In my humble opinion, this also applies to running events. If you have to miss a run due to some or other ailment, the opportunity would have passed and you would never ever forget that moment when you had to make the regrettable decision.
Having recently read about friend Ken’s decision not to run a marathon due to being struck down by the flu, I couldn’t help thinking about the times I had to quit/bail races due to some or other ailment. It is the worst thing possible and I can only sympathize with Ken for not even being able to start. The worst part is that you never forget those events – they end up forever haunting you as “unfinished business”.
Years ago I was running my second Tough One 32km race in Johannesburg when, at the 27km mark, I suddenly felt like I was going to die there and then – my body felt like lead and I couldn’t move an inch further. I had to lie down just to keep from passing out, while Gerry finished the run, fetched the car and picked me up next to the road where I was lying. I had to bail. On hindsight, I could have just rested a while until things got better (which it did, eventually) and walked the 5kms to the finish. But at the time, feeling like death and thinking there was a cut-off that we were going to miss (not thinking straight or asking anybody), I decided to just give up. Besides, while I was laying next to the road, I was terrified by not having the slightest idea what was happening to me, so I didn’t dare carry on.
This was also a time when I firmly believed that the Coke supplied at races was making me nauseas and was therefore only drinking water at the refreshment stops.
As it turned out, after having blood tests done, I was diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic, so not taking the Coke to get my sugar levels up was an absolute disaster. It came as a complete surprise to me (and my doctor!) since no one in my family was diabetic and I wasn’t obese, as is normally the case. The doctor even told me beforehand that he would test my insulin and sugar levels, but it was unlikely to be the culprit because I was too skinny. The tests unfortunately confirmed the dreaded dysfunctional pancreas and sugar fluctuation problem. From the doctor, I went to a dietician who explained the whole glucose-process and gave me very helpful tips on still being active (in fact, she reiterated the importance of exercise!), eating correctly and maintaining a good ‘normal’ life.
But to this day I can’t forget that race, everything what went through my head, bailing, giving up … the emotional trauma of not being able to complete a race.
Not being able to start, as was the case with Ken, is another story, but the emotional baggage afterwards is more or less the same. For me at least. At another occasion, I had some serious ITB problems, and we had to abandon our plans to run the 50km Om-die-Dam Ultra, scaling down to the 21km little brother of the same event. A penalty fee applied, which wasn’t the worst, but the T-shirt also looked different, somehow inferior. And then there was the medal, quietly reiterating that you did ‘just 21kms’, and not the ‘real thing’. Everything adds up to remind you that you hadn’t accomplished what you set your mind to. The disappointment somehow never subsides.
And then I also still have unfinished business with the 100km Amatola trail run … As Arnie the Terminator said, “I’ll be back!”.
I’m sure everyone has one or two or maybe more of these “unfinished business” events. They haunt you. Forever. Perhaps in the case of running, the saying should be “A miss is much worse than a mile”!