My second marathon is in the books. I achieved what I set out to do, and I feel good about that. Although, in typical running fashion, I’m wondering what ‘could have been’ if I had set my goals a little higher; or if the weather had been a little better. I think this is what makes running—and especially racing— such an addictive endeavour: there is always something that could have gone better, and to learn from for ‘next time.’
The biggest challenge was the weather. This is the second year in a row that weather played a major role in the marathon. Last year it was the heat, reaching 23 degrees during the marathon. This year, it was the—at times—heavy rain and wind.
It was raining pretty hard early in the morning for the half-marathon start, but by the time the marathon commenced, it had subsided to a light drizzle. Alas this wouldn’t last for long; it picked up—along with the wind—for the last 10K or so as we ran along the unprotected sections of the Stanley Park Seawall, making the toughest part of any marathon all the more challenging. I’ve heard the day referred to as the worlds longest wet t-shirt contest, and that’s not too far off the mark!
On the way to the race, I ran into Zarah from my Cambie marathon clinic. She was hanging back waiting for Noel, another clinic member, so I went ahead on my own. On the way I chatted two out of towners who were running in Vancouver for the first time. It was great to see their excitement to run on the beautiful Vancouver course, despite the gloomy weather.
I arrived at the starting area with about thirty minutes to spare. After dropping off my gear bag and visiting the porta-potty, I made my way to the starting corral. I had planned to meet my friend, Janet, who was running her first marathon. But by the time I got to the corral, it was pretty packed, and I couldn’t make my way through the crowd to get to her However, I did run into another familiar face, Stephanie, who I ran with for most of the Victoria Marathon last fall! She was running with Monica, another Cambie marathoner. Just before the start, we saw Viviane, yet another runner from Cambie!!
Stephanie and Monica were aiming for a similar finish time as me, so I ran with them for the first several kilometres. At about the 6K mark, I saw Janet on the course and started running with her. We ran together for about 6K, through one of the toughest section of the course, including the infamous “Camosun Hill”—when I noticed my pace was dropping off. Janet encouraged me to run on, so I picked up my pace and settled in to my goal pace.
I was able to gradually make up my lost time over the next 12k or so; thanks in part to a significant downhill section. At 1/2 way I was on target for my ‘secret gaol pace of 3:45 and still feeling really good. I caught up to Steph and Monica at kilometre 25 and ran with them for a bit, but by that time in the race, it was time to focus, so we didn’t have much to say. A few kilometres later, I stopped to removed what I thought was a pebble from my shoe, but realized that it was a blister forming—not a good omen.
After crossing the Burrard Street Bridge, I saw my wife just before kilometre 31K. Needing a bit of extra motivation, I ran over the side of the road and gave her a big hug and kiss. She was a little surprised to say the least, but it gave me the boost I needed to dig deep for the last 11K.
The rain and wind started picking up as I entered Stanley Park. At about 34K, the 3:45 pace bunny passed me. He said not to worry, as he was a few minutes ahead of pace, but it was a bit demoralizing as I didn’t know how much I had left in me. I tried to keep pace and managed to pick it up for a few kilometres more.
At the 38K mark, the ‘run/walk 3:45 pace group passed me, and I knew that I didn’t have it in me to keep up. I was still pretty upbeat however, as I went into this marathon cycle with a goal of 3:50. While I know that I was capable of 3:45 given ideal conditions, they were anything but on that day.
The good news was that I didn’t hit the wall until 39K. The bad news was that I hit it hard. And then, just as I though things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Within the span of a couple of steps, I burst the blister on my foot, my right hamstring cramped, and I stepped in a big puddle and drenched my shoes.
Just as I was hitting rock bottom, I passed the iconic Harry Jerome statue. This iconic Vancouver landmark is the inspiration for the silhouette in my logo and that day it gave me the inspiration I needed to continue running strong. I realized that I was just over 3K from the finish line which mean less than 20 minutes of running.
I took another gel, grabbed some water at the next station, and dug in deep for the final stretch. As I was running down the final stretch, with the finish line in sight, I started to see some familiar faces, including Beppe, and Violet, 2 more Cambie marathoners who ran the 1/2, and Zahida—one of my April Fool’s Run buddies—who also ran the 1/2. Somewhere in the crowd was Pat Cheung, who took some great ‘action shots’ of my final stretch, including the photograph below. As I approach the finish line, I ran right by my wife without noticing her (the same thing happened in Victoria ).
Crossing the finish line, I saw the gun clock read 3:5?:??, but was confident that my chip time was well below my ‘public’ goal time of 3:50. I had done it! Not only did I become a sub-4 hour marathoner, I had overcome the weather, and some late race struggles to meet my training goals!
After receiving my finishers medal from Running Room founder and CEO John Stanton, I made my way through the finishers chute, picking up some water, a few bananas and a ‘box lunch’ with some post run nutrition. This was a convenient way to grab some food quickly without having to juggle bagels and oranges slices.
Next I picked up my bag from the well organizer table, and changed in one of the ‘change tents. This is another nice finish are touch I wish more races would copy. Having a dry area to change after the race was a nice touch on such a wet day.
One of the things I really appreciate about the finishers chute at the BMO is that it is a runner’s only area. While it means you can’t meet your friends and family immediately after the race, it gives runners some time to decompress and recover before facing the crowds.
When I made my way out of the finisher area, I quickly met my wife. While there was a large street festival going on, with music food samples and other attractions, all I wanted was a beer, so we made our way to the nearby Elephant and Castle for a post-race pint!
Overall, this was a great event. I understand why it is one of Forbes magazine’s Top 10 Marathons Worth Traveling For. The course is beautiful, if challenging; the race day organization is stellar (and the water stations were a BIG improvement over last year); and the crowd support was phenomenal, despite the rain. About the only criticism I have was the quality of medals and the t-shirts, which I covered in an earlier post.
Chip time: 03:47:50
13.3 KM: 1:11:53
21.1 KM: 1:50:59
30 KM: 2:43:34
DELAY 1: 0:20
Weather: 9 °C, WC: 6 °C, 15km/h ENE, 93%