By Jackie Reneaud
I find joy in racing. I thrive on going fast and pushing myself to the finish line. But with recent injuries, races being cancelled, and mental health struggles, my relationship with running has ebbed and flowed.
When it looked like fall races were actually happening this year, I decided to sign up for last month’s Detroit Marathon. After severe shin splints in March and a nagging hip pain in July, I had to drop down to the half. Because of those injuries, my training wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I only made it through two double-digit runs, both within a month of the race. One was an 11-miler that took everything out of me. I had a panic attack at mile six and by mile nine, I thought there was no way I could finish it. I averaged 9:30 per mile that day.
‘It’s going to hurt’
The week leading up to the race was full of anxiety and doubt. Two days before the race, I thought about dropping out. The nagging pain in my hip was stronger and I was anxious about my training. But I’m no quitter and I didn’t want to feel left out, so I toed the line. Before getting to the line, I talked with my boyfriend about how I thought it would go. “You just have to know it’s going to hurt,” he said. “You will be able to do it, you just have to know that it’s going to hurt.” He was right. I knew that I would be able to finish the race. I was prepared to walk, but I’d cross that finish line eventually.
When the gun went off, I took a deep breath. I braced myself for the miles to come. I settled in at a comfortable pace. It felt easy. My breath was comfortable and my legs felt great. At mile five, my watch read 45:20. Read that again. 45:20. That can’t be right. 45.20. What is happening? Can I get under two hours? Did I do the math right? Just over a 9-minute pace. Sure enough, a sub-2 was in my sights.
It started to hurt around mile eight. But I kept going. I checked my watch constantly. 9:12. 9:07. 8:32. Too fast. 8:59. Just right. Now hold it. At mile nine, I did the math again. Thirty eight minutes to run four miles and 385 meters. I couldn’t believe it. Did I do the math wrong? Nope, right on track.
With 1.5 miles to go, I knew I was going to do it. I cried off and on that last bit. I knew I was going to do it. All of the struggles from the past two years — mental health, injury after injury — finally felt like it was going away. I crossed the line in 1:59:27. Just under two hours.
This race gave me my confidence back. I finally feel like I’m taking a step forward on my running journey instead of always taking two steps back. I know there is a lot of racing ahead of me and I’m excited for the future, to see what these legs can do because if Detroit taught me anything, it’s that I am strong, I am resilient, and I am capable of more than I think.
Jackie Reneaud, 25, is a former collegiate runner from Goodrich, Mich. who grew up in a running family. (Her first race? The Crim Diaper Dash.) You may know Jackie from Instagram, where she is JackieRunsALatte. Listen to her share her running journey on the MRG Podcast in this episode from December 2020. On the show Jackie shares how her relationship with running has changed over the years, during her time running for Northwood University and also as an adult navigating a full-time job and moving back home during the pandemic.