Sunday, October 01, 2006


Did Not Finish. I believe that's the technical term that's used by those who race. QUIT would be mine. This is not going to be a pretty entry so unless you're of the ilk who slow to gawk at car wrecks, turn away now. Now. I'm serious.

The start of the marathon was unbelieveable. Thousands and thousands of people giddy with excitement and nervousness. You had to wiggle like a snake to get through them. It took my sister and I five minutes to find each other by cell phone even though we were only standing five feet away from each other. Literally. Insanely wild but awesome.

The starting gun and two minutes later walkers in the back third of the herd where we were positioned began to move and we officially crossed the starting line 4 minutes after the gun. There were crowds of spectators and live entertainment every other block: marching bands, jazz and blues bands, a woman harpist in an empty gas station parking lot playing something much too serene for mile 3, Christian rock, ear-exploding hard rock, and a Chinese dragon or two past the main entrance to ChinaTown. There were an unbelieveable number of volunteers who were top notch, nearly 4500 in number. Very impressive and appreciated. If you've never done the Portland Marathon before you have to. Have to.

My sister and I started out strong but stayed to the 15-16 minute mile range in keeping with my strategy, that would be my failed strategy. I warned you.

Almost immediately I felt my ankle. By mile 2 it had begun to stiffen. By mile 3 it was uncomfortable. At mile 5 the ankle was swollen against my shoe laces and the bottom of my foot was cold and numb. At mile 7 I was developing a gait in some starry-eyed hope that doing so would relieve the pain. By mile 9 I was hoping it wouldn't get any worse and that I could just grin and bear it like a brave soldier. At mile 10 it was worse and I told the evil voice inside my head urging me to give up to shut up, pack up and go away. At mile 11 I realized I could never make the finish but I was absolutely not going to pull off until the half-marathon distance. At that point I sent my sister on ahead (Barb ultimately finished with an amazing time of 6:12, which I consider suitable for framing and fireworks!) and 200 yards later even 13.1 became out of reach. I pulled off the course at 12.28 miles. I have walked 12 miles and beyond ten times in training. My Evil Twins were silent and cooperative. My back was loose and comfy. Every little ache and pain that has pestered me over my nine months of training were in total compliance except for my stupid-pain-in-the-butt-break-my-heart-and-pierce-it-through-with-stilettos left ankle. The right ankle cooperated.

I rode back to the hotel, tossed off the shorts with all my hard fought for pockets, snapped the timing chip off my shoe so that I could return it in shame to the staging area, took a shower, cried, kicked myself, cried some more, watched the first half of "Snakes on A Plane" which is the only thing more painful to see than phatgirl quitting a marathon, and then went down to the finishing line to watch my sister finish and to cheer on strangers.

Finishing shirts. There is no more gut-wrenching sight to someone who DNF. So I cried some more, tried in earnest to say "Congratulations" and mean it to a few sweaty euphoric marathoners walking around wrapped in space blankets, and then cried some more while muttering self-defacing comments to myself seasoned with words Dana has forbad me from saying and that I assume extends to writing as well. Once again I remind you that you hold the option in your hand to turn away from this accident of self-pity run amok.

After a hearty dose of caffeine, the cure to all evil in the world, Dana and I went down past the finishing line to cheer on the last waves of walkers beyond the 7 hour mark. It was a pleasure to do so. God love them each and everyone. Just try standing for 7 hours let alone moving forward for seven hours. Yes, it completely boggles my mind that you who run actually run those distances or large portions of it. I am in full-blown awe of you. But the pay off is while walkers are still at miles 15-18 you're on your way back to the car with a medal around your neck and ice cold water in your hands. 7 hours. 8 hours. 9 hours. Even 10 hours. Walking warriors every one. At the 7th hour while the finishing line stayed open, the cross roads had to be opened up again for traffic and even though those still walking had been diverted onto the sidewalks, they kept coming and we kept cheering. There was one mentally-challenged young woman who was grinning from ear to ear with every step, her arms held high in the air and when I said "You are amazing. You've done the most incredible thing so be proud of yourself" she responded by stopping in mid-step and saying with the most tender and joyous voice "Oh thank you so much" that I melted three feet into the pavement.
Her tenacity and joy would have ripped your heart out and made you cry. If not, then you aren't human and you have jet oil for blood.

