Well, that was painful.
By mile 11 of the half marathon at Sunday’s San Luis Obispo Marathon, my ankles and left knee were wondering why I had decided several months ago that running 13.1 miles would be a good idea.
I pounded the pavement on the railroad bike path near Sinsheimer Park, heading for the Madonna Inn and the finish line, and tried to distract myself with the energy of the runners, the enthusiasm of the spectators and the satisfaction of being close to completing a goal.
It might sound like it, but this wasn’t my first rodeo.
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I started training for longer distances in 2008, when I joined a “couch to 5K” program in Sacramento.
Since then, my husband and I have a collection of roughly three dozen pieces of hardware hanging in our garage, from mostly half marathon races including the half in the inaugural SLO Marathon in 2012.
But then, in 2013, I had a kid. I ran at the beginning of my pregnancy, but gave it up after a few months in lieu of swimming, hiking and cycling (until my belly got too big). But for me, it’s just not the same workout as running.
As soon as my doctor gave me the go-ahead, I started running short distances. But as any newbie runner will tell you, it’s hard to keep running when every outing hurts.
Running became a hobby that I didn’t have time for or was too exhausted to pursue.
I needed a goal.
So that’s why I joined thousands of other runners to tackle the hilly SLO Marathon course, which starts at San Luis Obispo High School, circles downtown and heads into Edna Valley.
Over the past nine weeks, I had tried to run three or four times a week, but didn’t always hit that goal (and yes, my toddler is my excuse).
I started the race feeling undertrained and nervous about the hills, starting with the climb up Johnson Avenue. I tried to focus on the hill I was running and not worry about the monster inclines waiting for me on Orcutt Road.
The day was beautiful — Saturday’s rain had cleaned the roads and left behind a blue sky to complement the brown-green hills — and the mile markers included words of encouragement (mile 8: “Madonna is waiting at the finish.”)
I hit the turnaround near Baileyana Winery sooner than expected and headed back down a beast of a hill, feeling more confident than I had on the way out. But still, the bike path loomed — a long, flat stretch that seems unending.
I trudged on, imaging the finish line and the food waiting for me there.
By the time I made it back to the downtown area and headed down Islay Street, I knew I wasn’t going to beat my time from 2012.
But that was OK. With hundreds of spectators and finishers lining the finishing chute, I picked up the pace and sprinted in to claim my medal in just under 2 hours, 20 minutes — about nine minutes slower than my 2012 time and 16 minutes slower than my personal record.
Someday, I would love to break two hours ... but maybe not on this course. City to the Sea, anyone?