The Tale of the Unremarkable Half

Last summer when I was diagnosed with a multitude of hernias, one of the first things I thought was, “Damn, I’m tough.” This fleeting moment of self-aggrandizement arrived when I realized I’d just run one of my fastest 5Ks in Chicago while battling a slight hangover and, as it turns out, abdominal instability. After I finished figuratively patting myself on the back, it dawned on me that my injury and its accompanying surgery meant a long layoff from running, which also meant no half marathon in the fall.

Instead of spending my autumn training for a race and losing the weight I intended on regaining during the holiday season, I rested and recovered. I walked as much as I could; looking forward to the day when I would be active once again. I didn’t have to wait that long, but my winter exercise resulted in occasional tightness in my lower abdomen and irrational fears that I might never fully recover. Perhaps I was bound to be one of a small sliver of men who experience the type of catastrophic mesh malfunction that requires the assistance of a law firm that runs ads on cable television.

Fortunately, these fears did not come to fruition.

There I am in yellow, running with a woman who’s so close you’d think we were friends. (We’re not.)

Time passed and I walked more and more. I eventually began running. Soccer matches and basketball games resumed and life returned to normal. As I worked on getting my legs back, I eyed spring half marathons, knowing I needed to find one that took place later in the season in order to give me the time I needed to build up my strength and confidence. The only race that fit the bill was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle. I didn’t find this option terribly inspiring, mainly because I ran it last June. In my previous ten half marathons I’d never repeated an event and there was something about re-running this one that seemed kind of lame. But I signed up anyway, knowing that my family’s recent new purchases (a house and a car) limited my ability to fly off to some other, more interesting race locale. Besides the important thing wasn’t the event or the course as much as it was that I return to running 13.1 miles and getting sweet ass finisher medals.

So I signed up. And I trained. And I trained some more. And this past Sunday, I finally ran the race.

And it was unremarkable.

My number and my sweet ass medal.

Don’t get me wrong, the race was great. The weather was fantastic, my time was very good, and I’m always impressed with what the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks manage to accomplish on a week-to-week basis. But I didn’t approach my PR and I didn’t see anything new or novel. Sure, I saw obscure corners of neighborhoods I was unfamiliar with and killed my quads on a ridiculously steep hill the organizers planted on mile 10, but I can’t say anything noteworthy happened.

As a runner, I’ve been a bit spoiled because most of the half marathons I’ve participated in have been weekend getaways. I’ve run halfs in some of the finest towns and cities on the west coast, including Vancouver, Portland, Hood River, Monterrey, San Francisco and Santa Barbara wine country. These races provided me with unique running locales and new experiences. They allowed me to trek through beautiful countrysides and past (or over) amazing pieces of urban architecture. My post-race celebrations took place at delightful pubs and trendy restaurants, places I’d never visited or even knew existed. Last Sunday’s race was celebrated with a nap in my own bed, a soak in my own tub and a margarita-fueled dinner at a familiar Mexican restaurant at our local mall.

There was nothing eventful about this race.

But that’s okay. In fact, it’s probably what I needed. With the type of layoff I had, I didn’t need travel or interesting food or excitement. I just needed to get out there and do that thing I’ve somehow managed to do ten times before. I needed to know I could still run a half marathon in a reasonable amount of time and that my reconstructed abdominal wall could take the abuse that came with two hours of rigorous physical exertion.

Mission accomplished… albeit unremarkably.

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