A few days ago I completed the Banff Marathon. It was the second time I’ve done the marathon, and a previous year I did the half-marathon. It was stunning, as always. The route was gorgeous, the event was well organized, the volunteers and staff were fantastic. I saw the mountains, glacial lakes, bighorn sheep and everything a person could hope for in a Canadian wilderness.
Note I said “I completed the Banff Marathon”. Not that I ran it, like previously. I completed it. Because that’s what I did, and just barely.
Less than a week prior to the race I had a seizure and hit my face on a bathroom counter. I ripped my knees open on the handles to the counter and in smashing my face, managed to give myself a concussion. My dad heard the noise and picked me up off the washroom floor (flashback to the late 90s…at least I wasn’t in the shower!). So yes, I have a black eye in the photos where I am holding my race medal. The race was just a few days later, and I would still have to travel to Banff on top of that.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to run. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to start. I knew I was going, I would be cheering on the runners and my friend doing his first marathon (way to go!!!). But I didn’t know if I was going to be starting or finishing that race.
I was also injured to begin with. My knees had been buckling during training runs lately and most of my shoes were burned down. I didn’t know what I would wear, and the drive out to Banff included me holding ice packs to my knees in the hopes that it would help. I was limping when I picked up my race pack and had a swollen purple eye. I didn’t look ready to put my body through a race.
Race day I decided to at least start the race. I wanted to get to the starting line and try. I could always stop, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t even start. I wore knee sleeves and my knees held up the entire time. I ran decently for about the first 10k. Then…the IT Band that I had problems with last year flared up again. I was cramping and my leg from my knee to my hip felt (alternating) in pain or numb. I felt like I had a rock in my shoe on the other side…that turned out to be a blister the size of one of my little toes.
So I limped along. So many times I wanted to stop. I wanted to go to the volunteers and ask for them to call the medics. I wanted to ask the Park Rangers if I could get a ride in their trucks back to the start. Every time I saw them I considered it. At the same time, I devoured energy gels and gummies, chugged back water and Gatorade. I limped along. Every step hurt.
Walking a marathon takes a lot longer than running one.
At the 40k mark my legs buckled. I was near a water station and a woman cane up to me, introduced herself as a nurse and asked if I needed help. I told her that even if I had to crawl, I was finishing that race. She nodded, and I got back up.
In the end, I finished the race. My time was just shy of 6 hours. I ended up in the medics tent after the finish line. They were a little startled by the black eye, which I had completely forgotten about. They helped with the IT Band cramping and chatted, taking my mind off of the pain between my leg and my foot.
So this is why I say that a marathon is more than just 42.2K. It’s the blisters and injuries. It’s the time dedicated to train and to heal. It’s consuming electrolytes and hydrating. It’s the six hours that it took from start line to finish line, and all the time involved in training and getting to that race. It’s not being able to walk the next day because your legs are so sore.
Epilepsy is not so different. It’s more than just seizures. It’s injuries and side effects. It’s the physical manifestations that we forget are right on our face. It’s making sure we have enough medication so we can get to the starting line or any commitment we’ve made. It’s the time it takes to heal, both from the seizure and the black eyes.
We always have that choice, whether to go to the starting line, whether to pin on that race bib and start moving forward, whether to keep going even when it hurts. I should have likely known that if I went to the starting line I would start, but even with that in mind, I’m proud of myself. Every single person who got to that starting line, who gets to any starting line, who laces up a pair of sneakers to start something new should be proud of themselves. It takes a lot to keep going, and it takes of a lot of courage to start.
As an additional note, within 48 hours I was walking well again and am already trying to consider which races I want to do next. Definitely open to suggestions!