Holy moly, I ran a marathon!!! I am a marathoner now. And I have to say it’s a good feeling. Crossing that finish line, seeing the 40k sign on the course knowing the end was in sight, thinking about all the conversations Julie and I would be having at pretty much every point along the way, thinking about Alice and all the training runs I didn’t do, then realizing how much bloody running I actually did with the Running Room all for this one race, thinking how in the world was I feeling as good as I was? (I didn’t think that was possible!), thanking my lucky stars for living with Charlie at this point in time because I don’t think there was one thing I personally owned that I wore on race day (thanks, Charlie!), thinking how am I still alive and walking around and not sore afterward (I wasn’t sore at all really, not to rub it in), and most of all how happy I was that Erin was there to share this weekend with me. She was dead set on me having a good time which was accomplished just fine. I didn’t understand her rationale for it all, at the time, but once it was all over I got it. I realized a marathon is not just a race, but an experience, and a huge accomplishment too. So I listened to her and soaked it all in, but only after I was able to breathe normally again.
As I hinted ever so slightly in training week 15, and Erin mentioned it too in her half marathon recap, I sure did run a marathon!
A long time ago when I thought running a marathon would be fun, mind you this was at a time when I was excited about running. This moment was minutes after completing the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. It then hit me again when Erin finished her marathon. That did it for me. It was now or never (back in the spring) to decide would I or wouldn’t I? I knew I would, but when was the real question. Then an even more important question come up – after registering for Alice’s Running Room Clinic – what race would I run? Knowing I had Bali to look forward to in late October, the County Marathon was my only option… but you’ve all heard this story already.
Driving in the car with Erin allowed for some serious bonding time. I missed Erin and with all the summer craziness behind us – little sister Anne moving to town, me trying to figure out my life and working three jobs while marathon training, and Erin being busy too – we ended up spending zero time together this summer and that made me sad. But when she signed up for the half marathon you’d think I’d be thrilled, but at the time I didn’t really care. I know this wasn’t very sisterly of me, but like I said we hadn’t spent much time together and this was just another race, right? Wrong! Looking back now I’m so glad Erin was there. My race would have been completely different had she not have been there. I owe it to Erin for running fast!
Erin’s marathon (The Bluenose) was a full on family affair, which was great and what she wanted, but I could have cared less for mine. I signed up thinking I’d go alone or drag Cecilley with me, but Erin was either not impressed this this idea or just really wanted to run herself? Or maybe she really loves me and wanted to be there to support me! She did have this idea that a marathon is special and supposed to be fun. Again, I could have cared less. I wanted to run the race, have it be over, then drink lots of wine to celebrate or drown my sorrows. Either way the end of the race was looking good. I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t want to get too excited in case the race was horrible. And I didn’t want to be down right terrified either because it could be great! Oh my running heart! Marathon’s are so confusing!
Closer to marathon weekend after Erin and I figured out all the details to our trip and my mind began to settle. Picton was super pretty and reminded me so much of rural Nova Scotia. When Erin and I arrived at our little Bed and Breakfast (thank you Erin for organizing pretty much everything!) I felt like we were living in Stars Hallow. And this made me happy! As Erin mentioned it was super close to the finish line – amazing planning on Erin’s part, who knew what was going to happen to me once the race was over. That Erin, she was looking out for me… or was just planning for the worst possible scenario? But I knew I was going to be fine. I kept telling myself that. There was nothing more I could do to prepare, so I might as well start thinking about the end instead of the race itself. All I had to do was eat, sleep, wake up early, eat again, then run very far, how hard could it be?
That evening we walked the town in search of a good dinner spot. Eating a good meal was super important. We settled on a very safe choice of veggies, bread and dips, and various salads we picked out at the grocery store. I was very pleased and so was Erin. Then came race morning! Although I was nervous I kept my cool. It didn’t really matter then if I ran fast or slow or would crawl across the finish line all I knew was this marathon was happening. End of story.
Erin escorted me to the bus pick up spot in the pouring rain. Why was it raining?! Of all days to rain, the day of my race. I mean really, come on. The bus ride felt long, but I busily packed my gels away in their appropriate places in my sports bra, turned on Charlie’s Garmin and set my 10 and 1’s, packed my granola bar and salt tabs in their poaches, filled two of my (or rather Charlie’s) fuel belt water bottles with Vega electrolytes, put on my hat, tied up my shoelaces, and waited. There is a serious pre race routine that has to be done, ask any runner, it’s not just me. As I waited around for 7:45am, I paced, peed a zillion and one times, and then I called my Mommy. I got really nervous all of a sudden, but I was also ready. It was a very weird mix of emotions to have. But Mom came though for me (as usual) in these dire moments before competition.
The start was across the road from the arena we were waiting in. I put my head phones in my ears, but didn’t turn on my music. I was unsure of it’s battery power and didn’t want to waste it. Charlie, I borrowed even your iPod shuffle. Mine would not have lasted the length of the race and I didn’t charge it before hand. So, thanks Charlie!
