Monday, February 25, 2013

Kenny's Folly

On what morphed into a simply delightful February morning on which to run, my career as a marathoner came to a screeching, ignominious halt in the glorious surroundings of New York City's Central Park.   A day that had dawned threatening both rain and wind delivered none of the former and scant little of the latter. 
The first-ever Central Park Marathon was a terrific event.  Unfortunately it was a race that I started but did not finish.  After completing the first half of the race in a rather satisfactory 2:15, which was slightly slower than I had hoped to run but not disappointing by any stretch, my left leg - particularly directly behind my knee cap - did what it sometimes did.  It acted as if it had little use for the rest of my body.  A limb with an independent streak might not always be the worst thing....unless it is one of the two limbs tasked with the responsibility of carrying the aforementioned body 26.2 miles. 
By the time I embarked on my fourth loop - the course featured five loops that took us from the southern most part of the Park all the way up to 102nd Street - the state of my angry limb had descended to the point where I was making substantially better time walking briskly than I was trying to run.   Given that walking did not create a sensation of attempting to step on shards of broken glass, which is precisely what running on my left leg felt like, it was the only way to go.  Necessity is the mother of invention after all.
I made the very tough decision as I completed the fourth of the five loops to not continue and to not complete the race.  Doing so did not make me happy, especially in light of the training and preparation I had done for the race and the fact that I had dragged my wife out of our home in the pre-dawn hours of the morning to accompany me to it.  But it had to be done.  I pride myself on having a higher pain threshold than most.  I was afraid I might have actually done real damage to my left knee had I attempted to run the final 6.2 miles.  At Mile 20 I pulled the plug. 
Since turning forty-four in February 2011 I have participated in three marathons.  When I trained for the first one, my expectation was that I would be able to complete it in four hours or less.  I did not.  I finished in slightly less than four and one-half hours.  Last year I completed the same course in about eight minutes more.  Yesterday, given the condition of my left leg and the time it took me to complete twenty miles, I would have been lucky to get home in less than five hours. 
I am notoriously poor at listening to my body when it tries to tell me something, which is why several years ago I underwent emergency gallbladder surgery.  After three years of not listening to my body's not-always-silent rebellion under my pursuit of marathoning, I have finally gotten the message.  In the words of the great American philosopher Josey Wales, "A man has got to know his limitations."  It took me a while but on this particular subject, I have gotten to know mine.
George Edward Woodberry once noted that, "Defeat is not the worst of failures.  Not to have tried is the true failure."  He might be right but you shall have to forgive me if it might take a while for me to embrace that notion.  Someday.  Tomorrow perhaps.  Today?  Not likely.

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