01 October 2011

Why I won’t be in the Marathon Tomorrow

Eight years ago, I started running. I never really enjoyed it, but after about 8 months of it, I successfully ran a 5K (at high altitude, no less) and I stayed with it for about another year, until I hurt my back. Then I stopped for 6 months and by the time I was able to run again, I just couldn’t seem to make myself do it.

Since then I’ve been walking. I walked with my dog until she died and not long after that I started walking with my friend, Becky.

Fast forward to three months ago. Becky and I were finishing our regular 3-mile walk when we decided to keep going. It was a lovely summer day and after the long winter, we needed the extra fresh air and sunshine. We walked 6 miles that day. We were a little sore the next day, but the next time we walked, we did 6 miles again. Then we did 7. And then I wondered out loud just how far we could walk.

We talked about 5Ks and 10Ks, marathons and half-marathons. Heck, we’d already been walking 10Ks, so maybe we should try to do a marathon. Or at least a half. I researched training schedules for both and realized we had plenty of time. I then found the Maine Marathon in Portland, which was scheduled for October 2, and they were a walker-friendly marathon.

But could we do it? 6 and 7 miles was one thing, but we were sore even after those walks. Could we train to do 26.2? We started down that path, literally and figuratively.

We began walking more, making sure we walked a couple of miles each day, with one or two long walks each week. We added miles to that long walk and by the middle of July, we were doing 13 miles at a stretch. We had already walked a half marathon! I took the plunge and registered for the full marathon. I was doing this baby.

By the first of August, when we were approaching 16-mile stretches once/week, Becky decided not to do the marathon. She was bogged down with family and work obligations and understandably couldn’t commit to the regular (and rigorous) training schedule. I was disappointed, but more than that, I was a little afraid to continue alone. After all, walking so many miles, if nothing else, takes TIME. Could I walk all those miles alone?

It turns out, I could.

During the third week in August, I did my longest walk – 20 miles. It took me half the day and by the last few miles, I had developed terrible blisters on the backs of my heels. This, after all those other long-walk days blister-free. I was set back, but not beaten. The next week my long walk was only 12 miles, and I wore bandaids to protect my healing blisters on that day, and on my shorter days.

The following week, the first week in September, I was scheduled to do my second and last 20 mile walk. The bandaids were protective, but not completely. By the end of the walk, my heels were a mess. I knew I could keep going and do 6.2 more miles, if necessary, but I didn’t really WANT to any longer. I was feeling slightly demoralized. Maybe a little more than slightly.

I took a few days off but stuck to the schedule.

That next Sunday, my family and I did the Trail to Ale 10K in Portland. The blisters were an issue, but it was only 6 miles and the weather was lovely.

Yet, I realized that I was no longer excited about the marathon. I had done 20 miles – TWICE – and I had had the thrill of the race with the Trail to Ale. It FELT like I’d already done the marathon, and I didn’t want to do it again.

But I couldn’t quit. That’s what my husband and several friends told me. I’d come so far! I’d worked so hard! I’d regret it if I quit! But the fun, excitement and anticipation were gone for me.

Each day, I continued to put one foot in front of the other as I lowered my mileage, tapering down to the big day, but I started imagining excuses for getting out of walking the marathon. I missed the days of walking just 7 or 8 miles. JUST 7 OR 8 MILES! Wasn’t that something? That had become my favorite distance, but I hadn’t done it in nearly two months.

Several days ago, in a flurry of clumsily running up the basement steps, I fell up the stairs, bending back the toes on my right foot and hurting my elbow. This is it, I thought, NOW I can quit! But no, my toes were fine by the next morning. But more and more I realized that the only thing I was thinking about this marathon was how to get out of it.

And then a combination of things happened.

First, the blisters have made a permanent home on the backs of my heels. My shoes were fine until I reached the 16-18 mile mark, and then something happened. But I was too close to the marathon to change shoes, so I’ve been sticking it out with these.

Second, … well, second is a girl thing, and I’ll leave it at that. As fate would have it, tomorrow – marathon day – is going to be the worst day of my month. And in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Third, and maybe the clincher, is the weather. It’s been raining all day today and is supposed to continue through tomorrow. Half the fun of walking this marathon was going to be walking through the beauty of autumn in Maine, as well as the beautiful coastline, the charming homes in Falmouth, etc. And remember, I planned to WALK this marathon, so it would take me at least 7 hours to finish. Rain?? In addition to blisters and the girl thing? Good God, am I nuts?

I have more things I could add to this list, but I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, tragedy hit our community earlier this week and it’s been an emotional few days.

So that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. I feel good about this decision and can honestly say I have no regrets. In fact now the only thing bothering me is that it’s bothering OTHER people.

I went to Portland today and picked up my race packet. Oh yes, I did. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but hey, not only did I pay for the shirt (and it’s a cool shirt), I trained for this marathon and I COULD do it if I chose to torture myself tomorrow. I walked and jogged over 420 miles over the past three months.

Maybe I’ll do another marathon another time, but more likely, I’ll stick to 10Ks and 5Ks. Either way, I’m glad I trained for this. I’ve learned things about what my body can do and I’ve pushed myself farther than I ever thought possible. Thanks to those of you who encouraged and supported me along the way, and thanks in advance to those who will support this decision.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes


Suzemews said...

Great blog! And I get it. You could do the marathon but you choose not to. I agree completely; the reasons don't exist any linger and additional barriers came up. I'd do the same thing. Enjoy your day!

Connie said...

You won't regret it. Do something fun for yourself and enjoy! I want to walk a half marathon with you, have no desire to walk a marathon and when I could run didn't want to run a marathon. Yay Paulla!

Meredith said...

Good for you.
No need to prove it to yourself. You have done all the hard work already, and Yes, you paid mileage, and registration fees, and blisters into the marathon! You deserve the shirt!!!

Miss you all!


Joe Hyatt said...

This is just another in the long list of reasons why people love you. Congratulations on having the guts to be you; authentic you!

Nicole said...

I support your decision Paulla! A few years ago I trained to run a full marathon and hurt my knee at about 16 miles. I was super bummed at the time, but I don't regret it at all---so much pounding on your body! Stick to 5K's and 10K's---they're the best! Do one in San Diego next time! :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Paulla, I just think you're brave to even walk 6 or 7 miles, let alone 20!!! You've already proven you can do it. I'm lucky to make it 45 min. on a walk. I wish I had you to walk with here--I remember our walks in beautiful Monterey. You go girl!!! Kellie