Saturday, April 14, 2012

When You Can't Run, Volunteer

Today I volunteered at a race for the first time. Here are my observations:

1) Local races always need help: I am still tender in my right ankle, so though I was signed up for this local 5K race (sponsored by Carbondale's Neighborhood Food Co-op to benefit an area food pantry), I decided not to run it. I haven't gone for a run since I hurt my ankle at the Springfield Lincoln Presidential Half, and I didn't need to have my first run back after this minor injury be a race, even a small, local, friendly 5K. But I wanted to help, so I showed up (rode over on my bike). I was put in charge of course maps (no one seemed to need one) and was asked to help runners over a speed bump on the course. I was happy to do these small tasks to help the race organizers.

2) If you want sympathy after injury, show up at a race with a cane: Runners always seem to want to hear about other runners' injuries! So many people offered their sympathy when they saw me gimping about with a cane. They wanted to hear about how and where I suffered this injury, and wanted to know how I was taking care of it. This made me feel much better than sitting at home watching reality TV reruns.

3) Finish line applause is always welcome: After the racers left Evergreen Park, the park became oddly silent. I'd never been at a race when I wasn't part of the pack setting off on the course. The big timing clock looked awfully lonely! I started chatting with a man and his wife who just happened to be visiting the park, explaining what the race was for (charity), how long (3.1 miles), how soon the runners would be back (fastest man was around 17). We formed a little cheering squad for the incoming runners. I had no problem cheering for people I didn't know, and if I knew the person, I'll yell out his or her name ("Go Marla! Go Judy!"). Some folks looked like they really appreciated the support at the end.

4) Even if you aren't running, come by for your T-shirt: This race has great giveaways, if you are patient enough to wait around until after the kid races (which I discussed at length with a little blond boy who was waiting for his father to finish the 5K). It was so cute to see him and his brothers cheer for their dad as he crossed the finish line. Again I assumed my position as "Speedbump Girl" as the kids ran laps around the park (one lap for the littlest kids, two laps for the in-between kids, three for the oldest kids). It was not timed, and everyone got a ribbon for completing their laps. After the kids were through, there were prize giveaways, massages from students at the local community college, and an awards ceremony. Last year at this race, I hung around because I was pretty sure I had gotten an age group award. But this year, I stayed through the whole ceremony and cheered for every person who received an award. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and honestly, I didn't miss running.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

When A Half Marathon Becomes a 10K: Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

Today I started the Lincoln Presidential Half in Springfield, IL but I didn't finish the race. I can tell I've matured as a runner because I am not upset. My observations from today: This is a great fun race. Since Springfield is the capital of Illinois and linked with Abraham Lincoln, this is a history-themed race. I am a history buff, so it was fun to run at the start of the race through the Lincoln Homestead and past the Illinois Capital Building (the state may produce corrupt governors, but the building's still impressive). The race medal is a giant penny, and after the race, finishers get to post for a picture with Abe and Mary Todd (impersonators, of course). The race course also takes you through the streets and parks of Springfield--I passed the Pizza Machine (you may have seen it on tv--they make pizzas so big they use a crane to get them to the tables) and the Holy Land Diner (heard their food was great). I made it into Washington Park and a little beyond before I had to surrender for the day.

I was having a great day--3 miles in at a 9 min pace, 58:30 for 6.2. I noticed in mile five though that my right ankle was a little queasy, not terribly painful, but definitely uncomfortable. I made it to 6.2 okay, but in later in mile six and in mile seven, my ankle was definitely hurting me. I couldn't put weight on my right foot, could not push off, and therefore, my whole stride was out of wack. Right then and there, I had a decision to make. Keep walk-shuffling as the pain grew worse? Grit it out? Flag someone down to help me? Waves of runners were passing me, and I didn't see the point of trying to run through the pain, which was not severe, but plenty annoying.

After mile eight, one of the race volunteers (many of them on course on bikes) spotted me and asked me what was wrong. I hobbled over and sat down. Race was over for today. I told Derek (a local high school track coach, and might I add, quite a handsome young man) that I thought I had an ankle sprain. He called for help, and I sat and waited for one of the personal trainers who was also a volunteer to arrive. Derek asked if this was my first half; I told him, "no this was supposed to be my eleventh." We talked running for a bit and he filled out a report on me, but knew I was not in trouble from the heartbeat/blood pressure perspective. I was not in massive pain, just in the kind of warning signal pain that said to me, better stop now and take care of this. The trainer (whose name I have forgotten, forgive me, handsome trainer man) helped me peel off my compression sock (he noticed that I wasn't yelping in pain while taking it off, a good sign) and checked my ankle and got me ice for it. No massive swelling but definitely tender, pretty much only in one spot (on the right, just below my ankle bone). I got a van ride back to the starting line at Prairie Heart Hospital.

Back at the start, in the medical tent, another volunteer taped my ankle. I could see all the bright shiny penny medals around finishers' necks, and felt a twinge of jealousy. But there's always another race (in fact, I'm signed up for races in May and June). I think this is a relatively minor injury, but I knew deep down that I was taking a big risk toughing it out. And what would be the point of that? One of the reasons I run is that I enjoy the sensation of my body in motion, and to run a race where something was definitely out of wack was not what I was up for today. Now I'm back home, and I'm resting and recuperating with more ice. And chocolate. If this had been last year, I would have been mega-disappointed and filled with anger at myself and other factors(did I run too much this week and make myself susceptible to an injury? Were the brick sections on the course to blame for my unstable ankles?) The answer to both questions is probably yes, but there's no use getting mad at myself (or the brick streets of Springfield) for this injury, which I hope won't take long to take care of. I hope I get that finish line penny-pic with Abe and Mary Todd next year!