I did it! And i’m going to tell you the story, simply because i want to preserve the memory while it’s still in there.
I prepared well leading up to race day. Ate all the right things, drank all the water and rested as much as possible. I had dinner with all my running friends, which was really, truly wonderful. It felt so good to be sitting with a bunch of people i truly care about and share the running stories that don’t interest most of the people in my normal life. We laughed, and ate and settled into our pre-race nerves. This group is great because we cross all the divisions of age and skill, yet completely support each other. We were texting each other right up until we crawled into bed and then first thing in the morning. My phone buzzed with nervous texts at 5:30am. So much better than an alarm.
Shane dropped me close to the start line around 7am. I went into the starting corrals and just wandered around taking in all the faces and people. My feet swimming around in body glide inside my runners. The start line seems to be a place where nerves start to fade as the reality of the imminent race takes hold. I was seeded into the fourth corral, but wanted to be a bit further up to run with people at a similar pace. I went into the back of the third corral and soon enough it was time to go.
The start was quite slow as the pack naturally thinned out a bit. The first couple kilometers were nice and easy, mostly downhill. I was feeling really good and made a little mental movie of myself finishing. I decided right then that i was going to finish. We winded through a bunch of really beautiful neighbourhoods, i was focused on taking in the beauty to distract myself from the number of miles to come. Somewhere in here, 10km or so, we ran up a really, really long hill. I hated it and had my first walk break and ate my first energy chews. For whatever reason that hill took my confidence down several notches.
We then headed towards UBC and a long stretch with very few spectators. I didn’t realize how much the spectators helped motivate me until they weren’t there. I really had to go to the bathroom, but every time i passed the porta potties they were full. So i kept going, hoping the next one would be available. As we came out of UBC, somewhere around 18km i was starting to feel really down. The sun was too hot for me and i’m not used to running on paved roads with no relief from the heat. I finally found a bathroom and after emptying my bladder felt way better. There were a couple up and down hills and then we came down to sea level and the mid way point. To cross the mats at 21km we had to go into a parking lot and do a dumb loop, which really bugged me. I crossed the halfway point at 1:58. I was on track for a four hour marathon, but not feeling awesome.
As i headed out of that checkpoint i realized that i was already really tired and my feet were starting to hurt. Dumb mistake number 1 was that i noticed my shoes were laced too tight, but didn’t want to stop to fix them. I totally know better, it’s always smarter to stop and fix the problem and lose that minute or two because that problem will cost you lots of time later on. Competitive brain strikes again. I was feeling really deflated and wondering if i could make it as i looked over at Stanley Park which was SO FAR away.
A few kilometers later i saw Shane and the kids. It was amazing. I so badly needed to see them. I didn’t even know it. A quick kiss and hug and i ran on. The only problem was that i was so full of emotion as i left them behind that i couldn’t breathe. It took several minutes to slow my heart down and breathe normally again. This happened every time i saw them, though about them or thought about the finish line for the rest of the race. It felt like an anxiety attack.
I then saw my sister with my youngest daughter and her two girls. They were jumping up and down and ran along beside me. I felt full of love and joy and pride. My pace picked back up and i was feeling great as i headed up and over Burrard Street Bridge. By this point i was walking through all the aid stations and drinking gatorade and water at all of them. I was sweating a lot and was conscious of not getting dehydrated, i also felt for the first time in a race that i needed the sugar and electrolytes from the gatorade.
Before we headed onto the seawall i saw my family two more times. I was so happy every time i saw them coming, it gave me the energy i needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I felt so cared for thinking of them racing around the city to see me. We were all on our own little adventure. The seawall was amazingly beautiful, but also the point in the race where i saw almost all the runners hit the wall and really struggle. Myself included. Pace bands littered the ground as runners gave up time goals and focused on just getting to the finish. It was silent except for the smacking of feet to ground. I could feel the screaming inside everyone’s heads. There were no spectators, just runners fighting a big personal battle. There was lots of walking. I kept making visual goals, “i’ll just get to that turn up there and then i’ll walk for a bit.” I stopped to walk several times and walked through every water station. It hurt just as much to walk as it did to run. It was a mental battle to just keep going. My feet hurt so much more than i thought possible. It was a brilliant route though because there was no stopping, there was no where to go except forwards. In the end i placed myself behind two guys that were plowing through and followed them as best i could. I knew my time goal was long gone, i just wanted to finish. At the 24 mile marker i saw my sister and the kids again. They yelled i was going to do it and i stopped and gave them all a huge sweaty hug and cried and cried as i left them. I was going to finish, i finally knew it.
As i ran up into the city i was feeling so rough. Just completely empty. I had to stop and walk for a few seconds with only one kilometer to go, i had dug as deep as i could and just needed to get to the finish so bad. I wanted it to be over. In the last couple hundred meters the spectators were incredible. Everyone shouting my name and just being so genuinely amazing and encouraging, really so life changing.
And then it was done. Just like that, i crossed the finish at 4:15, a medal was placed around my neck and i fell into the arms of my family.
The whole thing was so surreal. Taking my body to places mentally and physically i didn’t even know existed. Pushing through when i didn’t think i could. Months and months of training, coming back from a huge disappointment and injury last year. Meeting and changing goals with every step. This deep, deep pride that is so hard to explain. Running a marathon is such a solo thing, yet there is no way (and i am absolutely certain of this) that i could have done it without shane, my kids, my sister, my nieces and the spectators. There is a huge difference between running a 35km training run and running a marathon. I don’t know why, but i figured out pretty quickly yesterday that they were completely different.
Will i run another marathon? Right now i am thinking yes, but i’m going to let all the emotions from this one settle in first.