I passed out at mile 12.
Freaking. Mile. 12.
I had a mile left.
Maybe even less.
But I never finished.
Instead, I woke up in a hospital on Staten Island. Someone asked me if I knew what happened. I told them I was in a race.
“Did I finish? “
“Nope, we think you went down around mile 10.”
What’s that supposed to mean? Did I pass out? I’ve never passed out before. But come to think of it, I don’t remember anything past mile 10. Where is ELP? Wasn’t I right behind her?
I stopped talking; stopped asking questions. It was hard to put words together.
People around me were moving quickly. Shuffling. My stomach hurt a little, my eyes drifting and my vision definitely unclear. I felt uncomfortable, kind of like feeling queasy and short of breath and really tired all at the same time.
I briefly remember someone talking to me in an ambulance. (Was I holding my breath?) Someone telling me to hold on just a little bit longer. Then, the next thing I remember, waking up in the ER and people hooking me up to machines. Running around, talking in hushed tones. Watching my monitors like hawks and telling me to keep calm.
“That’s the only way you’ll get better,” they said. “Just focus on breathing and staying calm.”
Oh my goodness. It hit me all of the sudden. Was this really serious? I started breathing faster. Felt my limbs tighten.
“Just tell me I’ll be alright. Please. Someone tell me I’ll be ok.”
Someone who looked like a cop (was she the one in the ambulance?) came up by my bed when she noticed my heart rate rising again.
To her credit, I was freaking out. But did they really think a cop could calm me down? Where was the nurse?
“You’re going to be fine. Just focus on breathing right now.”
The way she said it, with a weird and awkward half smile, sounded almost like she wasn’t telling me something important.
Will someone tell me something other than “just keep breathing???” They’re not telling me how serious this is until I calm down. Makes sense. Okay, breathe Meaghan. Calm down.
I focused on slowing my thoughts. Noticing my surroundings. That seemed to help. I remembered a few verses and started playing them in my head like a song on repeat.
I prepped myself for the worst-case scenario. (Which I know, sounds morbid, but what do you expect when no one really tells you what’s wrong and people are staring at your monitors and acting suspiciously like everything is ok … when clearly it isn’t).
I think that was the worst part … not knowing.
Not knowing and not being able to do anything about it.
And just praying and trusting that these random strangers, people I was literally trusting with my life, were on their A-game that day.
Gosh, I don’t even know their names. This is weird and kind of beautiful and poetic all at the same time. Figures I’d think about the symbolism of the situation while I was laying in a hospital bed in the ER. What else is a writer supposed to do…? We notice things. Like the little boy in the bed to the left. And the nurse sitting at the center of the room fielding phone calls left and right.
I really, really dislike hospitals. Especially being a patient, but even just being there. I’m not about the smell, the hushed tones, the stress and beeping of machines. I just can’t. It’s too much.
But there I was.
Did that really happen to me? Me of all people? I’m supposed to be the strong one.
Looking back, I should’ve probably known something wasn’t quite right during the race. But isn’t that something most of us do? Pretend the aches and pains don’t hurt quite as badly as they really do? Convince ourselves we’re stronger than our weaknesses? We’re praised for overcoming struggle. But what if instead we paused to say, “You know what, I think I’m really hurting right now. And I think I need a minute.” Saying it out loud. Letting other people in close enough to see the hurt, the pain. Terrifying, right?
So, yesterday I got a spot in the NYC Half. And by that, I mean I manually entered the lottery a few months ago, and had to be “accepted” in order to gain entry. I applied after the whole hospital scenario. To be honest, I really didn’t think I’d get in. To be even more honest, I really didn’t think I’d ever run a half marathon again. So when I applied, it was kind of like one of those, well, I’ll leave this up to fate kind of things. If I get in, I’ll do it. I’ll run again. I’ll give it another go. And if I don’t, maybe running and I were just never meant to be. And I would stop. Stick to 5Ks or something.
But then I got in.
And then, all of the sudden, I remembered all of those feelings I thought I left on that hospital bed in Staten Island. The nurse scolding me for not being well-hydrated. Feeling terrible and helpless and scared and not wanting to go through that ever again. I didn’t really leave them there, did I?
And all of the sudden, looking at that acceptance email, I was scared again.
And it took me a few minutes to realize and really understand just how scared I’ll probably be right up to the second I cross that next finish line in March. How tough, both mentally and physically, training is going to be. How easily I could’ve used this as my safety blanket. Said goodbye to distance running back at mile 12.
But then I know I’d fear it forever.
And I’ll probably always have a piece of that fear. But I can’t let it get the best of me. So the next few months are going to be hard. And I’ll probably cry. A lot. And I’ll probably want to quit before it gets really tough. And on race day, when I hit mile 12, I might just stop for a minute. (Hopefully no longer than that). Say a little thank you prayer and then keep moving.
Because that’s all we really need to do, right?
Notice the hurt. Acknowledge the pain. But also, face the fear. And face it head on.
Because there’s no other way to do it. And I love running far, far too much to let it go.
So I’m running again. And I promise I’m going to hydrate (A LOT). Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned since that day, it’s that I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. But I’m also human. Not steel. And I have to remember that, too.
So here it goes again.
See you at 13.1.