My decision to quit came only a few days ago, but my feeling about it since I the summer has been unequivocal dread. I signed up for the race on the heels of a successful 10k. I had joined the Totem Running Club, a very loosely organized group, and the sense of camaraderie combined beautifully with the pride of accomplishment. I wanted more of that. I thought, "I really don't want to run another half-marathon. But if we do all the really crappy long training runs as a group - this could be OK! it could be really good!"
The group runs did not happen. Things just seemed to come up, constantly, to get in the way. They were usually things like parties and vacations, because all of the other group members are childless Cirque support-staff members. Plus, a few of the key people involved had steady running partners, so they, at least, were not alone.
I plugged along for awhile, managing to pull off as much as a 10-mile run. Then Annual Leave happened - those two weeks of trekking all over the country, and flying to a funeral in the middle of it, wiped out my running momentum. By the time I got here to SF, with only two weeks left till race day, I was feeling not only dread, but panic. To add injury to insult, my bad hamstring ached increasingly, whenever I ran more than a couple of miles. I pushed through a miserable 7 miles one day, about a week ago, and dealt with lingering pain afterwards, and then thought to myself, why am I doing this?
This was going to be unhealthy for me, physically and mentally; I hadn't trained adequately, and slogging through 13 miles was going to be nothing but agony, especially with San Francisco's hills, and with a 7:00am race time. This supposed "team" of runners wasn't even traveling to and from the race together - I was on my own, on a train - and I was going to have to pay a babysitter, since Greg had to work. When it came down to it, the only reason I could find to do this race was because I wanted to be one of the gang, and I didn't want to have to tell everyone I was a quitter.
I finally decided that this was not a good enough reason to put my mind and body through this hell. I spent about 24 hours obsessively imaging different stories I could tell the group. And in the end I finally just told them the truth:
I didn't train well enough for this. I'm afraid I'm going to injure myself. I am not going to run the race.
...there was some disappointment; a couple of "it's OK" pats on the back; a couple of avoiding-eye-contact silences. I am sure my bailing out isn't great for their morale; but in the end, it matters very little to any of them. I've lost $92 in race fees, donated to some charity or other; but I'm also saving money on the travel and the babysitter and the wheelbarrow full of comfort food I would probably be indulging in to get through this.
It's funny how much anxiety I had about making this decision. But since the decision was made, I've been fine - relaxed, happy, relieved. Making the choice that is right in my heart, affirming my gut-feeling, turns out to be very healing. I thought I would feel like a terrible failure... but it was when I was running that I felt that way, running too slow and not long enough and not well enough for this race. The pressure is gone and my head feels clear.