On Saturday I found myself at a crossroads. After two plus months of training, my feet were pounding the uptown Charlotte pavement as a runner in the Corporate Cup Half Marathon and 5k. Rounding the three mile marker I had two choices: I could play it safe, heed the warning ache in my right knee and turn off towards the 5k finish line; or, I could go left and push myself until I was physically unable to keep moving. I knew going in there was no chance I could finish — so I could choose to finish something that day, or choose to simply push my personal limits.
If I could write this story the way I wished it had gone, I would recount a tale in which I found myself pulling to the right and wanting desperately to end the run. But, at the last minute, I dug deep into my mental reserves and reached for a strength of will I hadn’t even known I possessed. Within a few feet of the 5k finish I would have forcibly jerked myself to the left and just. kept. going. With my breath coming fast and my legs feeling strong I would have put my head down and ran like I’d never run before. I would have suddenly broke through my reverie at mile marker 10 and realized the pain that had kept me playing it safe at two and three miles was just a mental block. I would have crossed the finish much to my own (and everyone elses’) surprise and beamed while they placed the blue and silver medal around my neck. I would know without a doubt that I was made to be a runner.
The reality was a lot less glamorous. As you may have already guessed, I decided to play it safe and cross the 5k finish in a respectable 35:51. I placed 389/864 for my gender and 865/1591 overall. This wasn’t my first 5k, or my best (in 2011 I ran a similar race in 32:50), but it was enough for me that I finished, and finished without limping off the track like I did after the Krispy Kreme incident a month ago.
My goal now is to keep up my training and perhaps be a little more realistic. Going from the occasional two mile run to a full-fledged, long-distance runner in two months was probably overly-ambitious. For now I’ll keep doing my daily physical therapy exercises to strengthen my knee and force my IT band into submission. I have started a collage on my fridge of upcoming races to keep me motivated. Next year I’m determined I will cross that half marathon finish line. I will get a medal, and I won’t give up.