I belong to several running communities, and follow them all on Facebook. It is amazing to me how many of us are going down with injuries this summer. From minor issues to major issues, we are being forced to modify our running to adapt to our medical issues.
Personally, this year I have had several DNS races due to continuing problems from a car accident last September, and new issues that have emerged as I have modified to try to accommodate those injuries. The most humbling incident for me was at the Sehgahunda trail marathon, in Letchworth Park, New York, self-described:
“Sehgahunda is the REAL DEAL. It may just be one of the hardest trail marathons in the east. It’s 26.3 miles of single track trails, over 3000 feet of climbing, with more than 100 gullies that need to be traversed”
I was ill-prepared for this marathon, as I live in a very flat area of New York, and was not running regularly due to neck and back pain. On race day I was very excited to give it a whirl; unfortunately, the weather was excruciatingly hot, and there was no air flow on the trail. Getting to and from the checkpoints was so difficult – grass up to my waist and higher, and shoe-sucking mud beneath. I was not prepared for the severe declines and inclines, and each leap over a gully made me wince from pain. I made it to checkpoint 3 before it was decided that I (and many, many others) should not continue. Of the 300 entrants, there were only 206 finishers.
I was out there for 4:19:13 for 16 miles. Should I have pushed through the last 10+ miles? That question haunted me for a while. The way things were deteriorating, I probably would have been on the trail another 2 ½ to 3 hours at least. I may not have even made the 8 hour cut off. When I brought this up with my chiropractor, he affirmed that I made absolutely the correct decision. I was dehydrated, tired and in pain. I know I set myself back medically by doing 16 miles; now, I also have an issue with my hip. Doing the extra 10+ may have been satisfying at the moment I crossed the finish line, but I am sure I would have regretted it in the long run.
Hopefully I am learning from these experiences. Instead of being disappointed in myself, I should be proud that I completed 16 miles of the toughest race I have ever attempted, and while injured. I also learned that I do enjoy trail running, but maybe not to the extreme of this particular race. I became very nervous on the steep downhills when someone would come barreling up behind me. Sometimes there was nowhere to go to allow people to pass (the women start earlier than the men, but then some of the men end up catching up pretty quickly and passing some of the women). This just was not my race.
It has taken me six weeks to write about this. I am such a stubborn person and not finishing something I start is very frustrating for me. Reading all the stories my fellow runners have been posting on Facebook about their setbacks and comebacks has really helped me accept that my DNF is just another part of my growth as a runner. So thanks to all of you!