Why does the ‘Rocky’ song make me cry? I don’t even like those movies. Yet, when the gun went off, and that song began to play, I choked up. The thousands of runners in my wave of the Manitoba Marathon ‘Intrepid Dezine’ Half Marathon, surged toward the start. We waded in the crowd, and I choked up.
It was such a journey to get here, I thought.
Four months of training ended in double knee injuries that sapped my confidence, and stole my last two long runs. I knew I could do it, but I was anticipating a lot of pain. I would be right. But right in that first mile, a thousand feet drummed around me like rain. Japanese drummers shouted and sounded the advance. We powered up onto the bridge over Bishop Grandin.
Slow down, I told myself. It would take me four miles to coast down to my projected half-marathon pace. I glided, effortlessly, through shady, wooded areas. People stood along the road, many holding signs. ‘Touch for Power’ one said, pointing at a star on the poster board. A tall, leggy girl sprinted to the side to press her finger to the star. An older runner said ‘I got it through WiFi.” I giggled.
About five miles in we passed another sign, “Worst parade ever.”
“Sorry!” I yelled, and laughed.
The first ten km passed without incident, but I could feel hip and knee pain creeping up on me. I walked through the next aid station, and the next. ‘Drink fluids’ one of the aiders yelled, ‘Course conditions are dangerously hot.’ I was starting to feel it. We crossed over the Jubilee footbridge and through mile 7. From the the pain in my hip grew from a dull ache to a nagging pain. I gritted my teeth and ran from aid station to aid station, walking the thirty seconds that it took to slog through the cup and sponge strewn stretch of pavement.
By mile eleven, I couldn’t wait for aid stations. I was taking short walk breaks every few minutes, with pain radiating from knee to hip. I tried to focus on the finish, and my family waiting, and the moment of running across the finish. I shivered in spite of the heat.
The final mile I wanted to run it straight, but I was too tired and in too much pain. I walked a short stretch, and then broke into a hobbling shuffle for the last kilometre.
And then, as I rounded the corner into the stadium, I heard the announcer boom, “Geralyn Wichers, from Steinbach.” I saw the big purple finish line. I passed another runner, trying to work up some speed.
“Go Geralyn!” I heard someone bellow. I looked up and saw my sisters brilliant pink jacket. I raised my hands over my head.
Twenty steps from the line, I saw another runner in my peripheral vision, trying to pass.
Heck no! I thought. I put every ounce of energy into a sprint, and beat them to the line. I bent down for my medal, barely registering triumph. Hot, in pain, and nauseous. But I’d finished.
To be honest, I’m proud but I’m also sad. If I’d finished my training as planned, maybe it would have gone better. Maybe I could have savoured that finish line sprint instead of hobbling across the line. I did the best I could, of course.
So, I’m going to do it again. Before I’d even run the MB marathon, I’d signed up for my next one–a little MEC Half Marathon that won’t have the numbers, the fanfare or the atmosphere. Probably there will be no one watching. But I’ll get my do over, and I have my motivation to lace up again.
Big thank you’s to the many people who messaged me encouragement. Thanks to Jessica for voluntarily getting up at 4:30 in the morning to drive me. Thanks to Mom, Dad, Derek and Jon for coming to see me finish. Seeing you at the finish line was what kept me going all these months.
Better next time.