The Race is Long

No Half Measures

Last Sunday, I raced a half. It’s been a while since I’ve done a race and it’s also been nearly a year since I did a 21k. Long efforts for me topped at 15k prior to this season of training.

Technically, I didn’t run the half. I used somebody else’s bib, a 21k no-show’s number. I was pretty psyched to run too. My running has been going ever so slightly better than I expected despite my usual problems, so I really wanted to see how I was going to do on a half-marathon.

The day before the run, I did an easy workout in the gym. I had a busy day planned and I have been complaining of an odd chest pain the whole week but otherwise, I was feeling strong. So, I took it easy, thinking that my effort and energy will be called upon the next morning. Prophetic thoughts.

Saturday evening, I went to my sister’s. I was going to stay over so we can ride together to the event. The run was pretty early and it would save on time if we’d leave from one place. That evening, I was feeling a bit stiff and had some lower back pain so, I did a spot of stretching before I hit the sack.

I woke and could not stand up straight.

It was not panic inducing but I was perplexed. My back hurt; I couldn’t straighten up. I was slightly bent at the waist. I stretched and stretched but no joy. My sister says to me, “If you can’t do it, don’t go.” Whut? Naturally, I thought to myself, shit, I’ve had worse. So, off we went.

On the walk to the starting line, I just kept praying that I was getting warmed up, that somehow, my hams and my back would loosen up and the pain will ease. Anyway, I tried not to think about it as the gun went off.

Going through the first few kilometers, I thought to myself, this isn’t so bad. I can hack this. The first 9k is pretty flat, then up we go through a flyover then down to another long flat stretch. I didn’t have a problem going up. My back hurt and that was that, I was dealing. The descent, however, jarred me to tears.

I’ve been running for how many years now and I don’t remember ever tearing up because of pain. Hell, count in the other sports that I did. The downslope of the flyover felt like my lower spine and my hips and legs were being detached from my upper body. Talk about independent suspension!

Things didn’t improve when I got off the flyover and set foot on flat ground. Now each stride just hurt. I slowed down to a gentle jog, I was afraid to walk. I approached the nearest aid station only to be disappointed at what they had in terms of medical aid, so I just kept on.

I was feeling like shit and the corner right to my village gate was approaching. I had serious thoughts of hotfooting it home; it was a measly 600m to my doorstep. But then, the dratted stubbornness kicked in.  I will finish what I started even if I have to walk it.

I wasn’t walking yet at this point. Shockingly. And I didn’t want to start; so, I started counting lamp posts and bargaining. Before I knew it, I was at last major turn around, about 13k or so. At the next aid station, I got some liniment for my back.

The run back up the flyover was slow but steady and ultimately, quite a booster. Here, I caught up to the rest of the back-of-the-packers who left me behind as I slowed down. I took the down slope carefully, not wanting to risk hurting my back further.

In the end I was more aware of the blisters on the soles of my feet than my back pain. I finished the half-marathon and staggered to the sidewalk.

It has been several days since and I still have a hard time standing up straight; but at least I can, now. As of Wednesday, I could not put my back flat against the wall without pushing against something.

I see myself doing more half-marathons in the immediate future; and hopefully, with my back not trying to outrun me.


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