Fitness Files: After doubts, a triumph at finish line

Anybody get stuck in OC Marathon street closures on Sunday?

I was stuck the week before.

I had paid for Sunday's OC Half Marathon and was stuck deciding whether my legs — with painful shin splints from March's LA Marathon — should race or sit it out.

In my last column, I wrote about the quandary.

Then my daughter called. I said, "I'm fighting with myself about whether to run Sunday. I've slowed to 12-minute-miles, protecting my shins. I'll get a terrible time…"

"Hey, Mom," Rachel interrupted, "Wrong attitude! Answer this: What's the most important thing you get out of running?"

She answered her own question: "It's the fun, right? Forget finish time. Have fun."

"Great idea," I said. (Always best to agree with my daughter.)

However, I thought, "baloney." Have fun at a crawl?

Enjoy coming in at two hours, 40 minutes instead of giving it my all? Not fun.

I spent the week shoving the race out of my mind, but I rested my legs. Bought compression socks to warm my shins, and rested my legs.

Sweated through hot days, checked for Sunday's cooling trend, while I rested my legs. Still not sure I'd run, I picked up my number and chip, skipping Saturday's workout.

Sunday's race was slated to start at 6:15 a.m., so Jill, a fellow runner, and I spoke sweetly to my husband. He agreed to drop us off at Fashion Island at 5:15 a.m. I'd go along to support Jill.

Stumbling about in sleepy stupor at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, I awoke to the realization — shin splints were gone. The magic of rest.

Pulled on my compression socks, pinned on my number. Jill rapped at the door. Seeing me decked out in number and chip, she assumed I'd race. I kept mum.

Race "starts" revolve around long lines at dozens of port-o-potties facing forward like soldiers on review. Jill and I got in line, kibitzing with runners from Arizona, Temecula and Tustin.

Next, we joined the migration to the start and the packed corral. I usually strain on tiptoe to locate the "Two-Hour-Pace-Group" sign above the crowd.

Instead, I blanked out all expectations. The gun sounded. I decided to race, running along at my own pace, focusing forward, using powers of concentration: no conversations, no high fives, no wasted energy.

Accelerating with the flow of runners, I enjoyed the early light, the freedom of moving forward along streets sans cars. I sought shade, sensed every cooling breeze.

Nothing hurt. Legs worked. I ran for fun.

I crossed the finish at 2hours, 8minutes.

Post-race, Jill and I hung over the fence, cheering wildly as an 85-year-old runner completed the full marathon in about 3 hours, 40 minutes.

"Hey, Jill," I said, "maybe I'll be that fast in 15 years!"

Later, I called my daughter. "Thanks, Rachel, I took your advice. I had fun."

That afternoon, Jill's text read, "Carrie Slayback, First Place, Females, 70-74, Orange County Half Marathon, 2014. Congrats!"

Lesson learned was to rest, release tension and participate. I'm grateful for my first place, but I already felt I'd won.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is a retired teacher who ran the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70, winning first place in her age group. Her blog is lazyracer@blogspot.com.

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