16.2 miles to freedom

If you would’ve told me when I started running on New Year’s Day 2017 that I’d do a 5k and a half marathon race on back to back days, I’d have thought you were crazy.

If you would’ve told me that a month ago, I’d have thought you were crazy.

And yet, after two and a quarter hours on Sunday morning in Chicago, we had done just that, as part of the Humana Rock ’N’ Roll series of races this weekend. A 5k the day before, a half marathon that morning, all to earn two additional medals because…well, these are really cool race medals.

Medals are a powerful motivator for runners because, well, we’re crazy.

Conditions coming into this weekend were far from ideal. For one, I was battling a hip injury suffered after a four mile training run on Tuesday. For another, I hadn’t ever run more than 10 miles straight in my life, and only did that for the first time the previous Saturday. So, the idea of running 16.2 miles combined on back to back days just seven and a half months after I started running again seemed…well, daunting to say the least.

Turns out, it was anything but.

The 5k run on Saturday proved to extremely helpful come half marathon day on Sunday because it allowed me to gauge where my body was at. If the hip injury was going to impact my gait or cause me pain, it would show itself during the 5k. It didn’t. Plus, the 5k the day before the half gave me an opportunity to get the blood flowing in my legs and get me in the proper mindset to run the longest race of my life to date the next day.

So, the half rolls around this morning. Body is feeling good, buddy and I have a game plan as to how we’re going to attack it and, once executed, everything went smoothly, right up until the last 1.1 miles.

Early on, we were cruising, cracking jokes to each other along the way, high fiving fellow racers at the ninth mile, just enjoying a nice, long Sunday run.

Then, the 12th mile marker hit and everything went to dust. Right around the 10th mile, I picked up my pace because the way I saw it, I only had to run a 5k and I was done and I can run a 5k in my sleep at this point.

Here’s the thing, however — There’s a major difference between running a 5k on fresh legs and running a 5k on legs that have already run 10 miles. In other words, it’s not the same, not even close.

One other crucial mistake I made — I ignored every water and Gatorade station after the ninth mile. I cannot say enough good things about how the way the Rock ’N’ Roll crew runs its races. They’re terrific all the way around, from communication in the days leading up to the race to how smoothly their races go off. Relevant to my situation, water stations were plentiful and placed just the right distance apart, but I got cocky. I figured I had made it nine miles, my body had plenty of fuel to make it the remaining four.

It did, but just barely as I was running on fumes when I crossed the finish line five minutes ahead of my goal time, slipping into a pair of flip flops shortly thereafter to soothe my aching feet.

I knew that training for a marathon was going to be a challenge, and it has been. What I wasn’t anticipating is how much I was going to enjoy the ride along the way, challenging myself to run farther for no other reason than just to see if I can do it.

There’s no way I could’ve run another 13.1 miles after finishing today’s half marathon. None. Shortly after crossing the finish line, I found some shade, laid down, and tried to get my bearings.

That being said, I’ve got a lot more confidence that once the Chicago Marathon rolls around on October 8th, I’ll be experiencing the same emotions that I did this morning. Exhilaration, exhaustion, and a sense of accomplishment.

In other words, that feeling of knowing it was all totally worth it.

To learn more about Open Heart Magic, which has more than 120 volunteers that go around to Chicago hospitals and teach kids how to do magic tricks and is the charity that I’m running the Chicago Marathon for, please click here and consider donating.

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