I ran my second half marathon in eight days today.
That’s insane on its own merits, but add in 30 mph winds and sideways rain, and it’s even crazier.
I ran the Indy Mini Half Marathon last weekend in Indianapolis with a bunch of friends. It was a great race: extraordinarily well organized, a wide variety of live music and cheer squads along the course, and a whole lot of fun. But it didn’t go not quite as planned, and my time of 2:36:19 left me wanting more. I had gone in with a goal of 2:25, but several factors conspired against that: four hours of fitful sleep, no caffeine, and hordes of walkers who had no intention of running a step and needed to be passed.
I know I ran my best, and my running partner Mark was fabulous – we ran the entire thing, minus the aid stations, and he kept me distracted with stories of French Revolution decapitations during the last mile when my calf was cramping. I had a great time and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
But my time bugged me. As I wrote yesterday, numbers can be very motivating, to the point that we’ll do crazy things.
Tuesday night, on the train home, I had a thought: I knew there were three local half marathons this weekend. Why not sneak off to one, alone, and get the vindication I craved?
I emailed my friend Beth, who wholeheartedly endorsed my plan as she gave great advice about embracing the experience and everything happening for a reason. She also said, “Maybe Indy was meant to kick you in the ass and set off a spark to run more, try harder, and do another race.”
So I did.
I looked at the weather forecast, which predicted low 50s with a chance of rain. That’s exactly what had been forecast in Indy, and it had worked out fine: the temperature had been perfect, and the mist had started around mile 7 and grown into a full-fledged shower by mile 9, but I had barely noticed.
I talked to David, my running guru and colleague, and he enthusiastically supported the idea, giving me more encouragement. So Thursday afternoon, hours before the deadline, I signed up for the Chicagoland Spring Half Marathon in Schaumburg.
Last night, I left a friend’s house early to get to sleep. My stomach was in knots, and the rain woke me a couple of times. When the alarm went off at 5:30, I drew back the curtains, gingerly willing against rain as I opened my eyes.
The windchill was 34, with 30 mph winds and mist, but it wasn’t pouring. I thought about crawling back under the covers and just enjoying my race shirt, but I had told a couple people my plans, and knew they’d hold me accountable. Or at least ask about it.
So I dressed – short sleeve shirt with arm warmers (which I never removed), long pants, and my rain/wind jacket.
I’ll recap the race itself later, but suffice it to say, the last three miles were the most difficult I’ve ever run. We ran directly into the 30 mph northerly headwind, along the corporate wasteland that is Martingale Road (essentially a frontage road for 290), with nothing to block the wind as it blew rain sideways into our faces. There was nothing to look at and distract us, and my hamstrings and calf took turns cramping every few steps. It took every ounce of determination, every mantra I’ve ever heard, every squish of my water-filled shoes to push forward, nervously eying my Garmin as it ticked closer to my goal, eroding the early miles I ran too fast with the 2:15 pace group.
But I finished, at 2:24:30ish (by my Garmin), sprinting the last couple hundred feet to make sure. I couldn’t even balance on one leg to remove the timing chip strapped around my ankle. I hobbled slowly through the finisher’s area, collected my medal and banana, and wandered to my car.
It may have been ugly, but I’m so glad I dragged myself out of bed and over the finish line. Vindication is cold, wet and miserable, but oh-so-sweet.