The greatest moment for me, one that would have only been second to finishing myself, was waiting for and then watching BayCityWalker finish the marathon! If you've ever read Steve's blog you'll know why I still tear up a few hours later just thinking about his victory. Two weeks ago he was in ICU and today he walked 26.2 miles (plus an extra mile this morning from his hotel to the starting line!) and He. Crossed. The. Finish. Line. Steve, BayCity Walker is a bon afide one of a kind marathon man. As you can tell, I've been in awe of Steve since I met him last Spring as I continue to be to this day. Scrappy. Tenacious. Determination. Self-Will. Courageous. All in abundance. I am insanely over the top proud of him.

Dana doesn't think I should be blogging so soon with my disappointment so fresh. She's been saying all the right things. Give it some time Honey. I'm so sorry. I'm so proud of you. It's a big deal to even stand at the starting line. You tried. You went further than you probably should have on that ankle. I love her to pieces. I know she means it all and I adore her for saying it; for trying so hard to make me stop hurting. I just don't believe any of it right now. I couldn't be less proud of myself. I feel like a soldier who ran from the battle lines, like a gawky teenage boy who gets his pants pulled down in front of the girls, like a woman walking through a four star restaurant with the back of her dress stuck in the top band of her pantyhose. I could go on. Believe me Kids, this is only the surface of the abyss of my pouting.

I've wanted nothing else for the past nine months but completing this marathon. Nothing. Perhaps my world is too small and I shouldn't have pinned so much emotion and effort on one thing. It's just that this hasn't been the greatest year. I had another lifelong goal around my lifes calling. I had it for a few brief years and then I had it taken from me overnight. That's when I turned to walking and walking gave me another goal to focus my energy and heart on. This marathon was to be my redemption. My overcomers dance.

This is not a good day for me. And for that much, for anyone who is within the sound of my whiny voice and the sight of my pitiful face. That would be Dana. Send good thoughts her way. I'm just being honest here. Right now I can't turn this into comedic entertainment and please be very very clear about this, I'm not blogging for sympathy or kind encouragement, and if a swift kick to the rear is what you think I need, I assure you that a "Snap out of it and pull yourself together" would in every likelihood have me searching out your home address on the internet.

Sigh. So this is the other side of victory. Actually, I take that back. This is the extremely horrendously dark side of victory. Others would handle it better, with grace and calm acceptance. They would say things like "I'm disappointed but I did my best and there's always next year." And when they said it, they'd actually mean it. Unfortunately, right now I'm a little further down the food chain. It's been said by more than one, that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Sometimes that's really a good and admirable thing, but sometimes, like now, it's just a bad fashion statement. So seriously, if you've read all this, I apologize. I'm sorry for the self-pity. Were you not to complete a marathon I would never say or think so harshly of you. I'd tell you, "You set a goal and you went for it. You didn't just wish for something like so many other people do, but you made the incredible effort to reach for it. You learned from this effort and you'll be stronger the next time. Your dedication is inspiring. Congratulations!" That's what I'd say and I'd mean it with every cell of my being.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to say that to myself. I better because really, self-pity is exhausting and rather unattractive. For today though, I'm just a '68 Pinto and a '72 Chevy Nova on a collision course. Keep your eyes on the road and your foot on the gas. I tell you this for your sake and because I care.

Now excuse me for leaving but I have the second half of "Snakes on A Plane" to salve my damaged soul.


Anonymous said...

Oh Anita, I am so sorry. The timing of the ankle could not have been worse. You gave it your all. I'm sure if you had gone any further, you'd be looking at permanent and irrepairable damage to the already know this massive disappointment will eventually fade. But what a total and complete drag.
It's ok that you aren't proud of yourself: we'll all be proud of you until you are done whining (in a year or two).

