Way back in June, I signed up for a half marathon at the end of September. I figured that a summer of backpacking would prepare me for that distance of running and once the beginning of September hit, I could easily ramp up my running training and make a go of beating my first half marathon time. Not to mention the price couldn’t be beat. By signing up back on that date, I only paid $15 – a number that is absurdly low for any distance race, let alone a half marathon.
A bout of intense stomach pain completely derailed my training plans for September. I was in too much pain to run, and I felt like if I hurt that much, then something must be wrong. If something is wrong, then running might exacerbate it. So I went to the doctor a lot, didn’t get much sleep, couldn’t eat enough and dropped over 10 pounds.
Pro Tip: This is not an ideal training plan for running a half marathon.
But when the tests came back negative and my pain was determined to be “functional,” i.e. sure, there’s something causing you pain, the pain is real, but we don’t know the cause, I knew I wanted to get back to running. And I figured that even if I couldn’t get into shape to run 13.1 miles in the next two weeks, I could at least get into shape to run/walk it. Or change my registration to the 5K.
Honestly, my first run after such a long hiatus made me think I would have to do the 5K. I was tensing my shoulders, which squished my chest, leading me to believe I could not breathe. I couldn’t jog two miles without taking walking breaks. Part of that was from my ITB issue with my right leg. If it doesn’t get worked out on the regular, then it hurts to start up again. But the hardest thing was breathing.
Muscles wanted to work, but lungs did not. The solution came, as it often seems to, from my husband. Not that he put it forth as such. Instead, he told me I should go for a walk with our weighted vest. He had 10 pounds of weight in it. I maxed it out to 20 pounds and walked to the Greenbelt. From there I started my slow running and, to my amazement, I could breathe.
The weight of the vest on my shoulders prevented me from hunching them up. Since my shoulders weren’t tensed, my chest could expand more fully and I no longer felt suffocated.
But I still wasn’t sure if I could do the half. Two miles with a weighted vest is well and good, but did I have the endurance to stay on my feet for the four or more hours it might take me to complete such a task in my current shape?
The answer to that I had to find myself.
And I found it on a hike up to Tablerock. My husband and I set forth in the morning wearing our hiking boots and carrying day packs. On the Greenbelt, we stayed together, holding hands. Our route took us past the Warm Springs Golf Course and across the street towards the Rock Island trail.
Once we hit the trail, we could no longer hold hands. The trail is too narrow. I found myself walking faster than Ambrose, pulling ahead of him as I climbed up. There is a plateau between where this trail tops out and the ramp up to Tablerock. I sat and hid in the shade of some rocks as I waited for him to catch up. I watched a large bird of prey ruffle its feathers on a boulder and then fly off.
When he arrived, I asked if he had any sunscreen. My skin was feeling the heat. It turned out that he didn’t, but I did. We both applied some and then moved on. I took the lead again and tried my best not to stop for a break on the steep portion of the trail Ambrose and I call the ramp. Even at a slow speed, my calves were killing me, begging for a break that I refused to grant them.
New benches greeted me at the top, as well as a whole lot of people. I sat on one of the new, green benches for a bit, looking out over Boise and watching a small group of people eat fruit rolls. Then I moved to a rock overlooking the trail I’d come up and sat there, waiting for Ambrose to catch up again.
He joined me and made me eat something. Then we headed down by a different path, going around towards the quarry and then taking a scramble back to the plateau. I was nervous going down the steep parts without my trekking poles, but caution was enough to keep me from falling.
We stopped by the Warm Springs Golf Course clubhouse to get burgers and beer as a reward for our morning’s hard work, and it was there that I was able to express that I felt confident that I could complete the half marathon distance. Even if I had to walk, even if I was the last person through the finish line, I had the endurance in my body to finish.
Ambrose, of course, said he figured I’d say something like that after the hike.
For the next week, I kept on doing short runs and walks, getting ready to find out just what my best was on September 26th.