Here’s a little handy tip I picked up a few days ago: if you’re limping your way to the start line, you should probably not be running a half marathon.
But you know, #yolo and stuff.
The truth is that I had no good reason for never having done the Waitakere Half before, especially if you consider it starts about 15 minutes from home and registration is really well priced at $40 (important if, like me, you try to fit every running event into your budget even if it means 50c 2-minute noodles for dinner for 2 weeks).
(Did I mention I’m freelancing now?)
I didn’t want to wait another year before doing this one so decided to go ahead and register, ignoring the fact that I’m barely fit enough to run to the letterbox and back. It’s pretty amazing how quickly my mind can go from “OH SURE, I can totally do this” as I get out of bed in the morning to standing near that start line wondering what in the name of Our Lady of Gaga I was thinking when I signed up.
To make matters worse, the morning had started with the realisation that I had bought the wrong M&Ms for the half (crunchy M&Ms, since when are crunchy M&Ms even a thing?).
How much worse could things get, really?
Well. A bit worse.
But at that moment by the start line, I couldn’t possibly have cared less about the pain. Or even the crunchy M&Ms.
(Seriously, though, like a cross between a regular M&M and a Malteser. Stop messing with my confectionery, confectionery manufacturers!)
There were hundreds of people on that track waiting to start and I was every bit as excited as they all were. And it started on a track! A track, you guys! That’s as close to the Olympics as I’m ever going to get. Not only that, it also finished in the same spot, with a full lap of the track, and the rest of the course included what looked like some pretty cute trail along the creek. The whole thing sounded like a neat bundle of awesome so the pain was going to have to wait until later because I wasn’t about to miss out on all that stuff.
But then we started running and my enthusiasm for the whole thing started to fade pretty quickly. That secret hope I had that things would magically just fix themselves disappeared and I quickly realised it wasn’t going to be the most fun I’d had on a Sunday morning. Not even 2km into the half and I was pulled over to the side trying to find a way to stretch the leg so it would stop hurting. From then on, I kept running and stopping, running and stopping, running and stopping, running and stopping, running and stopping, running and stopping, running and stopping. And if you think reading that repetition is annoying, try actually having to do it (no, don’t try, it’s stupid and painful and you shouldn’t try it).
At about kilometer 6, I decided that, since the half involved a second lap of the 10.5km course, I’d just turn into the stadium with the 11km runners and be done with it for the day. That sounded smart and responsible and totally like the right thing to do. So, obviously, when it came time to turn towards the finish line for the 11km run, I turned the other way and started the second lap for the half marathon.
The second lap wasn’t as scary as I had envisaged it (as in, I didn’t have to walk the entire damn thing). The downhills that are normally my BFFs were a killer and I actually found myself having to walk in segments where I’d normally try to pick up some speed (but you try pounding a sore shin down a concrete road and then tell me if that feels like a good time).
(Again, no, don’t try that. That’d be stupid. Stop listening to me.)
It wasn’t until around the 17km mark that I fully decided I was going to finish and not just call someone to come pick me up from the side of the road. I thought “whatever damage I’ll do to this leg today will have been done by now” (freelance writer, not freelance doctor. Keep that in mind.) and so I kept on running. Finishing with a lap of the track was actually pretty awesome, as far as reaching finish lines goes, and it was absolutely worth putting up with the stupid pain.
I didn’t break any course records (I know, weird) but I’m still happy I got out there and bagged another half. The weather was perfect for running, the course was great, the volunteers were super nice and I got to catch up with a really good bunch of people who are crazy enough to get up at stupid o’clock on Sunday for stuff like this. I’m definitely glad I didn’t wait until next year to do this one but I also can’t wait to do it again next year.
Now before you start rolling your eyes so much they disappear to the back of your head, let me tell you this: I came home determined to get smarter about this whole running thing.
I went to the doctor the following day (more on that once I actually get off my ass and go do the x-ray he asked for) and didn’t even run at all this week. Instead, I rested. I took painkillers. I ate things that made me happy. I tried not to obsess about running. I obsessed about running. I took some more painkillers. I considered a run. Then I didn’t run. I ate some more chocolate instead and tried not to cry myself to sleep every night over a potential break from running.
So there you go, all responsible stuff. Which totally gives me a pass to go run the Panmure King of the Mountain tomorrow. Obviously.