Monday, November 20, 2006

I must get back

to normal life (no literary news till later tonight, I think), but I can't do it without posting briefly about the whole half-marathon experience in Philadelphia this weekend. It was delightful if painful, various family members were immensely supportive and the whole experience makes me even more determined to run a marathon in 2007.

The race itself was interesting. I pulled a muscle in my thigh three weeks ago, and if this hadn't been my first long(ish) race I would definitely have taken some weeks totally off from running and canceled the race plans. It has been moderately to acutely painful, and I knew the race would be totally doable but perhaps not very enjoyable & certainly rather slower than I had imagined.

So I ran with my training partners for the first four miles or so, despite the unpleasant feeling that a vise was slowly closing in around my thigh--my mother and sister-in-law were stationed around mile 4 and I knew they would like to see us all go by together, plus it would be worrying to them if I was trailing behind and limping. After that I fell back to a slower pace and just concentrated on getting myself through.

The thing that surprised me was how mentally tough the whole thing was. Not the running itself--my training has been very good, the painful two-loops-in-Central-Park-with-agonizing-pulled-muscle twelve-mile run (this was two weeks ago) proved to me that I could do the race itself under circumstances even a bit more adverse than they actually were. Especially because I was running at a fairly easy pace, I never thought for a minute that I wouldn't finish, though the spirit was more one of grim determination than actual enjoyment.

But from mile 4 to mile 10 I had far too much time to contemplate the depressing time result I was likely to achieve. It is my firm belief that my blog is not the place to indulge in self-loathing and self-criticism, such things should only be visited in private (and preferably not at all, of course), but we all have quite a bit of such things roiling around inside of us (academia is a breeding-ground for these things!) and I fell absolutely into the grip of a feeling that reminded me of how I felt when I couldn't find a publisher for my first novel--a sense that though I was doing everything I could, and though I certainly wouldn't let the general horribleness of things stop me from seeing the project through to the bitter end, and though nobody would possibly reproach me as much as I would reproach myself for the general unsatisfactoriness of the present state of affairs, and though my self-dissatisfaction was completely unreasonable and irrational and I would chide and tease a friend or a student out of such thoughts and into a more positive way of thinking, there was no doubt of my being very, very unhappy with myself.

And then it all miraculously changed--at the ten-mile marker, I actually looked properly at the clock and realized the time was still in the 1:40s and that if I kept plugging away even at my current pitifully slow pace I would have a respectable finish time that I could live with. And I did--I came in about five minutes after my training partners, with a clock time of 2:17:14 and a chip time of 2:12:18 (that's the time from when you actually crossed the start rather than when the start signal went off--huge throngs of people struggling to get across...). Which is just over a ten-minute pace--I was hoping for more like 9:30, but 10:05-6 I can totally live with, especially under the circumstances (afterwards I could barely walk, and indeed it is going to take many weeks of rest and recovery to shake this injury).

On the bright side, I am more determined than ever to run a marathon in 2007, and it was interesting running at this slower pace--I am confident that I could do a marathon at exactly that pace (I mean, I hope I could do it faster--4:15! and that's just for the first one, I feel certain that with the right training I could do one under four hours...--but now I know I could do it with ten-minute miles). So that is valuable in itself.

There is going to be a lot of Epsom salt in my future!

8 comments:

  1. Jenny: The answer to muscular pain is the miraculous Lawang oil (it's from an Indonesian tree). It costs the earth but goes a long way, as you are bent upon doing. Many athletes swear by it.

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  2. I forgot to say congratulations. You are truly a wonder woman. Please don't set your sights on the north face of the Eiger in winter.

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  3. Last thought on this, I swear, but I have to say I firmly believe that running is more about the mental part of it than anything else and I do think it has shown me how to get through the most unbearable periods of my life, including, of course, those dark moments at the beginning of grad school when I thought I would never make it this far. Congratulations again! You're an inspiration for all of us amateur running readers...!

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  4. Wow. I'm dead impressed. But take care of that thigh!

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  5. Congratulations from me as well. I have absolutely no intention of doing anything quite so mad, but it's these mad passions that make us so interesting and unique. And what a terrific model for running through and beyond adversity. Next time warn us; you'll be able to hear our cheers.

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  6. Have to say congats as well...very good article...infomational for sure...looking forward to reading some more posts placed on this topic...will be checking this page again..have saved in favorites and bookmarked...thanks

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  7. Warm congratulations! What an incredible feat, Jenny, to complete the run even with injury... I hope you get to curl up with many, many good novels as you recuperate.

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  8. I loved reading this post, Jenny. I have done 5 miles only, on a fairly regular basis but I quite understand that is nothing in running terms. I mention it only because I can appreciate what you write about the mental toughness -- this is what I always lacked to be able regularly to run longer distances.
    I did enjoy reading your post a great deal, quite inspirational, and I am so pleased you broke through that barrier and got such a great time despite the injury. What a heroine.
    One reason I love running, and the philosophy of running, is the fact that you are competing against yourself, your own desires vs reality, etc.
    Well done.

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