The Agony of Success
Julie Granahan is an avid runner who recently completed the Seattle half marathon. This is her story.
My knees begged for sympathy. My feet, covered with freshly torn blisters oozing water, screamed for me to stop. My hips, though only twenty-six years old, had unquestionably aged sixty years. Although my body was fuming, my heart was as happy as a purring cat. It pumped loudly and powerful, enjoying the excessive levels of oxygen. The thirteen-mile marker, scarcely perceptible by my blurry vision, came into view with the relief of a mirage seen in a desert. Had I really just run thirteen miles? Suddenly, my heart took over and put the pain to sleep. I rounded the corner to the finish and found strength and speed I could have only borrowed from a tiger. I snatched my dad's hand and dragged him over the finish line with me. As I crossed the finish line the numbers above reminded me of my pain, 2 hours 6 minutes of constant running and perpetual pounding of my joints on unforgivable pavement. My body, shocked at its sudden stop, desired horizontal rest and quickly approached its goal, but was stopped midway to the ground by the same hand that I reached for directly before the finish. We had successfully completed a half marathon, 13.1 miles, and although my father has completed several, this was my first, and though my body begged for death, my heart, and my head knew there would be more races.
The phone interrupted my diligent studying, but when I answered and heard my dad's voice, I was eager to take a break. Calling me from out of town, we concluded the standard conversation, and replaced it with an atypical one. From nowhere, he informed me of the upcoming Seattle Marathon which was two weeks away. Thinking he was entering and seeking my support, which I would gladly give him, I replied with a plain "oh". He then proceeded with, "Do you want to run the half marathon?" Now, the longest distance I have ever run is six miles, and although a goal of mine is to complete a marathon, the race was only two weeks away! This tight spot, however, didn't discourage my answer of, "Sure." I was more surprised of my answer than my dad, who said "great" and that we'd discuss the details when he got back in town. His final words were, "You'd better start running." No kidding.
After I hung up the phone, I paused and reflected on my recent commitment. I began talking to myself, asking myself if I was completely insane. Yes, I am in decent shape, but I run only twice a week, and never more than four miles. I couldn't change my mind, that would make me look lazy and apathetic. I had to follow through with this seemingly impossible mission. The only thing I could do was run as many miles as I could before the big day, or so I thought. Sometimes, more isn't better.
Studying soon became a non-issue. I had running on the brain, and I decided my training needed to begin immediately, even before I had told anyone of my senseless decision. Since I knew the mileage around Greenlake, I chose the loop as my training grounds. Although quite difficult, I quickly replaced my deranged thinking, with positive, winning thoughts: I am the best (yah right), I can run 13 miles no problem (maybe 3!), and I am going to win. Okay, the first two thoughts were farfetched, but the last thought was completely and in every respect impossible. As I slowly began running, I mapped out the next few weeks' training. I would run six days a week with two long runs over ten miles before the race. Every other day would be a short run, three or four miles, and the following day would be six or seven miles. This strategy, to me, seemed very logical, and if done consistently and at a moderate pace, attainable. Again, I was deceived.
The first few days of training proved to be easier than I had thought and I became energized about the approaching race. I breezed through two unproblematic days of training, but the third day was agonizing. I decided to attempt a nine-mile run and the first three quarters I accomplished effortlessly, but after that the comfort ceased. My knees began throbbing, and my legs became so stiff, it was difficult to bend them. I vowed to finish the complete nine miles, however, and almost toppled over. Yes my body ached, but oh the high I felt. I was full of pride and overfilled with endorphins. I hobbled to my car, and when I returned home, took a much-needed hot shower that made me as lethargic as someone with the flu. Dragging my aching and near comatose body to bed, I told myself that tomorrow would have to be a short run. When I awoke the next morning and put weight on my knees, though, I knew that a run, no matter how short, was not feasible.
Hardly a week into training, and my body was demanding some rest. I couldn't walk without a noticeable limp, and every step brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't back out of the race, that would indicate failure. In my eyes, I would be a loser. Grudgingly, I allowed my body two, and only two days of rest, and then I would start again slowly. My knees quickly healed (or so I thought), and the next run was trouble-free. I kept my distances small and saved one big run before the race. I ran with my dad three days before the race and seven miles into the run, my knees flared up, but that was minor compared to what was happening to my feet.
It started out small, a faint rubbing which was a little uncomfortable. Every step, though, caused more friction and more pain. At first only the right foot ached, but then the pain surged over to my left foot. Ten minutes later, and still two miles to go, I had advanced stage blistoritis on my feet. The blisters stung like the bite of a scorpion, but I was tough, and I tried to wish away the pain. I altered the way I ran, to ease some of the pressure on my burning feet, but all that did was throw off my body's alignment and cause my knees to twinge. I was a mess! The last three quarter mile, I couldn't even bear the pain enough to run anymore. The home stretch was torture. I half walked, half ran, and begged God to take me to heaven! Once home, I lay unmoving buried in ice and ointment. I took one look at my feet and couldn't possibly imagine them running a half marathon in three days. My dad, however, was confident. All I needed, he said, was some fancy first aid supplies made specifically for the idiotic runner, like myself.
At six o'clock a.m. on race day, or as my feet would say, doomsday, I reluctantly turned off my annoying alarm clock. I still contemplated backing out; especially when I looked outside to see the weatherwoman was wrong again! It was not clear like she had predicted; there was a torrential downpour. My feet and my head soon began an argument. They were pleading with me to climb right back into my cozy bed, but my head won over with its encouraging words, "You don't have these wounds for nothing, they are there to show your strength and dedication. You want to have something to show for them. Go out there and do your best!" Yay feet! I bandaged my feet up with an exorbitant amount of first aid bits and pieces and prayed that they would help. I slipped my shoes on, and took a step; no pain. I breathed a little and got in the car to meet my dad at the start line.
I have never seen so many people in shorts and running shoes at 6:30 on a Sunday morning, outside of a rave party. Hordes of people all different shapes and colors filled the street in front of EMP. I found my dad, and as agreed upon, we mentioned nothing of my disorders. The rain stopped and a friendly voice blaring through a megawatt speaker, gave us a five-minute warning. My nerves began racing and my blood began pumping more rapidly. Before I had time to listen to my feet's previous request, the gun sounded and the feet began moving.
The crisp morning air filled my lungs, and the extra oxygen gave me an adrenalin boost. The mile markers flew by as quickly as the clouds burned off. I was halfway through the exhausting race and my feet and knees hadn't pestered me yet. I finally started to believe that the seemingly impossible goal I had chosen just two weeks prior, was definitely attainable. Three more, then four more, and then only one more mile to go. The last mile was the most difficult. My body became overwhelmed with fatigue and reminded my knees and feet that they were injured. Although the last mile was agonizing, I completed the race on my feet. I escaped the body scraper saved for runners who, unlike me, give up and become part of the pavement. I achieved my goal, and although I yearned to take the easy way out several times, am delighted I chose to persevere. My earlier positive thoughts which seemed silly at the time, now were true. I am the best, I can run thirteen miles no problem, and even though I didn't win, I am a winner in my own eyes.