Hello, my friends.
Many of you know that in 2019, I had to defer my entry in the Flying Pig Half Marathon as I worked through some mystery symptoms and found my way to a diagnosis for my chronic illness. When I made that choice, a vague fear of not making it to the starting line in 2020 lingered. Would I get injured again? Would my symptoms worsen to the point that training became impossible?
Never in any of my anxiety’s wildest predictions for my 2020 race did I imagine a pandemic would see the race deferred not just for me, but for all of us. The running community is full of posts asking how to keep up the motivation, how to move forward, when your race has been cancelled or pushed back. It’s beginning to look like the rest of 2020 might be a Year without Races.
I have mourned the lost opportunities with my running friends, but my relationship to this twice-deferred starting line is a bit different.
In truth, I was relieved to get that email.
I started the year off strong, excited to train and be able to train. And then, I got shin splints. Recovered from those only to find my knee bothering me again, and worse than before. Training was going poorly, and I put off going to the doctor for my knee again because I’d spent so very much of 2019 in the doctor’s office. I stretched and hoped and promised myself I’d go back to PT if the knee didn’t improve soon. I threw myself into other forms of cardio, like cycling and low impact workouts.
And then, COVID-19 became a mounting concern in the US. My knee was feeling a lot better, but now the option to return to my doctor seemed selfish, inappropriate. Why waste her time with my runner’s knee when there was a real medical crisis facing us?
So, March rolled around and I had made a decision. I wouldn’t defer my race again. The half-marathon has begun to hang over my head, like this ever moving goalpost. I didn’t want to push it to 2021, to keep starting and failing to train. I would train as best I could, and I would start the race, whether I finished it or not. It would be over, it would be done, and I could move on to new goals and forms of activity.
Races started getting cancelled while I did kickboxing workouts in my apartment, cutting out the jumps for low-impact modifications. I told myself my cardio fitness was strong, that I was still training. But when I saw that races as far out as May were being cancelled, I felt… hope? Not that my race date would remain, but that it would be cancelled, too. That I could be let off the hook, that I wouldn’t have to push myself to the 13.1 I wasn’t sure my body was built to handle.
My email came, laying out my options. Run the distance virtually, run the rescheduled race in October, or let it linger another year until 2021.
The decision was easy. I chose the Pig because it’s in my hometown, and the crowds there are some of the most fun, energetic ones around. A virtual race would have all of the grueling efforts to run 13.1 miles with none of the piggy fun and Cincinnati skyline. But I also didn’t like the idea of putting another full year between me and this goal.
|My 10K Finisher Photo from 2018
And so, in theory, I will run my half marathon in October, incidentally the same weekend my other big plan of the summer (Glass Cannon Live) has been rescheduled for. I remain uncertain if either of these things will come to pass, but I am carefully, cautiously, thinking about what my next training cycle will look like.
In truth, since I deferred in 2019, I’d been doubting myself, wondering if maybe my body just wasn’t built for distance.
And then, the 2020 round of Potterhead Running Club Quidditch began, and I found myself on the Hufflepuff house team. We pushed, amazingly, into second place on the first day of the race and HELD OUR OWN as the days went by.
I somehow began doing 15 miles a day (combinations of walking and running), the maximum allowed. Our team was about to make history, and I had to give everything I had. If we were going to lose that second place spot, it would not be because I had done a mile less than what I was capable of.
What I learned is I can keep walking and running if I’m determined. If I’ve got the goal there in front of me. My legs were tired as we began our push to finish ahead of the Gryffindor team and if second place hadn’t been on the line, I wouldn’t have tried to keep going. But, cheering alongside my team, I even added in spurts of running as I tried to rack up enough miles to push us over the finish.
I went home shocked–I have never capped three days in a row before–and proud. And realizing that 13.1 miles in one go was looking less and less scary, since I’d done 15 miles THREE DAYS IN A ROW and my legs were still going.
On Monday, I capped for an unprecedented FOURTH time in a row. And while my old pal migraine reared its ugly head to break my streak, I ended up hitting that 15 mile total a staggering SEVEN times, blowing my original goal of 100 total miles for the race out of the water.
Today, Monday, is the last day of the race. Because it ends at noon, my time, and I am not fast, I won’t get 15 miles today. Nevertheless, I have conquered more distance than I ever imagined, and regained my faith that yes, my body can get stronger and yes, I have more endurance than I give myself credit for.
I will have bad days, but I have good ones, too. Come July I begin training again in earnest for the third attempt to get ready for my first half marathon. But today (after noon) I will rest.
Published by AmandaKay
Amanda Kay Oaks is a Pittsburgh based writer originally from Cincinnati.
She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Chatham University.
Currently, she works in Student Affairs and as adjunct faculty. When she's not working, writing, or curled up with a good book, Amanda can usually be found in the kitchen whipping up something delicious, sprawled out on her yoga mat, or off on a run.
View all posts by AmandaKay