It’s been a peak and valley, roller coaster of a week. On Monday, I completed my first track workout in 10 months, nailed my target paces and left feeling “the fire”, ready to race again. On Tuesday, I had an MRI with a steroid injection. On Wednesday and Thursday, my hip hurt worse than usual and my runs felt uncomfortable and slow. On Friday, I received the initial results of the MRI and nearly bagged my plans to race a 10k on Saturday. Nearly….
The Injury Update
But let me back up. With the long holiday weekend looming, I figured it was a long shot that the surgeon would be around to read my results, and I was right. But I was able to get in touch with the PA who passed on the news I’d been expecting–that I indeed have a labral tear and will need surgery. What I wasn’t expecting to hear was that there was additional concern of a stress fracture or reaction as well. He didn’t have all the info and couldn’t tell me much more without conferring with the surgeon (who was already enjoying his weekend away). So I asked him about the risks of running the 10k, and got the yellow light to try it. He told me I should stop if the pain worsened throughout the race. Clearly this guy doesn’t race. The pain worsens in a race when I’m 100% healthy! But I knew what he meant, and I assured him I’d comply.
As the evening wore on, I felt myself spiraling down toward discouragement and anxiety. I read a little more about labral tears (bad idea), the surgery required (worse idea), and the typical recovery timeline (worst idea). If my son wasn’t already excited about racing the 10k the next morning, I probably would’ve skipped it.
10k Race Day
When I woke up the next morning, nothing had changed. My hip was still sore, and my will to race was still wavering. So I took some ibuprofen and thought about the athletes who inspire me. They aren’t who you might think. There’s my friend Sara who taught me that the trying is the sweet spot. And there’s my friend Laura (you may know her as Salty) who taught me that kindness and friendship are the best kind of winning. And there’s my friend Sabrina who would probably point to her PR as being the day she beat cancer. She toes the line because she still can.
So that was that. I was going to show up.
My hip hurt throughout the warm up, but as always happens, I forgot all about it when the race started. (Thank you, adrenaline). It was a very small race on a very poorly marked course, so I spent the first half of the race worrying that my 10 year old son would get lost. When I got to the turn around (much later than I’d hoped), I was thrilled to see him cruising along less than 30 seconds behind me. I gave him a shout and a high five and decided I could stop worrying about him getting lost and start worrying about him catching me!
For the next two miles there was no one that I could see in front and no one that I could hear behind me. I’d lose focus and start to slow and then pick it up again. My legs felt like they were up for anything, but the old lungs didn’t seem to approve of anything over a 7:25 pace. With about a half mile to go and no one to follow, I made a wrong turn. It took me about 10 seconds before I realized and corrected it. Again, my mind went back to worrying about my son. What if he did the same thing on his way back? A few seconds later, I had something new to worry about. A guy was gaining on me. Now he was next to me. Time to kick it to the finish! I didn’t have much left to give, but apparently it was more than the guy behind me and I shook him off before entering the shoot in 46:40. Aaaand my hip starting hurting the second I stopped running.
I’ve been injured for nearly a year. I’ve done exactly one track workout since then and run less than a dozen miles faster than marathon pace during that span. So it shouldn’t surprise me, then, that I ran this 10k 15 seconds per mile slower than the final 10k of my most recent half marathon. It also shouldn’t have surprised me that my son would be running right on my heels!
When I turned back toward the course to look for him and didn’t see him right away, I started to worry again. But within a few minutes, my fears were relieved as I saw him sprinting toward the finish, crossing in 50:30. I went over and gave him a gigantic sweaty hug.
“I got so lost!” he said as I hugged him. “I ended up near all these houses and was standing at these basketball courts looking around, wondering where I was, and this lady in a purple jacket found me and showed me back to the course, and she was really nice and she told me I was running a great pace.” We debriefed some more and checked our standings and posed for some pictures before heading back to the car, feeling happy to have a 10k behind us and some french fries ahead of us.
As we were getting ready to pull out, my son pointed to a woman walking by as the one who had helped him. So I jumped out of the car and flagged her down to thank her for her kindness. My son got out of the car as well and we struck up a conversation about running. Turns out his course angel was local running star Anna Dalton. We talked with her and her friend Ryan about their experiences in Boston (they finished a leeeeeetle bit ahead of me….), and they couldn’t have been kinder or more encouraging to my budding 10 year old runner.
I’m so glad I raced. I’m so grateful that my son and I both had the opportunity to take the risk, to run, to try. Even if my run was “slow”. Even if he missed an even bigger PR due to a badly marked course. I refuse to be disappointed. Because the showing up, the trying, the (sometimes) failing make life feel richer, the colors seem brighter, the fries taste better. And what inspiring stories we are given when we step up to the starting line–stories of the kindness and camaraderie of runners, and of the much larger victories we mine from the small losses and defeats.
Today, even as I continue to struggle with pain in my hip and feel a bit knocked down and daunted by the prospect of surgery, I am so glad I showed up yesterday. I have a special memory to share with my son, a first place ribbon (yay for small races!) and a sense of satisfaction from simply showing up and giving what I had to give.
And even better, there’s something I don’t have. Regrets. Not a one.