3 months ago – I start training to do my first half-marathon. The Ironman in my house points out that I havent done a 5km. Or a 10km race. So maybe I should set smaller goals first? I ignore him. Because pffft those are so LITTLE. And EVERYBODY does those. I wanna do something big. Something wow. Something impossible. I would have picked a full marathon but Samoa doesnt have one of those this year. So a half it is! Go big or go home.
6 weeks ago – The training is going well. When I started, I could only run for 5 minutes without stopping. And that was hard. Now I can run for an hour. I run 5km. I run 10km. Heck, I even run 15km! I am amazing. I am super slow, but that’s okay because I’m a sloth and sloths are by their very nature, slow. My cardio fitness is improving. And I’m on track to do a half marathon.
4 weeks ago – My foot hurts. Dammit. The same foot I injured several years ago when I was dancing on the treadmill and fell off. (I blame it on Beyonce. Because her songs are impossible to NOT dance to. Even when one is on a moving platform.) And I then had to wear a moonboot for a month. The physio says to deep ice, elevate, roll it, and tape it. And rest it. I religiously do as I’m told. Because I’m going to do a half marathon. Even if I have to hop all the way. The Ironman who lives in this house suggests, why dont I do the 14km instead? Since I have to suspend some of my training program. And since I’ve done that in training? I ignore him. Because HELLO DID YOU NOT HEAR ME? I ONLY DO MASSIVE GRAND IMPOSSIBLE THINGS.
Night before the race – I prepare my Tailwind drink bottles, and all my gear. Unfortunately all the running experts on Youtube and Google agree that one must never wear new gear when running in a race. The risk of discomfort and blisters is high. So I have subdued my natural instinct to buy fabulous new running clothes and instead I’m going to wear my raggedy old gear that I’ve worn a million times before. Eh. It’s most disappointing. I already know I’m going to spend at least three hours on the road and come last in the race, and I had hoped to look like Beyonce while doing it. It doesnt matter if you run slow and in last place – what matters is that you SLAY.
Oh well, raggedy old gear it is.
3.30am Race Day – Wake up. Eat toast and drink protein coffee. And two cookies. (Because carbs.) Get dressed. Tie shoes too tight. Foot hurts. Loosen laces. Foot still hurts. And now the right non-injured foot hurts too? Because my feet have had a meeting and decided that they’re going to solidarity support each other in hurting? And screw me over. Eh. Or I could be imagining the hurt? Because I’m nervous? Its pouring with rain outside. There’s a flash of lightning. This race better not be cancelled. I have trained for three months, I’m nervous freaking out here and I really dont want to repeat these emotions next week. Better to risk being struck by lightning and go out with a bang. While running! A noble death for a sloth.
5.30am Its raining harder. Which means its darker than it’s supposed to be at this time of the morning. I cant see much without my glasses. I’m going to end up falling into a ditch. Tripping over a killer canine and breaking my leg. It’s too late to back out now though. I already announced on Facebook that I was doing a half-marathon. So shame if I report to Facebook that I didnt do it BECAUSE I AM SCARED OF THE DARK?! We line up at the start. Theres a dozen people doing the half marathon. And a couple doing the 14km. I’m excited. I could get zapped by lightning, fall in a ditch, have my throat ripped out by wild Samoa dogs, and I’m still excited. Because I’m really here, really attempting the BIG wild impossible thing.
The Ironman asks me if I want him to come run with me when hes finished his race? Keep me company, moral and physical support and encouragement? I say no. Because I dont want any company. I’m doing this by myself. I dont want any help.
5km – I’m cruising to my prepared race playlist. Feeling strong, feeling good. Checking my Garmin watch frequently to make sure I’m not going too fast. The Ironman has cautioned me repeatedly about the danger of getting too excited, overdoing it then burning out too soon. I’m listening to him. (This time.) Its a beautiful rainy morning in Apia, the harbor is beautiful in the sunrise, the flame trees lining the seawall are in full bloom and they’re beautiful. The bougainvillea dotting the roundabout are beautiful. EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL! EVEN IM BEAUTIFUL IN SPITE OF MY RAGGEDY OLD GEAR! Because I’m a real runner doing a half marathon and I am awesome!
The Ironman flies past me in a blaze of glory. I’m only halfway thru my first lap and hes already doing his second. He’s way ahead of everyone else. He is awesome. I wave and fist bump him but I dont think he sees me since hes going so fast.
10km – I’m singing along to Rihanna ‘Cheers to the freakin weekend!’, doing a little dance step every so often. My pace is on target and I’m feeling good. Faster runners are already heading back for their next loop while I’ve just started my second, but I dont care. We are all runners running the half marathon together and it’s a wonderful feeling. We fist bump and hi five and call out encouragement to each other on the road. I love everybody and everything. Wow, this running thing is great! Almost half way and I’m on top of the world!
