A Half Marathon In The Dark
Welcome back to Blind Intuition. If you have been following me for a while, you would have read my post Running in the Dark where I delved into what it is like to run with not a lot of vision. I also announced that I was training for a half marathon. Well the Bendigo Half Marathon has been and gone and it is probably about time I wrote about it as I have been hibernating from the blogging world for a few months. I did it! See my Instagram post here. The run had many obstacles and challenges, but I made it through them all thanks to my long time friend Maddy, who ran as my guide. Maddy and I began our running venture together back in Tasmania completing our first 10km race in 2009 at the Burnie 10. From then on, both of us have developed a love for running. Maddy has gone on to complete a few half marathons and her first full marathon last July in the Gold Coast Marathon. She is a gun and kindly offered to run by my side as my guide for the Bendigo Half Marathon. I get a little bit emotional thinking about that day, because she is just so generous and I feel very lucky to have such a giving and beautiful friend in my life. It was such a huge goal to tackle physically and mentally and we shared that together.
Here is the recap:
Bendigo turned the weather on with an overcast and miserable rainy day. It was really mild and the mosquitoes were driving us nuts with the plague. I was feeling nervous because I wasn’t up to scratch with my fitness due to recently returning from Europe with a few kilograms gained from overindulging. I had a black big toe with blisters and the nail about to come off from running too far in my new sneakers. However something deep inside me told me that I would be ok. It wasn’t about time; it was about finishing. That in itself was massive after recovering from a cesarean section and two rounds of brain surgery.
We danced in our warm-up and lined up towards the back, as I was conscious of slowing the sighted runners down. We had four laps of the Bendigo CBD to do. The first one was the longest at 6km and the rest were 5km laps. Mentally I knew I would get through by locating landmarks as I ran past them on the first lap to give me and idea of how much of the lap I had left. The gun went and we were off. Maddy and I were laughing and chatting away. I didn’t want to cook it at the start by starting out too fast. We found our groove and were trying to maintain a sub 6.40 pace.
The first lap, I felt good. There was a tough hill towards the end of the lap which I knew might trip me up later on as I hadn’t done a lot of hill training. We were onto our second lap. My friend Jodie was watching us and had a bag of lolly snakes ready for when we needed them. The second lap was much the same as the first. I felt ok. I grabbed a couple of snakes from Jodie just before the third. The third lap I was starting to feel it. My right big toe was starting to throb from the rubbing of my shoe. My hips were stiffening a little. I was starting to feel a bit of doubt coming wondering if I could handle another lap. Maddy was great! She kept encouraging me to just put one foot in front of the other. We set landmarks and I kept telling myself not to stop running. I am sure it would have looked like a shuffle at this point. I guess this is where I had to start pushing mentally to get to the finish line that I had been fantasizing about for some time.
The last lap was great because we only had one lap to go, but excruciating physically and mentally. This lap was really one foot at a time, one power pole at a time, one street at a time, one drink station at a time and lastly, that bloody hill. I think I was in tears at that point. Maddy pushed me through and we made it to the top. Still, we didn’t stop running. We were now on that home stretch I had been dreaming about. We crossed the finish line and that pure feeling of elation and bitter sweet came rushing in.
I have completed one half marathon before at a much, much quicker time, however the Bendigo half marathon was the beginning of a running adventure where my world is a little darker, a little harder and a little bit more challenging. I set my bench mark to beat.
Since the half marathon, I have hit a wall with the long distance. It really took it’s toll on me mentally and physically, however, I am motivated now to get back into it after a break. Will I run a half marathon again? Absolutely, but will aim to do one once every two years or so. It is on my bucket list to do a full one, but I want to wait until we finish our family and I have some time to myself back. Long distance running takes away so much time and energy. Even though, I love it, I really need to find that middle ground where I can have a bit of me time without running myself into the ground and be fully present with my family. My happy place is running between seven and ten km at the moment, and I am comfortable with this right now.
Maddy was an excellent guide. It was a miserable day, so my vision was compromised a bit. We didn’t need to use a guide rope, however I would definitely use one in a larger, more populated race. There were a few occasions where I would grab her arm when I felt disorientated with turning a corner or a street. She would let me know if there were any trip hazards such as breaks in the path, speed humps, hills and landmarks we had discovered in our first lap. She ran on my left side because i am unable to see out that eye, so this insured that I didn’t run into anyone or anything. She pushed me through the hardest points of the race where I felt like I was hitting a wall. She was great.
From the bottom of my heart, thanks to Cameron for looking after Archer during my long run days in training. Thanks to Archer for being my little training buddy. He got such a thrill out of going for a run in his Mountain Buggy Terrain. Sometimes it was like pushing a sled, so I think that helped build lots of strength up in my legs. Last of all thanks to Maddy for flying down for the weekend to be my guide. You are one in a million!