I’m done wincing at all the photos. I’m done walking off all the stiffness. I’m done dealing with denial.
Since Sunday, I’ve sworn off Advil capsules and Tylenol tablets. Every time I was tempted, I remembered my misery during Sunday’s marathon. People have e-mailed me to let me know I dodged a bullet. A potentially lethal bullet. They sent photos of people who didn’t do as well, who were hospitalized with kidney or liver failure. They sent me the names of doctors and begged me to get my internal organs checked out.
But I had a new job to start on Monday and before I could make the call, I was able to again bend my legs when walking, take the stairs and pretend that the pounding headaches and mysterious itching were better.
It’s weird because normally by now I’m back running and downloading training schedules, and yet the thought of doing either makes my stomach flip-flop. Someone last night said it’s because I polluted my body when my renal system temporarily seized up. Maybe some of those poisons reached my brain, because lately I’ve had toxic thoughts about my future as a marathoner.
I’ve begun to string together the growing disconnect between my plans and my performances and I’m ready to acknowledge that after all these years, I’m a different kind of runner. An older runner.
I’m 44. Not 14, when I finished first in my school’s mile race. Not 24, when I ran my toned little butt all over town. Not 34, when I handily won age group awards. I’ve still got a lot of years ahead of me, but it’s very likely my best running is now well behind me.
I was the oldest runner at the RBF gathering, and by more than a few years. Amazingly, this didn’t occur to me until the pictures started circulating and I wondered why I was the only one with wrinkles, baggy eyes, double chin, flabby arms and, um, other loose parts. The camera doesn’t lie, but it could certainly stand to flub some features for we who continue to cooperate. Until the lens and I resolve our differences, I’m heading back to bed for more beauty sleep…or perhaps the gym.
Maybe the marathon isn’t for me anymore. I mean, 12 years is a long time to be chasing BQs and PRs, and avoiding DNFs. I’ve failed at all of these. And, lately, I can’t even say I at least had fun trying. The doubts during the races are surfacing far sooner and being realized far more frequently. Soon as I fall off pace, I’m searching for excuses (and in the case of Sunday, stretchers!).
That said, I’m still committed to doing Chicago in the fall. If it ends up being my swan song, it’ll be fitting. I’m running with my sister, the same sister who convinced me to sign up with her for a marathon so many years ago. Then I was a mom of young kids; now she is. Then she was full of self-doubt; now I am. Then she was skinny;…wait, she’s still skinny. And I’m not. Okay, let’s stop right here.
Chicago could end my marathon life. Or it could be the first of many I run after reconciling my age with realistic expectations. Then again, there’s always the chance this is the one – this will be my BQ. My PR. My redemption run.