Signing up, training for, and getting to the start line of a race is an accomplishment in itself. Managing weeks or months of training (injury free) can make the race feel like a completely different entity. It is a finish line beyond a start line.
I ran a fun summer half-marathon. I signed up for the half-marathon when I was full of gusto and inspiration. I was losing a bit of motivation (and speed) by the time the race day came around, but surprised myself by almost running a PB (personal best). I thank the two km’s of downhill along the course for that.
After that I kept running. As usual after a race, my coach ensured I had fun, easy, inspiring, no-time-goal runs. I was reminded of why I love to run.
One day my foot hurt. It was a strange pain under the arch of my toes, like my metatarsal bones were suddenly squished. I stopped, loosened my laces, massaged my foot. It was sore, but I finished the half hour run home.
For the next weeks, between visits to physiotherapy and massage, I kept running. I limped when I wasn’t running. My foot caused me a lot of pain, but in my runner-brain I figured it wasn’t broken so I could probably keep going.
I had a marathon planned in six weeks. My mileage was not increasing. I decided that if I could work up to run three hours without altering my stride to compensate for pain, I would run the race. I was currently topped out at two hours and was (literally) limping from a standstill. (Momentum and adrenaline (and sheer stupidity) helped a lot with keeping me going).
Diagnoses were varied as I could never express my symptoms in the same way twice. It was hard to distinguish root causes from deferred pain. The top of my foot would swell (tendonitis) and the side of my foot was sore (stress fracture) and I would get pain under my toes (intermetatarsal neuroma).
I write this the night before the race. I picked up my bib today knowing that tomorrow will be my first DNS (did not start). It happens, certainly. When I talk to other runners they all have a story of the race -usually races- that they had every intention of running, but didn’t. Such is the nature of sport, and life.
Consequently, I have not spent the last week checking the weather every 15 min.
I do not have three different outfits laid out depending on how I may feel in the morning. I am not wondering how many grams of carbs and protein I am eating. I am not strategizing the least amount of time needed to optimally get to both gear check and the port-o-potty in the morning before the start. I am not counting how many hours of sleep I could get tonight. Or how many I got last night, the more important night of rest.
I am still getting up early. I plan to go and watch friends run and take in the atmosphere. I will cheer on their efforts and applaud their dedication and determination. I will embrace the DNS in a new way: as a Daring New Spectator.