Eight years ago I ran my worst half marathon. It wasn’t just one of my worst finish times, it was hands down the worst half marathon I ever ran — and I’ve run a few doozies! Including the race pictured above. I didn’t injure myself, but I had GI issues, which I never have — except for that one race.
I thought I trained really well for this race. Race day dawned with perfect running weather — and that has happened very rarely in the 20 or so halfs I’ve run. Mr. Judy, Chester, and Lola were with me at the start line — the only race the dogs were able to come to the start. The course was relatively flat for New England.
The catch? Despite what I thought was a great training cycle, two weeks before the race my knee started to hurt. I didn’t seek advice from anyone. I didn’t really have a running support system — I’d only been running halfs for two years and hadn’t had any real major problems before.
I decided on my own to just stop running the two weeks before the race in the hopes that whatever was bothering my knee would simply go away.
Big mistake. Huge.
So how’d the race go?
It started out just fine. It continued just fine for the first six miles. I remember running past a house with spectators on the front porch relatively early in the race.
By mile six the pain came back. By mile ten I was walking, and every step was more and more painful. Running was out of the question. I remember coming back by that same house with the same spectators still there, encouraging me to run. Except of course I couldn’t.
I actually called Mr. Judy. Not to come pick me up, but to let him know what was happening and that I would finish much later than expected.
Was it worth it?
In a word: NO!
We had booked an AirBnB on Cape Cod (remember, this is eight years ago!), and Mr. Judy was very excited to go to an ice cream place for a sundae post race. Except you had to walk to it, and I was in way too much pain to walk. No sundae for me.
I remember laying on the couch with Chester, my little shadow, curled up beside me.
It would be months, really, before I was able to run pain free again. I’d signed up to run with a group in the Fall, but I wasn’t signed up for a race. At first I couldn’t even run a mile without pain.
Every week, though, I was able to run a little bit further pain free. By the time I got to a 7 mile run, I knew I could do it and I signed up for a race. It was a redemption race, and I snagged a PR — pain free.
Your running support system is crucial. I should have seen a doctor or a physical therapist, although I actually never did — not for that pain. I should have already been going to a chiropractor for maintenance. I should have at least asked for suggestions online (although that can be a bit dangerous).
Most of all I learned that sometimes, it truly is better to never even start — to DNS. Ignoring problems don’t make them go away. Had I gotten diagnosed, I either would have had the advice to not run the race — or gotten the advice I might have needed to run the race without injuring myself.
Finally I learned that it is definitely possible to come back from a really bad race and have a great next race!
Was there ever a race you toughed out, but shouldn’t have?
What did you learn from your worst race?
This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.