Kurt’s point of view:
When we planned to run the Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon (previously the Mardi Gras Marathon), we developed a training schedule. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…well, you know how it works out. Swollen and infected lymph nodes, pink eye, two separate cases of an upper respiratory infection, and, worst of all, a debilitating case of sciatica decided to rear their ugly heads. And that was just with me.
Needless to say when we lined up early morning March 4th, we were not ready. Our only goal was to finish.
We started out okay. We had a plan of running for about five to eight minutes followed with a walk of three to five minutes and then repeat. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work either. After a good three miles at the pace we wanted, we realized, for various reasons, we had to walk the rest.
Not that made it easier.
Every step made my feet feel as if it was coming apart at the seams. My fingers were swelling. I was starving. Cristina felt even worse. Yet, we were determined to finish.
By mile ten Cristina was in utter pain. I could see her considering quitting. She didn’t. She kept on going. I’ve never been more proud of her.
When we got to the finish line, we did do the one thing we planned. Running is something we do together as a couple, so it only made sense to hold hands as we crossed.
Looking back at all the problems we had training for this half marathon, we could use them as excuses. But that’s not how I see it. They are badges. Each one of those things could have made us not show up for the race. But we did.
We might have finished in the bottom 1%, but WE finished. And when you think about it, that’s all that matters.
Cristina’s point of view:
Back in July of last year, Kurt and I decided to start c25k (Couch to 5k) for about the 5th time. We were determined to make it work this time. During our first couple of “runs,” after 30 seconds, I was literally gasping for breath. Kurt had to give me his arm for support as I felt my lungs struggling for air. By October, I could run for about 20 minutes straight, at least a mile, though not at a fast pace or anything. We ran 3 different 5k races, including one in Disney World, and were really excited about it. Thinking we were on a good pace, we decided to book a half-marathon in New Orleans at the beginning of March. We were confident we could finish this in under 4 hours, maybe even under 3 1/2.
Boy, were we ever wrong.
Little did we know a host of problems would plague us, everything from the flu to sciatica, and many more in between. For two weeks at a time, at least one of us would be out of commission, and even though we should have continued training alone, we didn’t want to leave the other one suffering at home.
We should have trained!
While Kurt was very nervous at the half-marathon and whether or not we’d finish, I was still confident we’d finish in a decent time. The day of the race, we awoke about 3:30am to try and get to Poydras in New Orleans a little after 5am. Though it was an extremely chilly morning, we dressed lightly because we knew running would make us sweaty and hot. After we got there and grabbed some free breakfast of bananas and bagels, we went back to the car to wait until it was closer to start time, as it was so cold!
Finally the sun had risen and it was 6:30am. We got in corral 23 (out of 25) and anxiously awaited for the start of the race. After what seemed like an eternity, 7am rolled around and we started moving; however, since we were so far back, it was a little after 7:30am before we even reached the finish line. After a brief speech and countdown, we were off!
We started off at a nice pace. Jogging down the streets, making our way to St. Charles Ave, we saw hats, mittens, sweatshirts, even nice jackets thrown all over the place. I knew it’d get hot, so I was glad for the loose pants and breezy shirt I had on. Even though I had used the potty right before we lined up, I guess all the nervous energy was making me have to go again. A little ways down St. Charles is a McDonald’s, and I saw other runners leaving it…perfect! I ran up to the 2nd story of it and ran back out in less than 5 minutes. We got to the 5k mark at right about 50 minutes…and spending around 5 minutes to take my potty break meant we were running around 15 minute miles…so far, so good!
We started to slow down a bit at the 5 mile mark. As we made the u-turn to start running the opposite way down St. Charles, we saw that there were still plenty of people behind us. We were near the end, but no where close to the actual end of the race, where the tail car was, ready to pick up people that couldn’t go on.
When we reached mile 6, Kurt’s feet and hips started to hurt. We slowed down a bit more, and I felt the need to potty again. My bladder didn’t like all this running, which was weird since I never had to pee very much during my training. I hit the Porta-Potty up at mile 7 and we finally reached the end of St. Charles, and started to walk toward Magazine St, where we’d eventually hit Decatur St. in the French Quarter.
By mile 8 my feet felt like I was walking on glass. I had never actually trained beyond 6 miles, and my feet were just not happy with me. As we’re walking through the French Quarter, passing Jackson Square, seeing the street art and hearing the live bands, watching the people waiting for Cafe Du Monde, I would have given anything to be with them instead of enduring the pain in my feet. Right after mile 10, we reached Esplanade Ave. From here, it was a straight shot to NOMA, where the race ended right behind it in City Park. As we got slower and slower and more and more people passed us, my worst fear came true.
Right after mile 11, the tail vehicle came behind us to pass us.
At this point, I was literally crying while I was walking. My feet have never felt such pain. My stomach was cramping big time. All I wanted to do was lie down on the median and take a nap in the grass. I could care less about finishing this race. As that vehicle came up and asked if we were okay, every fiber of my being wanted to hobble into it and be whisked off to the finish line.
Yet, somehow, some little voice managed to convince me not to. That at some point later that day, or tomorrow, or next week, I was going to regret not finishing the race. That the only people left with us so far back were much, much older people, and they were still walking, still struggling to finish, and not giving up. And I knew I couldn’t either. So I just let that tail vehicle pass us and focused all my energy on making it to that finish line.
At mile 12, there were some more Porta-Potties. Now, I’m not going to go into details, but let’s just say this was NOT a pleasant moment for me. But I knew I could not walk one more painful mile with my stomach cramping the way it was. I was so desperate, I was about to randomly knock on some door along Esplanade and beg to use their bathroom. When I emerged from the Porta-Potty, I did feel tremendously better. And that last mile, at around a 23min/mile pace, actually went by in a blur. Oh, seeing all those half-marathoners and marathoners being finished from as far back as the French Quarter did not help my ego any, but when we turned behind NOMA, saw that finish line, and crossed it holding hands, it was one proud moment.
Because even though the odds we against us, we didn’t give up. We got those medals. We completed a half-marathon, even if we didn’t break any records doing so. But hey, we were NOT last! Very, very, very close to it, but still, not last. And next time, because there will be a next time, we’ll make sure we put in the proper training BEFORE we sign up for another race. And hopefully, finish it in the 3hr 30min time frame I was hoping for!