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!


  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.

  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.

  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...!

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

  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.

  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.

  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.