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just another 20-something stumbling through life, one mile at a time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

why NWM was the worst thing i've ever done, and why i can't live without running

it's the day after my first half marathon and physically i'm ok. i admitted before i wasn't in great shape (i realized i only got two runs in the month before...oops!) but i knew the running part wasn't going to be my biggest challenge. i had huge, and some would say irrational, fears of tripping and being trampled. while that didn't happen, by fears were not unjustified.

the race was as just as miserable, even worse at times, as i thought it would be. i basically wanted to cry the whole time. it was the biggest NWM to date, with over 25,000 runners. majority are halfers, with only about 6,000 full marathoners (i think, numbers may be off but that is a ballpark figure). i almost had a panic attack getting to my start corral; there were people everywhere, runners and spectators alike, milling about and stopping to take pictures. it's pre-dawn so it's hard to see (even with street lights and some additional lighting near the start there are always dark pockets that are difficult for me to see). it's chaotic to say the least. i managed to find a volunteer to ask where i needed to be, but she wasn't quite sure. she was letting people though the gate who were a slower start time than myself. another team in training person (not in my group, from central california chapter) also had the same color band as me and we both were a bit lost. another volunteer pointed to where we needed to go, but given my limited peripheral vision, i didn't see where he was pointing amidst the chaos. luckily i was able to follow the TNT guy to our start. it helped he was taller than most women and had decorated his shirt with metallic letters. 

ok, made it to the start corral. i took a couple of breaths and looked around me. it's hard not to feel claustrophobic with a sea of people in front of you, and a sea quickly filling up behind you. i took some pictures, tweeted, texted my sleeping boyfriend, and did my best to keep calm. there are people giving pep talks and trying to get the crowd stretched and warmed up over the sound system, pumping music and whoo-ing all over, but i'm just thinking "just make it through the initial rush." i would later learn that it doesn't really thin out much. the next 13.65 (according to my runkeeper app, since i was a bit way from the official start line) would be a battle- i had to constantly scan to try not to trip or bump into anyone. it was an impossible feat, and i stopped counting how many "i'm sorry"s i doled out and flat tires given after mile 2. i wasn't prepared for that. runners weaving through were a nightmare for me because to me, they were literally coming out from no where. i was so frustrated because i couldn't run at my own pace, instead being cautious and slow and getting boxed in. i had a hard time trying to pass others and so i ended up running a much slower race than i'd liked. i never got my own stride going. 

another thing i was worried about were the water stops. fortunately, they are impossible to miss. unfortunately, i can't easily make my way to them and grabbing a cup and run away. so that was another delay for me. but i felt well hydrated and fueled for the race, which is the important part.

though i have lived in the bay area for eight years, i do not know san francisco that well. outside of downtown (and walking distances of bart stations) i am pretty much a tourist. that being said, i was sort of aware of the course but i didn't really know it. i've heard about the hills, which never scared me. i'm weird because i loooove hills. in my cross country days i won many races by killing it on the hills. one of my strategies was to pass up people on the hills, make up some ground that way. i did not take into account the groups of five or six women who would walk up the hill side by side. or the barely running people who probably could've walked faster. as i already mentioned, i couldn't really weave through the crowds. the hills weren't hard for me and i felt so restrained. talk about suckage. at some point in the race, around mile 6, i kinda had to give up being polite and cautious. i tried to pass up people, said "sorry!" as i almost always knocked into someone one one side. the one big hill of the course i heard a woman say "we're walking just as fast as people running" which i am guessing was in response to some frustrated runner trying to get around her. i really wanted to yell out "no, lady! some of us want to run faster but you and your walking buddies are blocking the who freakin' path!" this was my first race so i don't know of any race etiquette, but isn't there some unwritten code for runners and walkers on the same course? like walkers, get the fuck out of the way? or shouldn't there be? ok, in a much nicer way, shouldn't there be an understood rule that if you need to walk then move to the side so that there is a clear moving path for runners in the middle, or move to the right and people can run up the left. that sort of thing. also, don't be more than three across or something.  i totally understand if you need to walk- i did for a brief time- but try to run slowly to the side and walk. just don't stop when you're dead center of the course and people are right behind you.

