How not to finish two marathons: part 2 - perspective!

23rd October 2014

By Peta Smith

Two weeks before lift off for Berlin, and four weeks before the actual race, I decided I would compete in a half-marathon. I knew I needed race practice, and I wanted to test my ankle before Berlin. It seemed this would be the perfect opportunity for both. The course was flat and all off road.

The week preceding this race, I’d felt an unusual niggle in my left knee. I was able to run through the pain comfortably at training and it wasn’t bad enough for me to think anything more of it. So I let it go as a “niggle – nothing to worry about” strain. However, nine kilometres into the 21km race, I felt that niggle. Twelve kilometres in I really felt that niggle. And at 16kms I was in real strife. Did I do the sensible thing and stop? With $50 prize money on the line and my dignity on the line, I certainly did not!

Yes, I’m an idiot with too much pride. And again, that old lesson about stopping when you’re in pain was thrown in my face.

The following day I couldn’t walk. I tried running and it was a mess. I visited my dear physio Errol Alcott and I knew from his face it was bad news. It wasn’t life threatening – but four weeks out from a marathon, it was certainly race threatening. We did all we could. I was at the physio every second day getting treatment. I swam the house down to stay fit. I did my exercises and I prayed to the God of running, Atalanta (she’s my hero), every night.

As I boarded my plane for Berlin, two weeks out from race day, I swung my 20kg pack on my back and I knew at that moment that Berlin wasn’t happening.  I felt a shooting pain in my left leg and I just knew. That knee wasn’t running 42kms in 2 weeks. No way. In denial, I still tried to cross train overseas. I hiked and I swam. I tried to stay positive. It wasn’t until the week before the race, during my first test run, that the news became real. I couldn’t even run 2kms pain free.

And so it was that I withdrew from the Berlin marathon. How did that feel? Worse than that time I put my white Tigerlily dress through the washing machine with my hot pink Running Bare sports bra, put it that way.

I was shattered. I was heart-broken. I was devastated, crushed and disappointed. Eight and a half months of blood, sweat and tears for nothing. The blisters and the toenails and all the sacrifices – worthless.

Or were they?

Lesson #4 of running, sport and life in general: things don’t, and things won’t, always work out the way you want them to.

That’s life.

In order to overcome the pain and the disappointment I’ve experienced, I’ve thought about the positive things that have come as a result of training for a marathon.

Firstly, throughout this time, I met the people who have become my running family. The friendships I have formed at Jock Athletic mean more to me than running ever could. No marathon, no track time, and no gold medal could ever find the same place in my heart as these people. And I honestly mean that.

Secondly, I pushed myself further than I believed possible. Physically and mentally I was achieving more than I thought conceivable. The first time I got through a 10X1kms interval session I was proud as punch. It showed me that with the right amount of self-belief and encouragement, we truly can do whatever we put our minds to.

Thirdly, I have come to realise how truly lucky I am. I’ve got an amazing, healthy, body that works incredibly hard for me. I am gifted with a brain that is borderline clever (on a good day). I have a family who adores me, friends that laugh at my jokes, and the opportunity to travel the world. At the end of the day; I’m bloody blessed beyond belief!

It’s this third realisation that I’ve reflected on most as a result of missing the marathon. The sports that we invest our lives and our souls in can so easily become all encompassing. But if we take a step or two back, and look at the broader picture, it’s not our sport what defines us. Perspective is a tricky attribute to possess, but one I’m quickly learning.

I’m still overseas backpacking. I’ve been through Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and I’m now in Portugal. So although I didn’t get to race the marathon, I am on an amazing adventure, and having the time of my life.

Putting that in perspective, it’s hard to complain!