I already "paid" for my entry into the 13.1 Miami Beach race, it was money already lost (though I work promotions for US Road Sports in exchange for race entries, I still think of it as money). If I stayed home in the comfort of my own bed, I'd be out the money, and out whatever miles I might have otherwise gotten in for my yearly goal. If I strapped the boot on and went, I would surely be swept.
I struggled for days trying to decide what to do. I didn't want to be swept, because really, does anyone want to be swept from a race? I mean, really, its not on my top 10 list of things to want for when thinking about an upcoming race. The more I stewed on it, the more it terrified me.
But what did I really have to lose?
So early on March 2, my friends Tracey and Seth came to the house and picked me up, strapped into my
I would bust my butt to get going as quickly as possible, and I wouldn't be swept until mile 4, because surely getting swept was in my very near future. Tracey joked that she thought I would make it to mile marker 8 before being swept, but I knew better. There was no way in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks I would make it that far. My money was firmly on four miles.
We got to the starting line fairly quickly, and the race started without a hitch. I started a little further up in the corralling system than I had intended, and was hyper aware that I needed to pull to the side a bit to let faster runners past. And then I saw a familiar face around 1/2 mile. I knew Karen from a group on facebook, and she provided me an immediate distraction from my pain, and we quickly started banking miles. Before I knew it, we were giggling our way across the second bridge, approaching mile marker 4, and she was bidding farewell to me.
I took that opportunity to look behind me to see if there were still people there, and it looked like I was still in the clear for awhile before getting swept. Tracy's words rung in my head... Could I make it to 8 miles before being swept? There were still plenty of people behind me... And they didn't seem to be gaining much ground. Then again, I was maintaining a strong 16:30 pace.
But I was also getting my cadence down. I was lugging a bunch of extra weight in the form of my boot. I could feel my booted foot swelling, and my toes starting to go a little numb. I readjusted the air compression in the boot, but that didn't seem to help. At mile 6, I was ready for another readjustment.
I bent down, readjusted, and stood up ready to start hefting my weight forward again. Slow and steady. And suddenly, not 5 steps forward, I got a shooting pain deep into the inside of my bad ankle. It felt like something was stabbing me with a meat cleaver. The pain was so intense, it nearly brought me to my knees. I struggled for breath and tried to stand up straight to maneuver to the curb, but the tears started like waterfalls. A spectator came over and offered me a hand. I ripped the boot off, stretched a little, packed my sweatband into my boot for extra cushioning, and breathed. A couple I had chatted with early in the race passed me at that point, and the woman gave me a sad look and told me that there was "no shame in getting swept."
She was right, there wouldn't be any shame in getting swept today, but it would have to happen after 8 miles. I was determined. I wanted to yell and scream every curse word under the sun at her, but I didn't. I just gave her a sad look and shrugged.
The pain subsided briefly and I decided it was time to get up and moving again. So step by excruciating step, I was once again on my way. From that point forward, every police officer I passed, every spectator, every cheerleader or bandmember I passed, they were all rooting for ME!
The sweatband in my boot wasn't helping much and I stopped to get a stack of gauze padding from the fire rescue truck around mile 7.5. I was losing time. With each and every time I was stopping to readjust, more and more people were passing me, narrowing the gap between me and the sweepers. At mile 7.5, I was dead last. I caught up to the girl in front of me, and we slowly started to bridge the gap between us and the girl in front of us.
At mile 8, we were approaching the last 2 bridges. I was in horrendous pain through the inside of my ankle, and the boot was causing some serious bruising, but there was no SAG wagon in sight. I wasn't about to stop and wait for one, so I soldiered on.
And then, at mile 9.33, what I had been waiting for all day.... I was approached by a police officer who told me that the van was right behind me and would be picking me up. And I had intended to respond with "OK," but what came out instead was a firm "no." I stammered and rephrased more politely "not today, thank you."
He looked at me shocked and asked what I meant by that. And while continuing to walk, I told him calmly but clearly "well, you aren't in the business of kidnapping any more than I'm in the business of being kidnapped. So thanks, but no thanks." he laughed and shook his head before driving to the next person. The bus drove off without stopping to pick me up.
What on earth was I thinking?
The police officer came back at mile 9.9 and pulled right up to me. "i know, i know. you don't want to be kidnapped, BUT move off to the sidewalk and the sweepers can't collect you. I'll let them know at the 10 mile mark that you are still out on the course."
And so it happened. I hit the 10 mile mark and the part of the course that veers off of the streets and through the pier and the park. I struggled with each step, but I knew that I was completely safe from sweepers. I didn't care how long it was going to take, I was going to finish. So what if there was no medal? So what if the finishline was already broken down? So what if there was no more beer or party? I was going to finish with my head held high.
Getting swept? Sure it would happen someday, but today wasn't that day.
The last half a mile brought me down Miami's ocean drive. I was on the sidewalks at this point, and fighting with the beach crowds, and large families out for a Sunday stroll. It was tough going, but they all easily cleared a path for me as I came through. Tears once again welled in my eyes, as I realized the hurdles that I had overcome.
I had done it. I had completed my 20th (lifetime) half marathon.
And I would be a different person because of it.