When not to quit
In April, I ran my third Boston Marathon. My goal: to re-qualify to run this granddaddy of all marathons next year at age 45.
I’ve never met a challenge I didn’t like, so, when I started experiencing unusual pains in my left leg just as my 16-week training started, I didn’t back off. I bought compression socks, a knee wrap, and amped up my massages and chiropractor visits. When I couldn’t run more than 11 miles without stopping in excruciating pain, I still didn’t back off. I got a cortisone shot instead. The throbbing continued. Anti-inflammatory medication helped the swelling, but did nothing for my bloated feeling of defeat. I wondered if I should pull out and defer the run to next year. Then, about a month to race day, I found a physical therapist, and I became confident that he’d get me strong enough to finish the race. I knew I wouldn’t be as fast, but with hard work we were sure I’d meet my goal!
The alerts started coming two days before the race; Boston was facing record-breaking heat. The night before the race, marathon organizers asked folks not used to running in heat not to run. Since I run early mornings and indoors in the summer, I was no more equipped to run in heat than anyone else. By race time, 3,000 people had dropped out. I’ve invested too much, I thought, so I didn’t.
It was worse than I had imagined. Flashing signs along the course warned us to adjust our pace, slow down and drink plenty of water as the 90 degree sun relentlessly beat down. I doused myself at every water station, but just couldn’t feel hydrated enough. My breathing became difficult, my left leg started cramping and, at mile 17, I did the math and realized I would have to run exceptionally fast to meet my goal. I looked around as people collapsed or wobbled to medic tents and decided to turn off my watch and run to make it to the finish line safely.
I fell short of my goal, finishing nearly an hour off my usual time. The heat made it brutally challenging. But here’s the interesting thing about pain: it’s fleeting. I can now relish the high points. I ran my first marathon without music! My leg held up better than I thought and I didn’t finish with my feet dragging but with my knees up!
I discovered that endurance is about more than just how quickly I can run 26.2 miles. As a co-worker wrote me in a text: “You really found out what you are made of today – that course tested your will and it lost! Today, you left no doubt about it!”
I once wrote that the wind is no match for the spirit. Well, neither is the heat. So don’t count me out just yet.
Catherine Anaya anchors CBS 5 News weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 & 10pm. She is a mother of two, marathon runner and motivational speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on Facebook, twitter and at CatherineAnaya.com.