Two thousand twelve started off really, really badly. January included two orthopedist visits, one MRI, and zero miles running due to a hip flexor problem. But the MRI showed no structural injury and by February I was cleared to hit the road again, albeit carefully.
My first race of 2012 was the Save Muny 5K on the Lions Municipal golf course. I loved the idea of this race–a charity event to save an old Austin landmark from development into condos or strip centers–but I’d hardly run since November and I felt a bit anxious about actually getting out there on a cold and damp February morning and running across muddy hills and wet grass. No pavement, no gravel trail. I had maybe a week to prepare after my doctor pronounced me injury-free, and the last thing I wanted to do was crash on the golf course. So I took it easy and settled for beating that guy with the bandaged knee and maybe two dozen other people.
In March, we ran the Capitol 10K with some good friends from out of state. I love this race–the first mile goes up Congress Avenue to the Capitol, one of the best urban views anywhere. The middle two miles, west on 15th Street, have two monster hills, but once you get past those, it’s mostly downhill to the finish. People wear hilarious costumes, residents line the streets and cheer endlessly, and no matter your pace, running with 25,000 other folks is an amazing experience. This year, thanks to my two-month hiatus, I was slow and rusty and walked probably 1/3 of the race, but I didn’t hurt and I felt confident about returning to running.
Cinco de Mayo brought us the Chuy’s Hot to Trot 5K, which was hellishly un-fun. I still had no endurance, and the last mile of the race we ran right into the blazing sun, which added a degree of difficulty for which I was unprepared. But I finished and didn’t die.
Finish and don’t die: that became my mantra as I began half-marathon training in July, which made the Chuy’s race feel like a walk in the park.
Speaking of parks, even though I didn’t run any races between May and August, I got to run in some interesting places: NYC’s Central Park, the deck of the Carnival Magic, and Austin’s hike and bike trail. I loved running through Central Park–even in late June the morning temperature was cool, and I saw people of all paces and speeds. Some manner of complaining emanated from the small person on the trip, since we probably walked seven or eight miles a day doing touristy stuff too. But I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to run through Central Park, tired or not. The Magic, well, the track was tiny and I encountered dozens of obstacles such as elderly walkers, putt-putt golfers, and a stiff headwind. But that’s a total first-world problem, so I can’t really complain.
When I started half-marathon training, I could plod out a slow three miles. Ten, not to mention thirteen, seemed completely out of the question and I frequently wondered what the hell I had been thinking, signing up for this madness. But I followed my training plan and listened to my coaches, and slowly I saw improvement in both endurance and speed.
In August, we ran a 5K on the beach in Galveston. I loved that race so much, I’ve already made plans to go back in 2013! Then in September, I scored a 5K PR that I have yet to duplicate, although I’ve come close. October brought a frigid 10-miler and a volunteer stint at the Formula Run, which led to the coup de grace, the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on November 11. I was telling someone the other day that running a half-marathon was the hardest thing I’ve ever done–including childbirth. I mean, really, childbirth took less time and I got good drugs. 😉
After the half, I took it easy and ran some family fun runs–the five-mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, the Jingle Bell 5K, and the Trail of Lights 5K. Looking back, it seems like I ran a lot more than ten races! But as they say, the real work is in the training, and boy did I do a lot of THAT. And I’ve come a long way. I may be slow, but this time last year I was running zero miles. On January 13, I will run my second half-marathon, and with that, start collecting a new year of race numbers.