It’s been quite a journey: 1,021 kilometres in 109 workouts over 18 weeks (or 102 hours) = 1 marathon!
This journey is all the more incredible to me, when less than 2 years ago I could barely run for 1 minute at a time, and the thought of even completing a 10K was almost beyond belief. Even this time last year, with one half-marathon under my belt, I was still debating on whether I’d run another. Fast forward to today and I’ve now completed 8 half marathons, several 10Ks…. and now my first marathon!
The week leading up to the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon was pretty low-key. My trip to Hawaii tomorrow, was the focus of the bulk of my attention (and excitement). It wasn’t until Friday afternoon while I was packing that, the enormity of what I was about to attempt began sinking it.
Victoria Marathon Race Expo
After taking a super crowded (and delayed) Thanksgiving weekend ferry over to Victoria on Friday night, my wife and I chatted with my mom for a while and then hot the sack to rest up for the weekend ahead.
Saturday morning, we got up pretty early and made our way to the race expo to pick up my race kit and check out the exhibits. One of the features of the expo was a bus tour of the course. While I used to live in Victoria and a had general idea of the route, it was nice to see the exact route to know what to expect… although I must admit that I was a bit intimidated by the amount of rolling hills on the course.
After the tour, I went to see Dick Beardsley speak. Dick is best known for the favours Duel in the Sun against Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston Marathon where he came an extremely close second. Dick talked a bit about the famous race and his experiences as a runner before the presentation took a more serious turn.
It turns out that after a few serious (non running related) accents, Dick became addicted to painkillers, and had a struggle to get over them. While it wasn’t the motivation that some in the audience were expecting, I came out o the theatre thinking that has hard as running a marathon may be, it is nothing compared to the personal struggles many people overcome everyday.
Sunday morning arrived and I quickly broke marathon rule #1: don’t try anything new on race day. As I was travelling, I didn’t have access to my regular breakfast ingredients (a fruit smoothie), so I had to make do with what was on hand, opting for a relatively safe peanut-butter and banana on toast. It turned out it wasn’t a problem at all.
I got to the start line about an hour ahead of the race, just in time to cheer on the half marathoner start their race. It was exciting to see the start of a major event—something I had never done before. I felt remarkably calm before the race. I think this was due in part to my 8 earlier half marathons, and—in large measure—to my trust in a proven training program that had led to several of my clinic buddies to successful marathons in the previous two weeks. While I was waiting for the start, I ran into a fee familiar faces from my clinic and we wished each other well.
At the scheduled 8:45 the race started and we were off. The first 5K or so was pretty relaxed, as I warmed up and made sure my body and gear was in good order. Just after the 5K mark I spotted my wife with a motivational sign. It was great to see her, so I did a bit of grandstanding.
A few minutes after seeing my wife I ran into Stephanie Harrap, who recognized me from the Cambie Street Running room. We both had similar time goals so we ended up running together. We ran with me for almost 30k. It was great having somebody to talk with early on, and just run along as the going got tougher.
The Victoria marathon had a lot of out and back portions, so we were able to see a lot to runners at different points along the course. Early one, we ran past some the of the half marathoners heading back to the finished, as well as some of the ‘slower marathoners who started early’ It felt good to encourage fellow runners as they near the end of their journey, as well as here them urge us one as we were just getting started. About the 17K mark, we began running into the leaders, including the men’s winner, Lamech Mokono from Kenya. Soon after we started running by several of our clinic member as well as the women’s leaders, including the women’s winner, Catrin Jones, from Victoria (hometown girl!).
Before I knew it, we had passed half way and were making our way back, I was still feeling really good, but getting nervous about if/when I would hit the infamous ‘wall’. While I was able to hold it off for a few kilometres later than anticipated, it finally caught up with me at 37K. The good news was that I had just over 5K left to go. So while I slowed down a bot, I refused to stop, even for a walk break and motored through. I thought back to some of the weekend early morning ‘hangover runs’ that I had endured during training and recalled feeling worse on them.
As I hit 41K I remember thinking that this whole marathon thing wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be. Then I hit the 42K mark and every muscle seems to seize up at the same time as my mental strength started to wane. I’m still not sure how I managed to run the last 195 meter to the finish line. I had to dig so deep that I ran past my wife and here second poster and cheers without noticing her. You can see some of my pain in the marathon photo proofs.
As I looked up at the clock, I saw that 4:00 had passé, but crossed my fingers that my chip time could still be under 4:00. Turns out I missed it by 12.1 seconds…
After the Finish Line
After I crossed, I received my finishers medal, picked up something to eat and drink and then heard my wife calling my name. My first marathon was complete!!! Linda then helped me hobble out of the finish area towards a celebratory beer!
Now a day later, the pain in my legs has subsided, the enormity of what I have accomplished has sunk it, and I’ve accepted those 12.1 seconds. After all, I can still honestly say I ran a 4 hour marathon, and that was my goal. And hey, those extra seconds will be my motivation to train even harder for marathon #2!