I have now officially raced in two half marathons. Woohoo! The event was organized by Back on My Feet, a non-profit organization that uses running to help the homeless gain independence as its dedicated members get access to training, employment, and housing resources.
I was pretty nervous about running this race, since my right knee had really been bothering me on my runs for about two weeks leading up to the race. It’s a different sort of pain than I’ve had before—a shooting pain up the side of my knee, which feels almost unbearable when I run downhill and is moderately painful while on a straight path. I tried to run 5 miles the Thursday before the race, but had to stop after about two miles because my knee was hurting so much that I didn’t think it was worth the risk of worsening the pain just to get a couple more miles in. So I stopped, walked/jogged slowly the rest of the way home, and prayed I’d be able to do the full 13 in just two days.
Fast forward to Saturday. I signed up for this race thinking it’d be nice weather since it was at the end of March– but no. It was frigid, to say the least. Temperatures were below freezing and there were snow flurries falling during the entire race. Even just standing outside for 15 minutes, waiting for the race to start, my feet and hands became numb. Surprisingly, this turned out to work in my favor as the numbness lessened any sort of knee pain I may have had before my body eventually thawed. I must also note the energy of the race, which was amazing—everyone was so pumped, and many people shouted out “good job!” and “you’re doing great!” to me along the entire course, which definitely helped me get through some of the tougher parts, especially during the latter half. At about mile eight my knee began to really bother me, and I couldn’t keep my pace without limping. With five miles to go, I was worried the pain would be too much for me to handle and I’d have to start walking. My worry and frustration grew as groups of people passed me and I was getting increasingly slower. At around mile nine I looked down at my watch, saw that I was falling behind my race pace by a few seconds, and told myself I had to pick it up. I somehow got a second wind and was able to ignore the knee pain for a bit. This turned into a cycle for the duration of the race—I would experience considerable pain, panic a bit, then get a second wind, which would subdue, and then pick back up again about a mile later. Those second, third, fourth and fifth winds saved me, and I was able to finish the race in less than two hours. My official time was 1:55:52, which comes out to 8:51 per mile. This was a bit slower than my goal pace, but I’m still proud of myself for getting through all the knee pain and finishing strong.
In retrospect, this training season was definitely a tough one. I thought I had the whole running thing down, but the elements undeniably got to me. There were days I was running through freezing rain, slipping on ice (leaving a nasty bruise), accidentally stepping in huge puddles that left my feet soaking wet, and narrowly avoiding cars while running on the street because the sidewalks weren’t shoveled. And, needless to say, getting up to go running is a lot harder when you check your weather app and the temperature is in the teens (or less). My goal was to train with a race pace of about 8:45/mile, but with the wintry elements and knee pain, I wasn’t quite able to get there; my pace on training runs usually came out to average about 9:10 per mile.
Now that the race is over, I’m going to rest my knee and concentrate more on strength training and cross training. Specifically, I want to strengthen my quadriceps to avoid further knee injury. I’ve also started to consider signing up for a full marathon in the near future. However, training for that won’t happen until I’m confident that my knee can handle the extra miles. All in all, my second half experience was positive and I’m excited to set new goals and see where they take me. :)