On Saturday, I ran my third 10k race. I also ran the worst race of my running career. And for the first time, I found myself tempted to quit. But before we get to the details, let’s get to the most important thing – I did not quit, I finished and I remain thankful that I can run!
So let’s back up a bit…if you’ve been following the news, then I’m sure you’ve heard about the heatwave that took over the midwest/east coast this week. It was pretty crazy and definitely left me thankful for central A/C in my house. All week they were showing relief to come Saturday and while it was slightly better, the heatwave was still around and still present when you were outside for more than a minute or two.
The race was the Fitness for America Sports Festival Sunset 1/2 Marathon, 10k and 5k and while starting at 5:45pm may be better than middle of the day, it was still ridiculously hot and when the sun was blazing down on you (with no opportunity for shade), things only got worse. But honestly, what got me most about this race wasn’t the heat but the mental game that came with it.
When you’re used to running first thing in the morning or mid-day, nighttime running creates a whole new layer of challenges from motivation to fueling. Fueling definitely got me on this one. I found myself with a growling stomach at 4pm as I was getting ready to leave the house so I ate a quick rice cake and a couple dates with peanut butter hoping it was enough to fuel me but not so much it’d be sitting in my stomach during the race. I was wrong. And as I drank more water before to try to stay hydrated, I definitely felt it with every step and found myself fighting nausea through the majority of the race. I was thankful they had plenty of water stops along the 10k course but after grabbing a gatorade (instead of water) at one stop, my nausea only got worse.
While I’m an advocate of listening to your body – whether on your daily run or while running a race – and while that may mean walking, I should admit I have never walked during a race…until this one. It was hot and after running the first 2-3 miles, I needed to walk but as soon as I did that, things changed and I checked out. I was struggling and giving in to walking became all too easy after that, so not only did I walk, I walked several times. Mentally, I was sure I couldn’t finish. I was remembering a conversation with a patient I had Friday afternoon when she was telling me about her first race after being diagnosed with Lyme’s. She signed up to run a race with her son and as awful as she felt throughout the race, she finished because she was teaching her son to never give up. I knew I couldn’t give up either, that’s not who I am.
I tried to dig deep, I fought back the tears and I tried to live off every moment I was near spectators. While I was there with no one watching, I tried to soak up the energy of those around me anyway. When I finally hit 4 1/2 – 5 miles, the sun was letting up and the clouds were coming out to bring a bit of relief. I was trying to finish the last bit without walking but I was hurting. A runner passed me (pretty sure he was running the 1/2 marathon and was looping back) but as he ran by he turned his head, made eye contact and said “good job! keep going!” I started crying. He kept running by looking strong but they were the words I needed to hear and I knew they were just for me. In that moment I was re-energized, I was reminded of the community of runners that I’m so grateful to be a part and I was reminded that despite the challenge of this race, I am thankful that I can even run and be a part of this.
The volunteers on this course knew it was hard, they knew the heat wasn’t making things easy and every volunteer (and spectator) I passed that sent their encouraging words my way (or towards those around me) were so appreciated! And as I ran towards the finish line, tears in my eyes, trying to find every last bit of energy to come in strong, listening to cheers, I was thankful – that I finished, that I can run and that I didn’t give up!
Have you ever had a bad race where you felt like giving up?