I should have known……when my plantar fasciitis flared up a week before my marathon.
I should have known…..when I was awake for two hours with cramping feet the night before my marathon.
But hope springs eternal!
I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon at the urging of a friend who lives two blocks away from mile 8. He and his daughter encouraged me to come stay with them. Twin Cities is billed as one of the prettiest urban marathons, and I had the opportunity to stay with friends. So I signed up.
I’ve known Jim for years, but we always meet at dance events and rarely have time to just visit, so this was a treat. Jim was a runner for years, but never long distances. A recent hip replacement meant his running days were over, but thankfully not dancing.
Saturday we headed for the Expo, which turned out to be an eye-opening event for Jim. He had no idea it would be so big, or that there would be so much merchandise. I confidently headed to pick up my race packet, and then headed to the one stop I knew I had to make: KT Tape. Thanks to short lines, I soon had my left foot taped up to deal with the plantar fasciitis. On the way out I veered over to running apparel, my eye caught by a bright yellow jacket that should be visible in the darkest of nights. The Twin Cities Marathon logo was just a bonus.
The rest of the day was spent quietly: both Jim and I, it turns out, can be entertained for hours doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku! Then an early dinner, and early to bed, at least for me.
I popped up at 1 am with one foot cramping. I grabbed my water bottle, drank a couple of slugs, took some magnesium, and tried to get back to sleep. The foot kept cramping. So I tried meditating it to sleep – yup, I’ll try anything in a crisis. And then the other foot started. I got up, drank some more, walked around a bit, and got back in bed. I directed calming thoughts towards my extremities and eventually dropped off.
The next morning I felt great, and we headed off to the start, or at least a few blocks away where I was dropped off. The weather was perfect: 45 degrees and partly cloudy.
By 8 am we were off, and everything was going well. I was feeling strong and the PF wasn’t bothering me at all. When I reached mile 8, I was happy to offload my jacket with Jim and carried on. By mile 12, the balls of my feet were aching. Now this is a problem I’ve had in the past two years, usually when I get to mile 17 or so in a race, or mile 21 when training. My podiatrist couldn’t offer any solutions last year other than new orthotics. I briefly considered stopping, but decided I’d soldiered through this problem before and could do so again.
By mile 15, in addition to feet that were really, really hurting, my feet and legs started cramping intermittently. As I reached mile 17, I decided I would walk a lot more. We had passed all the beautiful lakes at this point and were on the river road, headed to the point where we cross over and take the river road towards St. Paul.
As I was running downhill under a bridge, a particularly severe cramp caused my foot to buckle under me, and I slammed down onto the ground. OK, Universe, I get the message: enough.
I couldn’t get up unaided because my feet were cramping so badly, so one volunteer lifted me and helped me over to the side, where another started cleaning up all the cuts on hands and elbows. When I was able to, I got up and stretched the feet and legs until the cramping eased, then called Jim to come pick me up.
In the meantime, a policeman had come by to make sure I was OK, to get my bib number so he could report it to the medics. He kept asking me if I wanted one of them to come over, but I insisted I didn’t.
Five minutes later, we hear sirens down the road, and see the EMTs and a fire engine roar up. The volunteer and I chatted about it, wondering what had happened up there. Next thing I know, they are running down the hill toward me! It seems that someone had said or heard the words ‘chest pain’, and so they dispatched the cavalry. After assuring everyone I was fine and didn’t need anything, I had a sudden inspiration: since I wasn’t going to get a finish line photo (or medal or shirt), would they mind if I got my picture now? Everyone obliged, and so I got my finish line photo.
I know I was in shock, and I didn’t really let myself feel again until my flight landed in Houston the next day. That’s when the tears fell.
As I deal with the aftermath, the scrapes and bruises, the whiplash in my neck, I’m facing feelings of despair, of failure, of fear that I will never again be able to complete a marathon. I’m feeling old, over the hill, and worthless. Until I remember that this was just one of many races (marathon #9), that none of them were easy, and that during this one, one too many circumstances conspired to create a different end for me: a Did Not Finish. Maybe I should have known, maybe I shouldn’t have started. But if I had it to do over again, I would still take that DNF over a DNS!