This past Sunday I ran the Austin Livestrong Marathon in Austin, TX. It was really a different experience for me. As I had mentioned previously, although I am a runner, my primary area of expertise is in sprinting. Plus, I had never competed in an event this large. It was really quite cool to see the thousands of people out running. As the race began, there were people as far as I could see. I believe the expected turnout was 16,000 for the half-marathon and 5,000 for the full marathon.
The marathon itself started very well. I had put in good training and felt very smooth for quite awhile. The Austin course is full of hills so it is going to add another challenge to the 26.2 miles in itself. My initial 5k was a little slower than my pace, but it was to be expected due to the throngs of people you have to navigate through. However, from that point on, things went just as planned for a majority of the race. My goal was to run the entire thing in 4 hours and 30 minutes. My pace was to set me up for a 2 hour half-marathon which would give me some wiggle room on the back end for fatigue. I actually came across at exactly 2 hours in the half and was still feeling well. I thought I was in a good position to meet my goals. Then about mile 18, something unexpected happened.
Just past the 18 mile mark, I started getting some mild cramping in my quad muscles. I made sure to stock up on Gatorade and the next few water stops hoping to minimize the problems. The other problem I ran into was that when I started to stretch those using a standard standing quad stretch, my hamstrings tried to lock up on me. Despite all this, my second 10 miles I still managed a respectable 10:24 min/mile pace. However, things changed for the worse just passed mile 20.
Around that time, my cramping began to really hamper my ability to run. In fact, it hurt like crazy. I found myself picking landmarks to try to run between to keep my pace up. The problem was that even after a 100 yards or so, my cramps in my quads, feet or groin would try to lock my legs down so that I couldn’t keep moving forward. I wasn’t going to quit. I had worked too hard and wouldn’t let myself give up for a few reasons. Sometimes in life, things get hard. You are going to run up against all kinds of obstacles whatever you are trying. If I am going to tell my patients they have to have the stamina to keep going, then I better be willing to do the same. As well, I wanted my kids to see me push through the hurt and the pain. They’re young so honestly, they may not remember it, but I will be sure to let them know when they get tired during their sporting activities. More than all this, however, was the fact that I had to finish this for my family. I ran in honor of my sister-in-law who never had the opportunity to run due to a chromosome deletion. I ran in honor of my wife who wasn’t able to participate due to her own reasons. As well, there is a saying “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” On that day, I found out what my body is capable of. I found out what my mind was capable of. I found out what I am capable of if I am willing to push through some pain. Who knows what that will do for me in the future, but I am blessed to know that I am capable of far more than I ever imagined.
I finished. No, I didn’t meet my goal of 4:30. I actually finished in 4:55. Due to the cramping, my last 6 miles were at a 16:40 pace. They were brutal, but I never quit. Now I am a marathoner! I hope that you will find a way to push yourself to see how far you can go.
Yours in Health,
James Ashley, DC