So where do I start? A first time marathon is a major life event that can never be repeated. I’ve joked about this a few times but there are definitely some similarities between a marathon and having a child. You prepare for months, you read everything you can find on the subject, you’re given lots of advice from lots of people and at the end you just wait for the big day and try not to be a cranky, sleep deprived, crazy person. And of course the main similarity is the fact that after however many hours of putting your body through things some people would call torture, you turn around and go “Hey, that wasn’t so bad…I could do that again!”
I admit part of me anticipated hating the marathon. There was certainly a time during training when I hated the whole concept of a marathon. I can honestly say I did not hate it, in fact overall I can say I enjoyed the run. I did not have the same “Oh my gosh I LOVE this” feeling I had after my first half marathon. I’ll always remember that first half marathon race when I ran across the finish line thinking, “What race can I sign up for next?”. But crossing the marathon finish line was definitely a feeling of accomplishment and I know I had a smile on my face – I have photos to prove it!
My husband and I headed to Toronto Friday afternoon so we would have Saturday to visit the expo and then have time to relax. Throughout the drive I could feel that telltale scratchy throat signal of an oncoming cold. It had only been a few days since my previous cold had finally ended! I did my best to not panic and tried to convince myself it was all in my head. Unfortunately by Saturday morning I knew that was not the case and a cold was settling in. This is of course the disadvantage of planning a fall race. Everyone at this time of year is prone to colds but when you teach elementary kids you know that you are going to be surrounded by germs no matter what you do so you just hope for the best.
Once we arrived at expo the buzz of energy made me forget about not feeling well. There were no line ups for bibs and we quickly went to wander the aisles. I’m not necessarily a souvenir type person but I figured you only do your first marathon once, and depending on how the race went there was the possibility that this would be a one shot deal. So I splurged and bought a nice jacket, though the thought was in my mind that if I didn’t finish I would have to find a way to sell the jacket to someone who did. And I have to admit I thought of that jacket a couple of times on the course, reminding myself that I wanted to wear it with pride, not have to post on the race’s facebook page that I had one to sell.
After that I was able to meet up with Karla from Run, Karla, Run Karla was the first running blogger I followed as I started getting into running more seriously. I always found her posts were ones I could relate to since we often seemed to have similar times, though her P.B’s are a little faster than mine. She was able to give me advice for my first run in her home city of NYC and it was great to compare notes as we trained for Toronto.
Once I worked my way through expo I realized that the cold was in full swing and I was exhausted. By the time I got back to the hotel I only had the energy to crash and ended up sound asleep for over an hour. My very supportive husband headed out to pick up a rice stir fry for me and it was dinner in the hotel room followed by a relaxing evening and early bed time.
Sunday morning was an early one since Mike had to be up for a shuttle bus to the 5k start. He headed out shortly after 6:00, which gave me another three hours until the start time for my corral. At some point during this time most of my nerves disappeared. Suddenly what popped into my head was, “This is just a Sunday morning long run.” And for whatever reason that worked. The sun was coming up, it was going to be perfect weather for a run and I knew the adrenaline would at least help let me ignore my cold (though I packed some cold medication in a pocket just in case).
I had a 15 minute walk to my friends’ hotel where hundreds of runners were hanging out in the lobby. Finally it was time for all of us to head to our corrals. Again, at this stage I felt pretty calm and ready to see what the race would bring.
Parts of the race are clear in my head and parts are just a blur. I didn’t have the amazing, surreal feeling I experienced last month at the Army Race Half Marathon but I definitely felt comfortable for the first half of the race. One of my worries was that when I passed the point when the half marathoners turned to finish their race I might panic and regret not having signed up for the 21. But I actually remember thinking I was glad I wasn’t turning to the finish line yet. I felt like I had a rhythm and energy left to keep going. A great boost was seeing Mike just before the halfway mark and finding out he had run a very fast 5k – just over 25 minutes!
I am very proud of my first 30k. I felt like I was steady and each time it became a little hard I just had to run through it and it would become a little easier again. Here are my first three splits:
I am very pleased with these times, particularly since I felt relatively good.
Once I got closer to 36k though I knew my 4:30 time was probably out of reach. Actually, I was exactly on pace for that time but I knew I was no longer recovering lost time from walk breaks. And I knew at that stage running the last 7km straight was not even an option. I could have made a decision to push as hard as I could and see what would happen but I realized that more than anything I just wanted to make sure I could run the last 2 km and smile as I crossed the finish line. So between 35 and 40.2k I walked whenever I needed to and ran at a pace that felt comfortable.
As a middle of the pack half marathoner, I am not used to seeing people stopping to stretch and even sit down during a race. Given the fact I was in the last third of the pack for this race there is definitely a different atmosphere. I think there were lots of people like me who were no longer fighting for a specific time but instead enjoying the ride of a marathon. Well, maybe enjoying would be the wrong word for some, and maybe some of those people were fighting just to stay on their feet. I was lucky though in that I knew I was going to finish – no doubts at that stage. I also felt remarkably good when I walked. I was sure at that point in a marathon even walking would be a chore but I was happily proven wrong.
Of course running the last few hundred metres was a high point. I do remember avoiding looking at the countdown of metres to the end, I much prefer to just wait and see the finish line. I was pretty much in my own zone so was somewhat startled when I heard Mike call out my name as he took pictures.
I also remember being slightly disappointed that I was actually catching up to the small group of runners ahead because I really wanted to make sure I got a good finish line picture! I can say that that is the first time ever I thought about my final picture. And it was definitely the first time I considered, just for a moment, slowing down to make sure I was in my own space. No worries though, the photographers did their job and I have a finish line photo!
A great day was made even better by the fact that the five of us who had traveled from Ottawa to run a race (2 marathons, 2 half marathons and a 5k) had a successful day, three of us doing distances we had never done before.
That night I had the chance to meet another blogging friend, Rod from Run Rod Run and his partner Doug. It was great to sit back with new friends and talk all things running, a perfect way to end a fantastic weekend.
So will I become a marathon addict? Definitely not. I really am looking forward to trying to knock just over 3 minutes from my half marathon time to give me a sub 2 hour P.B. But will I do another one? Most likely yes. And I have already made up my mind that I want to do the famous “older than Boston” Around the Bay 30k race this coming March. And as a final sign that the marathon did not destroy me, I am pretty sure I am going to run a half marathon in Kanata in just over 2 weeks. I have promised myself though that I will treat it as a fun run, no crazy attempts to beat that 2:03 yet!