Sunday, April 15, 2012

Running Scared

It has been eight months now since my first (and so far, my only) half marathon. At the end of that race, I did cross the finish line running, I even beat my projected time by 12 minutes. But because of the extreme pain I was in, it took everything I had to actually be running when I crossed that finish line. My knees felt like they were ready to give out any second.

Right after I crossed the finish line I found myself caught up in the crush of people who had crossed just before me. I had to walk around the outside of this little park carried forward by the crush of people making their way out of the area.  I felt like I was going to fall to the ground any second. When I finally got to a spot where I could sit down, I collapsed. After lying there for about 20 minutes, it was all I could do to get back to my feet and hobble out of the rest area.

My injured knees affected my running and my karate for at least six months after this race. It was extremely frustrating. Part of the frustration came from the fact that I felt I was well-prepared and ready for that race. I had actually run 20K three times that summer before the race. I felt quite sure I could do it. My main challenge was going to be achieving a time that I would be happy with.

Now here I am again, only a few weeks away from my next official half marathon race, the Ottawa Race Weekend, and I am running scared. My preparation has been carefully thought out. My training program has been going well; I am actually a bit ahead of my plan. I have been seeing a sports medicine specialist and she tells me that I am ready. My knee x-rays show some arthritis but nothing else. So everything physical looks good. Now I need to deal with the mental aspect of it.

As the race gets closer, I find myself almost looking for something to wrong. At karate class, standing in shikodachi, I find myself examining every little muscle twitch. During any of my runs I am hyper alert about how my knees and hips feel. Every time I feel anything I find myself almost holding my breath for a heartbeat or two thinking, am I about to drop to the ground? So far, not yet.

I guess my biggest fear is doing something to myself that will stop or even end all of my training. I work very hard at my karate training and I am now slowly getting back into Iaido, and of course my running - I love the simplicity of it. A long run is like an out of body experience. There are days that I just can't get home fast enough to jump into my running gear and get out on the road, to just leave everything else behind, hit the road and let it clear my mind. On my short runs I usually listen to music. Lately, on my long runs, I listen to audio books. But sometimes I don't even hear them, I just run and unwind.

This past Saturday, I went into the dojo early, donned my new training gear for Iaido, spent time swinging a sword, changed into my karate gi and spent an hour training and practicing my kata, then went home, changed into my running gear, downloaded a new book on my iPod and spent two hours on the road. It was a GREAT day. I don't want to lose this by injuring myself. But, I also don't want to give up on the challenge of the race.

Yes, I am scared by it. Am I going to do it? Yes. I have signed up for two half marathons this year and I even have dreams of running a full marathon. Crazy, I know but I have to do this.

First, I wanted to be able to call myself a runner and now I am. Next, I want to be able to call myself a marathon runner. Eventually, I want to be able to look at myself as a black belt marathon runner. What is wrong with that? When I lay it all out, it seems both a bit crazy and at the same time achievable.

I am 56 years old this year. I know I started late into this kind of thing. I am not sure in my own mind if I am pushing harder than I should to try and make up for lost and wasted time (there's that word again, TIME) or if I am just looking for the next challenge. At any rate, the result right now is that I am running scared.

I need to make it through this next race, healthy. I need this badly. So, scared or not, here I go, once more into the breech!

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