Love, Lori

Anonymous said...

All I have to say about this is that you really write well!

I made the rest of my comments to you on the walkingfaster club list.


Anonymous said...

So sorry Anita!! It might help to know you have company in the DNF (DNS) catagory. I've been there: my one and only marathon I missed the official finish by 15 mins. (IT band). The second try, I broke my jaw a couple months before & never made it to the start line.
Now look, good things happened and I found racewalking...but it surely took some whining time...twice!!

Karen said...

AAAARRRRRRRRGGHHHHHHH!! How incredibly frustrating! It feels so unfair when an injury prevents you from doing something like this, when it's just a matter of bad timing and not bad training or lack of commitment. I'll say it for you, though: you *are* inspiring. I have been reading your blog for a couple of months and it kept me excited about the race and inspired me to train more diligently. (I live in Sunnyvale and work in SF, so it was fun to read about a "neighbor" preparing for the same race.) Sorry to only de-lurk now. I actually saw you today with Steve but I was too shy to say hi.

LBTEPA said...

I am so sorry that this happened. I don't think it's wrong or weak or shameful to want something so much and work so hard for it and then be gutted when it's taken from you.
But you didn't QUIT. You were ROBBED of your dream. Grieving is appropriate, as you know. I wish your pain was less now but it will pass. None of this will help but I hope some warm thoughts from Australia will comfort you soon.

Anonymous said...

Anita, you're awesome! Not only are you able to face your frustration with humor, but you DID stand out on the starting line...even when the physical therapy people encouraged you not to go! :) You have every right to be proud of yourself for standing up for what you know is right for you!!
No, not a finisher...but also not a failure. You're an inspiration, Anita. You have me wanting to do the marathon next year (even though my orthopedic doc has told me--in no uncertain terms--NO!!!). Thank you!

Anonymous said...

you are awesome!

jeanne said...

Who gives a rat's ass what others would say?? This is what YOU have to say. And what you have to feel. So go ahead and feel it. And go ahead and blog it. You're not the first person who has felt this AND blogged about it.

I'm not going to tell you how awesome you are (you are), or how much courage it took to do what you did (it did), or how much of an inspiration you are (you are). Nope. I'm saying: go ahead and wallow! for as long as it takes. That's what we're here for. (among other things.) And believe me, or don't, you'll come out the other side of this, and I can't wait to read THAT entry, either!

And btw, your sister, walking? Beat me doing walk/run last year!

I also think it's awesome that you stuck around to cheer everyone else in. (But you don't have to think it's awesome right now. 'sok.)


Linda Stipe said...

When I Need God To Be A Heavy Equipment Operator

"And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no
hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

...And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

...Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and
sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt."

Genesis 37

Oh God, Heavenly Father, let me see the pit as the path. Assure me that you know exactly where
I am, and where I am going. Let me rest back on the strength of your strong arms as they lift and steady me.
Let me find your eyes, take courage from them, and follow them to where you are gazing. Knowing full well, that
you are telling me the direction of my journey.

Run Momma Run said...

Ditto to what Jeanne said. The timing of the ankle injury just all-out sucks and Im sorry you didn't have the day you wanted. Nothing I can say will make you feel better but just know you still have a lot of fans rooting for you!

Anonymous said...

You were very brave to attempt to make it as far as you did with the injury.

You'll get 'em next time.

Deb Bloom
Streamwood, IL

Juls said...

Anita, sometimes you just have to get it out. What better mode than "your" blog. As you said, people can read or not; it's their choice. I discovered your blog tonight and was intrigued by this post. Perhaps it is because I am wallowing in my own self pity. I can imagine getting as far as you did and the DNF'ing - I've been there at SF marathon a few years ago. Twisted my ankle 4 days before the race. I *know* that you will train again and YOU WILL FINISH that Marathon!