A year ago last weekend, I ran my second half marathon, the Staten Island Half. And my memories of that day are bittersweet, at best. So I'm hoping to erase some of those memories with my running the Staten Island Half again this year.
I had really high expectations for last year's race, after running my first half marathon six months earlier. With my first half, I was just happy to finish. For this one, I had wanted to complete in under three hours. And because the race ended in Richmond County Ballpark, I thought that this would be how the Brooklyn Half was, which I had volunteered at earlier this year. That race has a very cool post-race festival with food and drinks and music and fun afterwards.
Also, because of the half marathon being on my home turf, so to speak, I thought I would see a slew of people I knew afterwards. And in particular, one person had promised to be there for me at the finish line.
Nothing turned out as planned that day. I got injured during the race -- my right hip and hamstring gave me severe pain -- and I ended up being sidelined for several months afterwards because of this, even having to go to a sports medicine specialist. Because of the injury, I staggered through the last few miles, and missed my 3 hour goal by 49 seconds. The Staten Island Half also had a bunch of the mile marker signs out of commission, which threw me off my game. (This was back before I had a Garmin watch.) And they ran out of energy gels and even water before the end. The ballpark was a ghost town by the time I finished, with the only familiar face there Squawker Jon. Also, the person who was supposed to be there for me afterwards wasn't able to be there.
More importantly, getting hurt, and not living up to the goal I set for myself, really crushed me. I was feeling very sorry for myself afterwards. Until that day, as slow and fat as I was, I had always been successful in reaching whatever milestone or goal I wanted to hit with running. That day, I didn't. Plus I got hurt during the race, which had never happened before. Being in the medical tent after the race wasn't exactly fun. And I wasn't able to run for the next two months, which really upset me. I ended up having to walk, not run, the fall races I signed up for, and that bored me to tears.
As bad as I felt afterwards, though, that day taught me some lessons. One was to work on strength training, which I had neglected to do, and which caused me hip and hamstring problems. Since I started doing such training twice a week, I have been stronger physically, and those issues have mostly been alleviated. (I still have pain in my right periformis muscle, but only when sitting, not running.) I learned I couldn't take my health for granted.
It also toughened me up more mentally, something that I've had to work on for the marathon. It reminded me that I had to avoid situations which would inevitably disappoint me, and instead keep focused on my goal. Also, I know that I can run fine when I'm angry, but sadness totally gets me down, and I have to avoid being down in that way.
This year, I have high hopes for my Staten Island Half performance, especially since it's a preliminary test for the upcoming NYC Marathon. Here's hoping I have a much more fruitful race than last October!