After months of generally feeling "off," Hoppe Feet discovered there was a reason behind her unusual new running pattern.

Race Lesson Learned: If you have your slowest race ever, there might be an underlying issue.

Race: Charleston Half Marathon

Date: January 16, 2016

Location: Charleston, S.C.

Steph’s Time: 2:00:00 (my worst half marathon performance to date)

For months prior to this race, I suspected that something was off. On all of my runs I felt sluggish, weak and lethargic. I had trouble achieving speeds that were normally my “easy run” pace. In denial, I chalked it up to the winter blues. But after my particularly discouraging race performance in Charleston, I decided to go to the doctor. My blood work explained the culprit: severe iron deficiency.

Related: 10 Ways To Boost Your Iron Intake

My incredibly low iron levels were impairing my aerobic processes, muscle metabolism and endurance performance. I listened intently as my doctor explained that my body was not producing enough hemoglobin and thus was not able to transport oxygen to my muscles. Essentially, even if I wanted to run faster (which I desperately did!), I physically couldn’t. The good news amid this troubling prognosis was that it was easily treatable. I needed to take a high-dosage iron supplement, and then give my body time to rest and recover. I just wish I had known all of this before the Charleston Half Marathon.

We chose this race because of all of the lovely things we had heard about Charleston. Friends and family had spoken endlessly about its southern charm, unrivaled food scene and unique architecture. Luckily, we were able to experience all of the wonders of the city before and after the race.

This is especially fortunate, because I successfully blocked most of the race from my memory. I do vividly recall our 1-mile walk to and from the start line. I remember the portion of the course that passed along the waterfront through neighborhoods of extravagant homes with gorgeous architecture. I recollect my attempt to go faster, and my body’s outright refusal to do so. What I remember best is the end of the race. After finally crossing the finish line, I wandered about for almost 15 minutes, unable to find Matt. Since we never race with our phones, we rely on luck to find each other amidst the finish line celebrations. When I finally spotted Matt, he was not happy. He had raced fairly well, which meant he’d been waiting for me, sweaty and cold, for almost an hour. He was not thrilled and declared that he no longer wanted to compete in races together! As you might have suspected, that declaration did not last long!

Although the race itself was not a memorable one, the lessons I learned leading up to and following this race were invaluable. I know that if I am consistently underperforming, I need to take a step back and reassess my overall health. Mindlessly pushing through the difficult times in my running journey is not always the best solution.

Related:

Race Tip: Don’t Take A Red-Eye Three Hours Before A Race

Two Huge Causes Of Anemia In Female Runners

What To Look For When Choosing A Doctor