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My cold was gone. I had a plan and it was working. I ignored the crowds through the first ten miles as best I could so I didn’t get caught up in the excitement and go out to fast. My Garmin was all over the place, so I had to feel out my pace and I was doing a pretty good job of it. I kept telling myself to follow the blue line.

A blue line was painted on the route to show the most efficient path to follow. I wanted to be on or near that line as much as possible. Things were going well and I was having a good time. It was a nice, cool morning and granted, there were parts where the wind gusts got pretty strong, but it wasn’t anything too terrible.

“I can do this! I’m doing this! I’m back, baby!”

I wasn’t taking myself too seriously. I high-fived a toddler, was tempted to give a small dog a snoot boop (all the dogs, really), and stopped to grab a donut hole offered by a spectator around mile 11. I put my headphones on for a bit and “Maniac” from the Flashdance soundtrack queued first and cracked me up. Just past the half marathon mark felt my knee do something, but it didn’t hurt or slow me up, so I thought nothing of it. My lower back was starting to hurt too, but that’s normal for me.

I saw my mom, husband, and dog at 14.25. It was great to stop for hugs and some peanut butter cookies, but after that I felt the urge to walk. I did for a bit to let things calm down and a few minutes later I got back to running. I got to mile 17 and felt myself starting to crash. I ate a gel with caffeine and ran/walked until it kicked-in so I could get going again. I found the blue line and got moving again lowly, and then back up to pace. I took another short walk break here and there and felt like I’d be ok to finish like that. Keep moving.

I made the turn at the 33K marker, right near a cheering station that had a tent labeled “Heartbreak.” I don’t know what the affiliation was, but it was fitting. My right knee locked up. I tried to massage it out, but it did no good. I tried walking a bit to no avail. I was done. The only forward movement I was capable of was a hobble and I was far out from any aid station.

I can’t adequately describe the crushing feeling. This can’t be it. This can’t be how this goes. I’m supposed to finish this thing, I made it this far! Five more miles, just five! I bent over and put my hands on my knees. No more denial.

I flagged a course marshal and they made a call for help. It was a miserable wait. I was sweaty and the wind gusts didn’t help matters. After at least 10-15 frigid minutes, I saw help arrive.

I don’t know what I was expecting… maybe a bandage and blanket and someone to help me to a golf cart that would take me to the finish?

No. It was this:

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I was burritoed in blankets and hauled away, sirens and lights to an ER. I was so glad I decided to bring my phone. I tried calling my husband, but couldn’t hear him (I found out why later… my phone was still paired with my bluetooth headphones.) I texted what happened and where I was and he said he’d be right there.

I didn’t know how he’d get around, most streets were closed down for the marathon. He went to where I stopped, where they moved me into the ambulance, and finally to the ER at UIC. He showed up red faced and sweating. He ran. He’d been off running for a while and going through PT. At that moment I was more concerned that he might have injured something than what I was going through.

He’d heard part of my call attempts and someone saying, “Call 9-1-1.”

Three hours and some muscle relaxers that made the world hilarious later, I was on my way home with a somewhat relieved husband, a knee stabilizer, a pair of crutches, and seriously wounded pride. I could not believe this happened. I was so sure I could get through it. Maybe not fast, but I was doing it. My splits showed pacing between 10:15 -10:25-ish, not a crazy push. It was a comfortable.

Now, I’m laid out on my couch, sometimes feeling sorry for myself, hoping whatever happened is a strain instead of a tear. I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment on Wednesday morning. Send good thoughts… all 2-3 of you.  🙂

This morning I went to brunch with my brother, who also ran. He had a tough time too, but was able to finish. The restaurant was full of finishers, some still wearing their medals. I can’t say I wasn’t jealous, but I don’t think I’m jealous enough to try this again.

I feel like this is the European ending to a movie: the dramatic, disappointing one that doesn’t need to placate an American audience with an “it all works out in the end,” finale with montage set to “Don’t Stop Believin'” or Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”

Falling short of your big come back. That’s quite a blow. How does it feel?
Like I was one number off each number to win the lottery.

But the lottery is a big game of chance. You trained hard for this.
Did I really?

What’s next for you?
After getting my knee looked at and recovering, shorter distances. Much shorter distances. I guess I achieved one of my goals: I’m running again. I mean, not right now. But I got some mojo back at least. That’s no small feat.