The Marathon I Almost Did Not Finish

I almost did not finish today’s Singapore Marathon. I was off to a good start despite the crowded starting line. I decided that I would run this at an easy six minutes per kilometer hoping to finish a little past four hours. I was settling into a good rhythm right before the 5KM mark when another runner suddenly cut me off to overtake. I tripped on his foot, causing my left ankle to twist hard. Sharp pain shot up from my ankle all the way to my knees. I quickly hobbled to the side of the road to avoid getting trampled on by the throng of runners. I was cringing in pain for around three to five minutes, eyes shut tight to block it all off. I mustered all my strength to get my bearings, moved my toes and ankle a bit to check if anything was broken. I had just recently recovered from another accident almost three weeks ago that left my right ankle sprained so I knew how to check if the injury was a sprain or a fracture. It clearly has not been a lucky month.

My mind was racing whether I should stop and not finish the race or proceed with caution. Since nothing seemed broken, I decided to go ahead with the race, knowing too that there are risks to running on an injured ankle for an extended period. I didn’t want to look at my ankle but I knew that in a matter of hours it could be as big as a golf ball.

So I ran carefully from KM 5 to 36. At around KM 7 I felt my right knee locking and getting really painful. It might be because the right leg was already over compensating for the injured leg. Clearly there already was a physical imbalance. So I tried getting more strength from my arms and core to help my legs run. I also avoided stopping at every water station since stopping means I had to reset my legs and that was such a hard thing to do. So I filled up my bottle with drinks and just stopped after every two water stations. I was still quite happy that I never walked despite the injury.

And then suddenly I could not run anymore past KM 36. I tried striking one foot after another but at this point the pain was already unbearable. A big part of me wanted to run, driven by pride. But I really couldn’t. So I humbly resigned to the reality that I will have to walk the rest of the way. At this point I also felt a strong resolve that said “$&@:) it. I will finish this even if I have to crawl to the finish line.” So I hobbled and limped my way to KM 42.

Throughout this ordeal I went through the entire spectrum of emotions. I started hurt then angry thinking that I have always been a careful runner and made the necessary preparations so why did this happen to me. Then vengeful, cursing the man who accidentally tripped me, remembering that he looked back when he heard me howl in pain but still sped on. Then disappointed that it was not a fun, easy race as I wanted it to be.  I was also frustrated that I got injured again in a span of one month. Then there was a feeling of acceptance that it is what it is then resignation that it was gonna be a long, hot day.

And then finally I felt the resolve to push to the finish. I said to myself that it was my choice to be in this exact moment. It may not have turned out according to plan but there really are things you cannot control as much as you want to. You may be a very careful runner but there are others who are careless. You may have prepared for it but there are things that are really unexpected. And yes these apply to life in general too. Life will throw curveballs at us and the only thing we can really control is how we react to these.

Despite the quiet swings in emotion and the looming doubt whether I could finish this race, I managed to pull myself together and trudged on. As I saw the finish line, tears flowed down my cheeks. This  was definitely one of the hardest things I have done in my life. But I thank God for the resolve to finish what I started, to focus on the goal at hand. I want to believe that I am emerging from this test of willpower as a much stronger person, capable of keeping at it despite the odds.

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The smile belies the physical and internal turmoil. Just happy to finish 🙂

4 thoughts on “The Marathon I Almost Did Not Finish

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