13km – Its still raining. I keep wringing out my shirt so it doesnt weigh me down so much. My left foot hurts. The same injury is saying HELLO REMEMBER ME? I say, SHUT UP and steadfastly ignore it.
The Ironman blazes past. Running his final lap and headed for the finish line. He is amazing. I wish I was heading for the finish line.
15km – My left foot really hurts. Im tired. And I have a blister, thank you endless rain and squelchy shoes. The Ironman told me to prepare affirmations for when the race gets tough. I start saying them now. You trained for this. You worked hard for this. You deserve to be here. You are a runner. You got this. You are a warrior. I hear the physio’s voice in my ear, WHEN YOU GET TIRED, LIFT YOUR FEET, USE YOUR GLUTES, HOLD YOUR CHEST HIGH TO BREATHE, LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD. So I do.
16km – Now my effing glutes hurt. My thighs feel encased in cement, every step is painful. I’m limping. This running thing actually really sucks. Whose stupid idea was this?
17km – I’m walking. Limping. Shuffling. Theres a roaring in my ears and I’m dizzy. My heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest. I want to go home. I’ve shut off the stupid music. Screw Beyonce and Rihanna and Pink. What the heck do they know about this agony? Absolutely nothing.
17.5km – I’m gonna vomit. Did I already mention that this running thing is absolute total shit? Wheres a taxi? I need to go home.
17.6km Just put one foot in front of the other.
17.7km Just one useless foot in front of the other. Shut up sore foot. Shut up concrete legs and glutes.
17.8km One foot, one foot, one foot.
18km – Going over the bridge. I cant do this. Im going to fall down. I grab hold of the railing for support, lean over the side. Far below the brown silty ocean is a churning mess in the rain. The world spins. If I lean over any further, then I’ll fall in and get swept out to sea because I’m too weak to swim. I’ll drown. OMG IM GONNA DROWN! Because this is what sloth writers do when we are dying in a half marathon, we must imagine more ways we could die.
18.5km – Forget going big. I want to go home. I need to go home. Theres a raging pressure building in my chest, choking me. Maybe I’m having a heart attack. Everything hurts so bad. My left foot wont shut up. I dread every time I land on it. It’s like that bratty kid who wont stop screaming and you cant block them out any longer. Im so done with this foolishness. I know, I’ll get a taxi…
18.7km – Can’t quit. Because I dont see any taxis. And because, what if I pass out in the taxi and the driver is a psycho killer on the lookout for women in a much weakened state? And because I made a goal, a commitment. I’m doing a half marathon. The sooner I finish this, then I can go home right?
18.9km – Its too hard. It hurts too much.
19km – The Ironman has come to find me. I see him in the distance and I want to cry. Its going to be alright. He is strong and he will take me home.
19.5km – I walk and stop, walk and stop. It hurts. The Ironman walks alongside me, giving me water. Nearly there. You can do this. Just walk slow. Nearly there. You can do this, I know you can. And thats when I burst into tears. Because I know I cant. Because I have to vomit, I need to lie down. Right now. I choke on tears and blow my nose on my raggedy shirt. I cry and walk and he walks alongside me and step by step we get closer to the finish.
People are cheering, shouting encouragement. I am the last person to finish and they’re all waiting for me (so they can bloody well pack up and have breakfast. Hurry up Lani dammit!) I am afraid. I dont want to collapse in front of all these people! As we get closer to the end, I ask the Ironman, will you hold me up so I dont fall over when I cross the finish line? Yes I will. Will you take me behind some bushes so I can throw up in private? OMG I DONT WANT TO CHOKE ON VOMIT IN FRONT OF ALL THESE PEOPLE. Yes I will, he says. And so, with that reassurance, I finally break into a jagged shuffly run and finish my half-marathon.
The race is finished. It took me 3 and a half hours. The Ironman won the race in 1 hour and thirty two minutes. Im sitting here with my foot in a cooler of ice. My heart rate is slowly settling down and the nausea has eased. I turn to the Ironman and say, ‘You know what I realised when I got to the start of the third lap? I should have done the 14km. Because I was strong and feeling good until the 15km mark. My fitness and training was enough for 14km.’
He rolls his eyes. Because didnt he tell me that before?
What did I learn from my half-marathon today?
1.You should listen to the Ironman who lives in your house when he gives you training advice. Wow, who knew?!
2.Coming last in the race takes much longer and is MUCH HARDER SUFFERING than coming first. (The Ironman disagrees with me that it’s harder, but I told him he hasnt had enough experience coming last to argue with me on this one.)
3.Its a little bit physical preparation and a whole lot of mental. I am tougher than I knew. Because when quitting was the most attractive option, I kept going.
4. I need a new robot foot.
5. It’s a good idea to do a 5km…and a 10km before you take on a half marathon.
6.That Ironman who lives in the same house as me is my rock. It doesnt matter how bad things get, how impossible it seems, I know that so long as he is alongside me, I will make it home.
7. Finishing really is winning. And I’m a winner. I did it. I went big. And then I very gratefully went home.