2015 Indy Mini recap

One America Festival 500 Mini: 2
Courtney: 1

My 9th half marathon did not go well. My 9th half marathon was not a PR. My 9th half marathon was not fun. My 9th half marathon was a massive disappointment.

And I know exactly what went wrong. I was ill. I tried all week to force myself to feel better and to perform at my highest level, but you just can't rush your body out of an illness.

I tossed and turned all of Friday night and this time it wasn’t just because of race nerves. It was because I could feel fluid moving in one of my ears, my throat was on fire, and my nostrils took turns clogging every time I rolled over. I tried to will myself to fall asleep, but it was no use.

I thought I was miraculously healed the next morning when my alarm finally went off. The thing is, I have so much adrenaline on race morning, I could probably lift a car off of a trapped toddler. I was so anxious and excited, I truly thought I was feeling better and that the crap I was feeling only a few hours before magically disappeared and left me 100% healthy and ready to race.

I blew my nose the entire drive to Indy. I almost popped a blood vessel trying to clear my nostrils so I could breathe comfortably.

I babbled excitedly to Clayton about the race, but I was also feeling a slight panic in my belly because my body still felt so, so tired. I used mindless chatter to mask my dread.

When I was finally at the start line, my congestion seemed to be behaving itself, but my tongue felt dry and like sandpaper. I’d been drinking so much water all week; I didn’t understand why my mouth felt so parched.

But I didn’t have time to think long because before I knew it, the race was underway and I was working my way through mile 1. Mile 1 actually felt pretty good and was right on target with my goal pace for the first half of the race, but I knew something was wrong around the end of mile 2.

I was just so tired. I felt like I had a literal weight on my shoulders and my legs were like lead. I knew I was in trouble.

I stumbled along for about 6 miles and then I just couldn’t do it anymore. In a fit of tears, I slowed to a fast walk and watched as my Garmin ticked further and further away from my goal pace and any hope of a PR.

I’m not kind to myself, especially when I’m frustrated, so I walked along the Speedway track and mentally berated myself for being such a huge failure and a total loser. Trust me, I know this is not healthy mindset, but it’s the truth. (Being hard on yourself is not a cute or endearing personality trait. It sucks.)

Getting angrier and angrier with myself, I forced my legs to start running and I huffed along until my vision blurred and my stomach lurched and I had to walk again.

This went on for about 2 more miles: Alternating between a half-run/half-power walk and chastising myself the entire way. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me again. I couldn’t believe I was letting this mini get the best of me again.

Around mile 8, I recognized a figure running past me. It was my friend, Maria. In a race with almost 40,000 participants, you can’t say it was a mere coincidence that she suddenly appeared right next to me.

She looked like she was moving along well and I didn’t want to throw off her groove. So I hustled in her direction to quickly pat her shoulder and wish her well. I mean, when you run into one of your closest friends during the country’s largest half marathon, you totally have to say hello.

Her face lit up when she saw me and I don’t know what it was about her excitement, but I immediately burst into tears (for the 100th time that morning). I’m not sure what I said, but I’m sure it was something along the lines of, “I’m having a really hard time” or “Please God, just kill me now”.

Without missing a beat she said, “Don’t worry. You’re going to finish. I’m going to make sure you finish. We’ll do this together.” Her sweetness and confidence made me continue to snot and cry a little more, but I gratefully jogged alongside her.

Turns out Maria wasn’t having such a great race either. She’s been battling her own set of injuries and pain, so I think she was just as relieved to find me as I was to find her.

We ran the remaining 5 or so miles together, taking an occasional walk break (to keep me from passing out and to keep her cramps at bay). We talked about the race and how flippin’ crowded it is, and I divulged that I feel constant, debilitating anxiety from the pressure I put on myself. I shared that my attitude about running is so different than it was the first time I ran the Indy Mini back in 2011 because back then I was filled with so much joy and enthusiasm for just being capable of running that far. Now I approach half marathons with nothing but a focus on the finish time and only consider myself a success if I run faster than the time before. That mindset is narrowing, limiting and damaging.

It was probably the sweatiest come-to-Jesus talk I’ve ever had.

We powered through our discomfort and Maria and I finished the One America 500 Festival Mini marathon together, our hands locked and our arms raised over our heads in victory.

Running can be such an isolating activity, so sharing this race with Maria was oddly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. 

I still feel twinges of bitter disappointment that I didn’t run the race I wanted to, but finishing with Maria also gave me a sense of satisfaction that I’ve never felt before. I was grateful. And I was proud.

It’s not my fault that I was sick. I tried to force my body to do something it wasn’t well enough to do and I just have to accept. I’ll be stronger and healthier for the next one. This race doesn’t define me as a runner anymore than a PR does. We’re the sum of the parts, the good and the bad. What defines us is how graciously we accept the victories and how we persevere through the setbacks. It’s our attitude, tenacity and resilience that make us who we are.

The only way I would have failed at this half marathon is if I walked off the course and didn’t finish at all. Or if I let it deter me when I start training for this fall's half marathon. 

And I just love this too much to ever give up.