Sadly this morning’s run did not go as well as I had hoped. In fact, I registered my very first DNF.
Making the decision to step out of the race was one of the hardest running decisions I have ever made, even though I’m sure I made the right choice. I hate quitting, and after all of the training leading up to today and the money spent on entering the race, pulling out was super disappointing. But, I think what really made it hard to stop was that I had been having so much fun.
Two years ago, I pulled back from running half marathons because it had stopped being fun some time before. I took some time off to change my focus to find the enjoyment in running again. That decision certainly paid off, because the Joggers World Half Marathon this morning was FUN.
There were over 1000 runners in this year’s race, which is a loop around the River Torrens that starts in front the Adelaide Oval, and finishes around the field on the inside.
My run started great. The plan was to stay on 1:50:00 pace (5:13 per km) until at least half-way, then see how I felt. I was a bit faster than that, but felt really great. I was comfortable, didn’t feel like I was pushing hard, had my breathing well under control, and felt strong. I was thanking the volunteers (because I could talk) and high-fiving kids along the route. I was happy and having fun.
The other part of my plan was to walk through the drink stops so that I could get a full cup of water. (It can be really hard to drink out of those plastic cups when you are running.) This was my first half without my fuel belt, so I wanted to ensure that I was getting enough fluids. As I approached the second station, I looked at my watch to see how much I slowed during the walk. I only lost about 3 seconds, which I quickly made back up so I was comfortable continuing to walk through the remaining drink stations.
At the 7km mark I was running on pace and about 50 seconds in front of where I needed to be. I slowed a bit making my way through the Botanic Gardens and over some undulations there, but still passed the half-way point in front of my goal and feeling very strong. Between 10 and 12km, it felt a bit like the poor weather might come in early, and while I was starting to slow, I still felt comfortable and confident. I planned to pick up the pace again at the 14km mark, which is just about when things started to go down hill.
Suddenly, the outside of my right knee felt tight and slightly like it was catching. I had flashback to my bursitis from several years ago (the most debilitating running injury I’ve ever had). I tried to mentally and physically shake it off. Discomforts happen during a run, sometimes you just have to move through them. But, I was starting to get a sharp pain and the feeling like I couldn’t move my leg properly. I walked for a bit and did some quick knee-ups. It felt okay, so I jogged a bit. I looked at my suddenly slowing pace then ignored it, this run was about seeing where I was – no need to smash anything out. I’m pretty sure I limped for about 500m. Then I walked/jogged for another kilometer or so. I kept trying to run in a different stride, hopping that the discomfort would go away. The more I tried to keep going, the more the discomfort flared into pain. After walking for a bit and trying not to cry – I was hugely frustrated – a man who recognized me from my local Parkrun stopped to walk with me and encouraged me to keep going.
I was grateful for the support, and conscious that we were impacting his time, so I tried jogging again. I made it about 1.5km before a slight incline really flared up the pain again and I knew I needed to stop. I’ve felt this same pain before, except last time I pushed through to finish the run and I ended up off my feet for 6 months. As much as I wanted to keep going, it wasn’t worth 6 months on the bench. Not now. Not when I was enjoying the run and have a goal to reach.
So I thanked my new mate (Kevin) for running with me and I stopped. I cried a bit. Then I took off my number (probably while crying but I’m not sure) and walked about 500m from where I was on the loop to the Oval where I saw first aid and cried some more. Eventually some friends found me, hugged me, and told me I made the right choice. And, while I know I did make the right choice, it is incredibly frustrating to have felt so fit, healthy, and injury free, with no indications of any lurking issues, to then suddenly have an issue mid-race.
But, if we can find a few takeaways from a run then it’s not a loss, even if it doesn’t go how we hope. So here are my takeaways:
- Overall, I think my new training plan was working – I was on track for a good time
- With a little less pressure and the right attitude, running was really fun
- I can manage a half marathon without carrying around a heavy fuel-belt
- Walking through the drink stations is not a time killer
- The running community is awesome – people you don’t really know will stop to encourage you to keep going
Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can get into the physio to see what kind of damage I’ve got. In the meantime, I’ll keep compression and ice on and hope for the best.