My Biggest Takeaway from My Worst Race

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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.

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A beautiful day & dogs at the start. What could go wrong?

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.

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I learned from this race and snagged a PR at the next. Run Happy, indeed!

Final Thoughts
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?

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Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.

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