I've been composing this post in my head all week; Grant, my husband, ran the Platte River Half Marathon this morning, and I wanted to write about being on the other side. It's been so long since I wrangled kids and felt dizzy from looking for one specific runner on a race course, I was excited to write--and think--from a fresh perspective.
After we drop him off at the starting line this morning, I sugar up the kids with hot chocolate and shortbread cookies from Starbucks, and we head out to mile 10. We got there around 9:30, and Grant thought he'd be passing through around 10:20. So I chat with the aid station volunteers, I try to discourage Amelia from using the port-a-potty but she really has to go, and I help the kids gather sticks for a made-up game I don't really get.
But mostly, I worry about the wind. The wind feels crazy strong to me standing still, and worst of all, it's a headwind. Because it's a point-to-point course, I imagine the runners battling the wind for all 13. 1 miles, and I know what kind of mood that will understandably put Grant in.
Grant, a devotee of Run Less, Run Faster, is primed for this race. He usually runs at lunchtime, and when I ask him at the end of the day how is run was, his reply is typically something in the good/great/amazing category, and then, because I can't resist, I ask him what his splits were. "I held 7-minute miles for a 4 mile tempo run," he reports in a contented tone. I'm a bit jealous: Running seems to come so easily to him, but I'm mostly proud.
Back to race day. 10:15 comes, and I pull the kids over to the side of the path I'm on, and get them ready to cheer. I put my camera on sports mode, and hope I don't miss him; he, like most of the males out there, is wearing mostly black (maybe they think it makes them more stealthy?).
10:17. 10:18. "Just two more minutes, and he should be here," I tell the kids, who are anxious to get back to their stick project. 10:20. No sign. His "A" goal is a 1:40 finish, and his "B" is 1:50. I know 8-minute-miles land him in that range, but I'm not sure how far over 8 he can go.
10:22, 10:23, and no tall guy in black fighting the wind. Ugh.
Where is he? Finally, around 10:25, we see him off to the side of the path.
Which is, of course, way worse than a headwind. I tell him to run for the camera, and he takes a couple steps, but is wincing in pain. His knee buckled at mile 9, and he walked from 9 to 10. "I tried to keep running," he says, "But it just hurts too much." He doesn't want to walk the last 3 miles, so we pile in the car.
And even though I want to cry for him, I also realize his (smart, yet painful) decision is why we're such a good pair. I would've kept running with a very screwed-up gait and likely done major damage. "I've got another half of my life to live," he tells me later. "It's not worth screwing up my body just for one race." Grant naturally thinks long-term, whereas I can barely think through a week. He is patient to my haste, mellow to my manic. Even though I wish I organically had his perspective, the fact that his thoughtful presence will be forever in my life makes me feel at peace.
He was obviously bummed, though, especially when he starting clicking around on his Garmin as I drive us home. I rub the back of his neck as he reads off his splits: 7:23, 7:17, 7:30...he was on pace for a 1:40, even with the crazy wind. "You ran 9 amazing miles," I say, trying to soften the blow, but I know he's not buying it. I wouldn't either. I can tell he mentally replays the race all day long. "Sweetness, I was running so fast," he says over dinner.
Instead of a nice neat ending like "hey: I can't wait to be back racing again! it's much easier!" there is no simple one for this unexpected entry. The plan for now is to take a break from running, let his knee heal, then ride his bike, strength train, and see where that lands him. Hopefully in a good place.
For my part, all I can say is that I'm anticipating writing that entry I thought I would write; the three of us will be back out there cheering for you, speedy guy, when you and your knee are ready.