Then I was off. The 10 and 1’s were set, I was running just fine, but then quickly realized I had no idea what my pace was let alone figure out how to see it on the Garmin. Oh no! I guess not everything can go according to plan. But I felt amazing very early on (and that I was thankful for) settling into a grove (which I didn’t know at the time was a pace pretty much on track of a 2:00 fist half). As Erin explained earlier, the half started exactly 2 hours after the full. If I stuck to the right time we’d meet and run the second leg of my race (Erin’s full race) together. And all went according to plan even trough I was 6 minutes off pace, which was much faster than then 2:20 I thought I was going to finish at. I didn’t feel slow – there were portions of the race I felt slower, but nothing to start worrying about. I was trying to calculate my pace at each water break with my walk breaks. At first I was bang on walking at each 2k, but that didn’t last for too long (I either sped up or slowed down, I’m still unsure). In my head I was never going to see Erin! But soon I’d come to realize how wrong I was.
Somehow I managed to make it all the way to 17k without needed to fuel up. I honestly felt that good. I took a gel here because 17k has always been my struggling point. But not this time! I flew on by and crused to the 21.1k where I jumped for joy having spotted Erin. The plan worked! Running 10 and 1’s was super helpful and gave me time to check in. Did I need water? Electrolytes, or a salt tab, or a gel? During training walk breaks were just that, a break! But a break I’d be dying for. During the marathon I was focused and somehow very prepared. I didn’t want the walk breaks and I didn’t feel like I needed them. This did change, however, going past 22k. My walk breaks then became something I wanted. But I was okay with that.
At 11k I took a salt tab just to keep my mind on track as I wasn’t sure if I’d keep sailing through at the pace that I was. I stuck to the pattern of water/electrolytes, salt tab, water/electrolytes, gel for the whole race. I didn’t ever want to get to the point of where I would need something, then I know I’d be in trouble. Lucky for me this feeling hit me once around 38k, also to my surprise I brought more with me then I ended up needing. At 38k I did need my granola bar fuel to change things up and to chew on something (this takes your mind away from the fact your still running and still have just under 5k to go) this I needed to get me through to the end.
The first half I found myself running on my own, then I’d catch the 4:15 pace group for a while, there was also two ladies I would try to catch – that was a fun game to play – but of course would lose whomever I was trying to catch when my walk breaks would start. I hated walking at this point! It was so fustrating getting so close to the group (or persons) then having to watch them dart off and out of sight.
It wasn’t until Erin and I started running together when my determined mind power strated to really test me. Erin, early on, lead the way and ran just ahead of me, which was very nice at fist – I knew Erin could be the pacer at this point and steer us into a 2:00 finish – I trusted her to lead me home. Together we passed so many people including the 4:15 group. Yes! We were right on track and I was still feeling great. Erin was looking great too, from what I could tell. But then somewhere between 25k and 30k things, for whatever reason, started to piss me off. Erin was in my space, I hated having her in front of me, I wanted to shake this so bad. Why was I getting so angry?! Sorry, Erin, it was nothing you did at all. I love you!
I was able to get it together once we approached the Sandy Banks and ran though the provincial park. The trees over hanging, engulfing us in and blocking the rain and the wind for a few kilometers, it was lovely. It was still raining at this point and continued to do so for god knows how long. But here I felt back on track! I kept telling myself at this point “Just get to 36k, just make it to 36k”. 32k was the furthest distance I’ve ever run, but my training had prepared me for 36k and beyond. It’s the last 10k that’s the real mind game. You’ve already passed the physical test. But when you know you’re entering unfamiliar territory it’s both amazing and terrifying. What happens then? Do you hit a wall and come to a dead stop? Does your body tap out and that’s it? When we surpassed 36k I got my answer… my legs kept going! Crazy I know! The real challenge for me – when I started to feel it and wanted this run to end was between 35k and 38k – it also didn’t help that the only hill in Picton (and along the route) happened at kilometer 37, which Erin kindly noted a dinner the night before. Great. But I saw that hill, and powered up it. Erin eventually caught up to me and we ran together again until the 39k mark. At this point the 4:15ers had caught us, we were playing catch and go for a little ways, until they took off which seemed like an insane distance a head of us. At the next water break I said to Erin “They’re so far ahead of us!”. “Don’t even worry about them,” was her response. Me (in my head): “Forget that nonsense! I’m catching them!” And so I did. I saw the 40k sign and booted it to the end. I ran like I’ve never ran before, catching the attention of my locals in the crowd. Note to everyone: wearing a marathon bib automatically gets you more cheers! I was feeling great! But still wanted this dam run to be over.
Then I saw the grocery store we bought our dinner at, then our B&B, and then sure enough, the finish line! One existed after all! Then I ran. I ran past the 4:15 pace bunny, through the cheering spectators and through to the finish line! It was finally over. But at that second when I turned around to see Erin crossing the finish behind me – that’s where it hit me. I just ran a marathon and thought to myself I could have gone further or need to run another one. Seriously, I’ve gone mad.
My splits were almost identical at 2:06 and 2:07 respectfully, finishing at a time of 4:14. Erin was screaming “You did it!” when I finished. “I know.” I did just run a marathon. And I did so under 4:15!
Take that 4:15. I did it. But I could not have done this all on my very own. Thank you Erin!! And Julie! And Alice, the 4:30 Running Room ladies, the Running Room clinic, yin yoga with Julia, Jackie and all my yoga teachers at MYD, and of course Lee Ann (she was the reason I could run my long run on Sundays with the clinic!). And thank you Mommy for giving me the confidence to run fast right before the race when I needed it, even though you weren’t there to see me run. Next time!
Running a marathon sure is an experience, and apparently requires a thank you speech.