After running 21.1kms I had a tattoo artist pierce my running leg with needles to create this. Because that makes sense.
But actually it does. The left leg isn’t an accident or a whim. My left leg was the source of all my shin splints and injuries while I was training for the half marathon. And now it’s not injured. And it has wings. And it’s a phoenix to remind me that no matter how dark a pit you fall into you can stand up and be who you are. That when you can’t run, you can walk.
I’ve run 20kms plenty of times but I was nervous about the race. I was nervous because it was the first race I’d ever been in. I was nervous that I’d be slow. I was nervous about running a track I wasn’t familiar with. I was nervous because Kate was going to pace me. And although she’s injured, she’s normally a good 20 seconds per km faster than me and I was worried that I’d let her down by running a ridiculously off pace time. I’m a generally nervous person, I’m not saying it makes sense.
The plan was for her to pace me for 10kms and then she’d either slow down or speed up depending on what she was capable of.
When we started it didn’t seem fast, and I felt like I was going too slow, so I was paying attention to my watch. I nearly had a heart attack when I realised we were running sub 6 minute kilometres. I’ve been trying to crack 5kms in under 30 minutes for awhile now. And it’s been slow going. PUN INTENDED. So when we made 5kms in under 30 I was so happy I figured anything that happened after that was gravy.
At around 10kms when we stopped for GUs and water Kate said the running was ok but stopping to walk and then starting again was hard going and that’s when it was most painful, so I figured the best bet was to minimise walking breaks to water when we needed it. I remembered that jarring pain of the starting to run again after walking with shin splints. And it is no fun.
At around 17-18kms I was beginning to think this was the easiest long run I’d ever done. Yes, I was tired but who can’t run another 4kms? And then I hit 19kms and thought I was going to die. Not melodramatic at all, obviously. Kate was in better shape than me at that point, so I paced her until the end.
That last kilometre seemed like about five. But I trust that the organisers had a handle on the geography of the thing and it was actually just 1 kilometre.
It was our first half marathon. We don’t live in the same state. We rarely see one another. But we trained together. We planned it together. We dreamed it together. And we ran it together from start to finish. It won’t be my last half marathon or my fastest, but I bet it will be my most treasured.
My fastest average pace for long runs before the half marathon was 6:52 per km. And I averaged about 6:15-6:30 depending upon which recording device you believe. That’s not something I would have ever thought I would have achieved, nor even dared to strive for.
I have a phoenix on my leg to remind me that injuries are temporary, when I think I’ve given everything – there’s still more and that some things are more important than distance or time – like a friend holding your hand across the finish line.