At some point, much earlier this year, before randomness, injury, and life interfered (as it always tends to do somehow) I made a Faustian-esque bargain with the running gods that I would attempt to complete twelve half marathons, one per month, over the duration of 2015… in exchange for Ultimate Running Knowledge.
Or, maybe I just thought it would be an interesting idea… I’m not exactly sure how that all came about.
Anyhow, it may seem premature to be throwing in the towel and declaring my loss in this wager quite yet, there being two full months of the year left, but I’m going to tack up a virtual notice right here that after this past weekend’s completion of my sixth half marathon of the year, I think I’m officially done with halves for 2015.
Finding local races in November and December were going to be tricky, anyhow, and having run what I’d call my “slowest but most satisfying” race of the year on Saturday, I’m leaving this goal half fulfilled.
In 2015, in fact, I’ve run twelve races to date, but only six of them halves:
- Resolution Run 5k
- Disney Star Wars Half Marathon
- Edmonton Hypothermic Half Marathon
- Red Deer Hypothermic Half Marathon
- Edmonton Police Half Marathon
- Calgary Half Marathon
- Banff-Jasper Relay, Leg 6 (18.3k)
- Edmonton Canada Day 15k Race
- Color Me Rad 5k
- Melissa’s Road Race 10k
- Edmonton Fall Classic 10 Miler
- Kathy’s Run Half Marathon
…and have one more 5k on the docket for early December to make it a lucky thirteen on the year. That last 5k will tally my race distance for the year at a hair over 200 klicks. And all this while dealing with a side-lining calf-and-back soft-tissue injury that left me barely able to stand up straight in mid-July, let alone run.
But I pushed on… for whatever that effort is worth: Little to you, but immeasurable to me. Some of that recovery has been very much a solo effort, but there has also been a long list of patient and encouraging running partners who have nudged me along, pushed me to keep up one day and on another, to resume that vague quasi-leadership role I always seem to reluctantly fill. They know who they are and I doubt they want to be called out too publicly for that, but without any and all of them, I’d have probably resumed a couch-potato lifestyle over the summer and I definitely would not have been standing in the chill October air on Saturday morning waiting for the start of yet another half marathon.
It was not fast.
But sometimes races are about competing with others, and sometimes they are purely about competing with some vague and ineffable demon who is holding you back with self-doubt and the haunting knowledge that with any and every step that damnable pain could lurch back through your muscles and send your flailing into a month or two of random spasm and unending discomfort.
Not fast is not necessarily bad.
The air was chilly, and the hundred or so runners launched into a winding and somewhat convoluted route that toured some of the best trails in the south half of the city’s river valley. Fresh asphalt, pocked stretches of old re-purposed road, gravel paths through the trees deep with autumn leaves, four crossings of the river, a collection of rolling shale trails, a construction zone through a busy park, and finally a sprint across the dewy grass and through the finish gate.
Jenn, dealing with a similar leg-cramping issue as I over the summer, had registered in the race just a week prior to the date, and was even more reluctant than I about our hope for success. “Two-twenty,” I had joked to our small gaggle of run clubbers who were participating, and she shot me a dubious look before I could correct my jest: “I’ll just be happy to finish on my own two feet.” I had tracked along at her pace until about seventeen klicks in, but her injury was nagging again by that point and we’d lost ten or fifteen minutes to breaks so she could stretch out her nearly-cramping toes. I was reluctant to leave her behind, but there is a balance between being a supportive running partner, and dragging someone up to a pace where they risk further injury… and I was dabbling in the latter. So, we parted ways and, the clock already past two hours, I sprinted the last four klicks, feeling good, but feeling the total distance too, finishing with a clock time right around the two-twenty I had joked about.
Someone slung a purple participant medal around my neck. Claire dragged me to the food tent to get her a cupcake. Photos were snapped. Backs were slapped. And we watched the last few stragglers, including my abandoned training partner, roll in with near-tears of satisfied pain on their faces.
I went home. Hydrated. Ate. Relaxed, and I may have even dozed a little on the couch in the warmth of an autumn sunbeam while the dog slept nearby and the television babbled away in front of me: all roads eventually lead to the couch, it seems.
Did I gain Ultimate Running Knowledge in my quest to race this year? Probably not. I took on a stupidly ambitious goal, but a goal that inspired me to push myself harder than I would have otherwise dared, and a goal that (or so I’ve gleaned from various conversations) has inspired a few others to push themselves too, to run faster races, more races, marathons in faraway places or distances at spectacular paces. In that way it was not a failure: just a very high bar that turned out to be a little too hard to leap, what with a bum leg and all.
While the running gods may have won their bet this year, it’s not over: our game has a few more rounds and a few more inspired goals before I finally someday, far off in the future, hang up my shoes and settle back into the couch. Until then… I’ve got some thinking to do about next year.