Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Illinois Marathon


On May 1st, my husband, our two dogs and myself all packed up our car and drove down to Champaign-Urbana for the Illinois Marathon. This was the second year for this event and it drew over 10,000 runners competing in the 5k, half marathon as well as the full marathon. I competed in the half marathon and the race provided a fairly competitive field this year as compared to last year.

In the inaugural year for this event it lack organization as well as some well thought out faux paus for a race. With a better organizational system this year, as well as I'm sure many considered suggestions by participants, I would say that this race was an overwhelming success. This year they offered a large area with Port-o-Potties that were separated away from the starting line, compared to last year when the toilets were facing directly into the racers at the starting line. At the aid stations along the course, they eliminated the bottled water that they were offering last year and stuck with the paper cups which in my opinion is a much safer and environmentally friendly choice. The post celebration party, or the 27th mile as it was referred to, was a nice addition to the perks of the race.

While the race was a great event and I'm grateful for being able to participate, my poor performance has left me with a bittersweet memory of this race.

For this particular race, I begun training in January and spent a total of 16 intense weeks focused on my physical progress. As I mentioned in my previous post, the stars all seemed to align for me creating a perfect storm of catastrophe. While I did feel this about four weeks before the race, I continued on still holding faith in myself and my ability to perform and run a great race.

The day before the race was awful for me, and not how I would typically spend my pre-race preparations. We had a long drive from Chicago with two dogs, checked into a stinky and somewhat dingy hotel room, our dogs had a meltdown as we attempted to leave the hotel to go to the expo so I ended up attending by myself where I endured traffic that left me feeling anxious and stressed, had a pre-race dinner from Panera that was less then scrumptious, couldn't sleep in the uncomfortable bed and feared that I was going to contract some type of virus if my skin touched the sheets, and I woke up about every hour or so either because I thought that I was going to oversleep or the dogs were bouncing around the room making all kinds of noise...so long story short i woke feeling as stressed and anxious as the day before.

When we got to the race I had a million things going through my mind. I found it difficult to focus on what my purpose for that morning was, and I kept thinking about how all of my joints and muscles felt some what tired and achy. Nonetheless, I started the race feeling alright for the first three miles. The weather was odd that morning. When I woke it was humid, but breezy and quite overcast. By the time mile three hit, it became warm and sunny with the lingering humidity that made my skin sticky and added extra perspiration.

By mile six I was ready to call it quits. I had completely checked out mentally and begun wondering what the hell I was doing. There was a battle going on inside my mind of the discomfort and how poorly I was running. I gave up on myself. I walked on several different occasions where I contemplated pulling out of the race entirely. After slowing my mile pace way down and walking every so often, I had allowed myself to fall so off pace that I just wanted it all to be over.

This was a new feeling for me. I've run many races in my life, and I had never felt so defeated. While I know that I'm in control of myself and my reactions to challenges, I felt as though there was nothing left inside of my spirit to finish the race. But I somehow gathered myself and crossed the finish line in 1:39:02. A whooping 9+minutes off of my race plan.

While this race was awful and I feel like I'd rather forget it then dwell upon it, today I told myself that it's important to take sometime to think about what happened. Learn from it. Move on.

It's important to remind myself that successes would lack any substantial meaning if they came easily. Worthy achievements do not just happen, they are earned from an honest days work.

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