stick with "2:00" on it and planned to keep it in sight and catch up in a couple of miles.

Finally, our corral is allowed through the start line. It's a mass of people, and fortunately, I was in a corral with people who run about my pace, so I didn't have to dodge around walkers or get knocked over by misplaced Kenyans aiming for a world record.

The first mile went well. I knew I had to keep a 9:10 per mile pace to finish in under 2 hours. The second went well. Right on pace. The bands were entertaining, and every so often there was a crowd cheering us on. Then during the third mile, I felt something under my feet, particularly my left foot. It was annoying, kind of burning, like a part of my sock that was bunched up. I ran through the pain. But it got worse. I gritted my teeth and kept on running.

Finally, at mile seven, I thought to myself, I need to do something about this sock! I stopped at the side of the road, pulled off my shoe, and to my dismay, my sock was perfectly stretched out over my foot. I stretched out my toes and discovered the issue: My plantar fasciitis was acting up at an inopportune moment. Was it the relatively new shoes? I had worn them for three runs, though they were all relatively short. Or could it be my forgetting to take my usual ibuprofen in the chaos of race morning?

I quickly laced up my shoe, stood up, muttered under my breath, "Go girl go!" and took off. The pain got worse as I went, and by mile eight I could feel absolute agony in the bottom of both feet. I found that by flexing my toes with each step that the pain would subside slightly.

Unfortunately, the discomfort of my feet slowed my pace to 9:30-9:40 per mile. By now I lost sight of the pink "2:00" sign. I pushed on, occasionally gritting my teeth. If this happened on marathon day (which is in two weeks), I'd have to drop out. But this is only a half marathon. And I have to push on.

Adding to the annoyance of the pain in my feet, I had the "2:00" bib on my back. Random people would ask me if I was the pace group leader (obviously not!) and if I was on pace. Finally, one girl at mile 11 inquired, and I knew that 2 hours was a lost cause. As she ran by me, I reached to my back, pulled off the safety pins, and at the next water stop wadded up the pink "2:00" bib and threw it in the trash.

This is one of those races that just wasn't fun for me because of the pain. I had to keep reminding myself, only three more miles, only two miles, only 2 kilometers, only a quarter of a mile, and so forth. As some put it, it's one of those races where we "dig deep", to find the emotional energy to just get through. I remind myself of the things I've accomplished and survived through -- medical school, a not-so-happy existence as a high school nerd, a divorce, moving to a city where I knew no one (Boston) and finding friends and a happy existence -- and know that if I could get through those things, I can sure trudge through one more painful mile of a race.

My finishing time was 2:03:24. I didn't meet my goal, but it's a personal record for me for a half marathon. And I'm still proud of that performance, knowing that under better conditions, I can go even faster.
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