at mile 7 i started to feel a blister on my right foot. my big toe, actually. i couldn't understand how or why, since i wasn't using new socks or new shoes and i've never had a blister in the spot before. i have very rarely gotten blisters in the past, so this was just the worst timing ever. by mile 8 i wanted to stop and cry in a ball on the side of the road. i felt so beaten, emotionally. blind girl running seemed like the stupidest thing ever. now a blister was making itself head with every step, and even though i tried not to, my gait was being altered and so i could feel a dull ache in my knee (which, for the record, was my "good" knee). i thought about why i was doing this, about my dad and the honorees i've met and learned about in the past 18 months, about that damn little blue box, and i realized i had to keep going. it wasn't about running a stupid 13.1 mile race, it was proving myself that no matter what, i'm still a runner. being a runner is one of my earliest identifiers and first loves, i wasn't going to let rp take it way from me just yet. and so i kept running. eventually the blister became a nonissue (thanks adrenaline!) and i let my thoughts wander for a bit. i spent most of the race trying to focus on the people around me that i couldn't enjoy it. by mile 12 i felt like i could run forever. just like forrest gump. just keep running. runner's high i guess, but a completely different one than i have ever experienced before. it was more of a surrender to the run than a triumph over pain. i felt achy all over, my lower back and shoulders especially. my feet hurt with every step. i felt tired, since i couldn't fall asleep before midnight (running on four hours of sleep probably wasn't the best idea). but in that moment running was my everything. maybe i thought i could run the pain and stress away, i could run sickness and bad things away. at that moment i felt like if i stopped running i would stop breathing. i realized that no matter if battle injury after injury, or if life sometimes gets too busy for me to run, i am a runner. i will always be a runner. running is like oxygen to me. i need it in my life. that brief moment of revelation is one of two redeeming factors of the race. 

the second? 

yeah, it's my superficial reason. but it's my first (hopefully not last) piece of tiffany and i like that i got it for myself. even though i pretty much hated every minute of this race, i want to do it again next year. because i am a crazy runner and because i want to do the full. and because i want to start my own NWM tiffany collection.

i crossed the finish line at 2:44:23, my official finish time was 2:36:50. i did better and worse than i expected: i ran more than i thought i would (i thought i would run about 8 miles, run/walk 5. i ran about 11 miles and ran/walked about 2) but my overall time and pace was slower than my normal speed. i now know that i really do need a guide to run with, and perhaps a sign on my back to let other runner's know i can't see them from the sides (so don't try to cut me off, i might trip you on accident!). also, i will actually train and try to set a PR. i'm pretty confident with a little bit of effort, and a guide, i can make it closer to 2:00:00. plus, it took me about half an hour to get through the finisher's chute. it was a mob with people looking for each other, taking pictures, trying to get all the swag...another visually impaired nightmare. i got my necklace, my shirt, and some food some how (even got a picture with an SF fireman, tuxedo suited up handing out those tiffany boxes). a little further away from the madness i met up with a friend, which i was eternally grateful for to see a familiar face. he lives close to golden gate park and i really appreciated seeing someone after that emotional and hellish morning. he also helped me find my shuttle bus, which i'm pretty sure i wouldn't have been able to do on my own.  today i feel fine, just general soreness that was to be expected. i took the day off from work and so i've been pretty lazy, eating as much as i can (i never seem to feel full!) and blogging. i'll have to wait until that ugly blister heals before i can get into the groove of running again, this time for me and not for training. i lost motivation long ago with the pressure of needing to train that i forgot i just need to run. so my new goal is run when i need to, which is whenever i feel like it. and to find a race partner for my first full, hopefully sometime in march or april. i'll be accepting applications now ;)

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