I ran the Brooklyn half marathon two weeks ago in a time of 1:44:26. It was the slowest half marathon I have run since I raced my first one 5 years ago. But I could not take the smile off my face the entire day. I am usually (overly) focused on my times, but the Brooklyn half was a different kind of race – with the focus being one of celebration and triumph.

Many know that I suffered from a fairly bad femoral shaft stress fracture over the fall and winter. It was misdiagnosed, had me on crutches for 6 weeks, and kept me away from running for 5 months. What not all know is that I fell into a depression and really struggled mentally, even as I kept fighting physically with countless hours of water running in addition to biking and swimming. This was not the first injury I ever had to deal with, but this one hit me hard. Even as I hated myself for falling into such a dark place, I could not change my feelings. It was a very challenging time.

But I kept going forward, and I had wonderful support. I thought a lot about a lot of things.   And slowly I got stronger, climbed out of my dark hole, and started to regain perspective. I lost the crutches and marveled at the freedom. I got the OK to try running on the anti- gravity treadmill and was ecstatic the first morning I ran 3 miles. I was so nervous when I headed to the track to try a few minutes of jogging, but thrilled when I could do that without any pain. I remembered why I love being an athlete and I was extremely grateful to be on a path to recovery.

The Brooklyn half marathon and I have a mixed history. Three years ago, after a strong start, I had to pull out at mile 4 with an aggravated hamstring. Two years ago I ran my half marathon PR of 1:33 at the age of 50. Last year I could not run since I was once again recovering from injuries. So maybe it was appropriate that this year the race would mark my return to health, and the joy of running, after a very tough time.

It was never entirely clear that I should and would run Brooklyn. After several weeks of anti-gravity treadmill runs with increasing body weight, and walk/jogs with decreasing walks, I ran 5 miles with a very short break in the middle one month before the race. On May 1 I ran 7 miles and started to slowly introduce some intensity. I gradually increased distance and volume and successfully ran 11 miles one week before Brooklyn. I knew my body could handle the distance, so the plan was to treat this as something between a training run and a race, starting out conservatively, paying close attention to how my body was feeling, and maybe picking it up a little once I left the park. Of course I realized that it would not be my fastest, and that I had to put my ego aside and accept that I would not be as competitive as I would be if I were at full running fitness. I will admit that this definitely took some mental adjustment.

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Dude in the white is SO jealous of Demetra’s personal cheer squad #runthistown

On race morning I was more excited than nervous, and happy to see and chat with several team mates before the start, as well as be reminded by my coach not to do anything stupid.   I started strong, averaging 8 minute miles – give or take a few seconds here or there – for the first 15 kilometers, slowing down a little on the Prospect Park ascent (thank you to theTB3 cheering section of Kalim, Darbi, Tyler, Robin and Greg for those wonderfully rejuvenating high fives at the top of the hill!) and speeding up a little on the park’s descent. Overall, I felt calm, in control, aware, and happy. When I left the park, my body was feeling good and I was pleasantly surprised to see that my legs had a little more juice in them, so I picked up the pace. With a couple of miles to go, I realized that if I more or less stayed at the pace I was running, I would break 1:45, and I just couldn’t help myself – I started to focus on that goal, and pushed it hard for the last 400 meters to achieve it. Crossing that finish line was wonderful! I was running and I was healthy! There were times this past winter when I didn’t think I would get there again. And hanging out on the beach with the team after the race was the perfect way to end a perfect morning.

I have learned a lot from all of this, both about myself and also about how I need to adjust my training in order to stay healthy.   Of all the goals I have for the 2016 season, my biggest are to enjoy, and appreciate, every minute of it. Thrive indeed!