I was chatting with Lori (and by chatting I mean texting… 🙂 ) last week, and she was saying that she hadn’t decided whether to write a race report or not. I told her she totally should! First of all I love race reports, love reading them, and I like writing them. It feels good after a race to reflect on your training, the race, the experience, all of it. So she did, and when she sent it to me, it made me cry!! If you know me, I’m a bit like a robot and rarely cry, but her report is awesome, and she agreed that I could post it here! Soooo, get some Kleenex, and read on!
The marathon for me has always been like a storm far away on the horizon. Something to be respected avoided and feared. The marathon was something intangibly difficult that only others do. Tougher, stronger, fitter, faster others. To tell me that you have run a marathon earns my respect no matter how I feel about other choices you have made in your life. YOU have run a marathon.
This fear and respect of the marathon has only intensified as I’ve made my way into running. The first time I ran 10 kilometers without stopping I cried. I was so proud of myself, so joyous that I could do something I had not long ago thought impossible. During that 10 km I thought “I could never run a marathon.” I’ve thought the same thing countless times during countless races and countless long training runs. At some point during the half marathons I have raced I have thought “I will never run a marathon.”
Over these years of running, two pregnancies and two beautiful children later my excuses have been stripped away. The marathon became inevitable. The morning started at 4 am before my alarm went off. I woke with a jolt of nerves. Today I AM RUNNING A MARATHON. Despite my usual pre-race nervous nausea I managed to eat a bit. I had a strong cup of coffee and methodically put on my clothes, laid out my bottles, gels, Garmin, sunglasses and pinned on my bib. I looked in the mirror – I looked like a runner, I looked ready. Terry picked me up and we headed to the Stampede grounds. We waited a nervous hour for the gun to go off. The corrals were too crowded to enter so we waited until things started to move and we calmly walked to the start. For the first few kilometers we dodged slower runners and walkers, we tried not to waste too much energy weaving and passing and stayed calm and relaxed.
The kilometers clicked by quickly punctuated with conversation. It was such a confidence booster to have my running partner Terry by my side. We kept within our pre-planned range of paces (between 5:30 to 5:40 minutes per kilometer), a pace that after a proper 3 week taper felt easy and relaxed. The hills that make the Calgary Marathon such a challenging course were barely noticed as we smiled and chatted and ribbed Terry’s friend Michael, who ran part of the race with us, about the climb. Just before halfway we passed my friend Jill who cheered wildly for us and told us we were looking good. I felt strong and positive.
Kilometers 21 to 30 passed and we got closer to our goal. As 34 approached I wondered when the wall would hit and what it would feel like. Terry and I had made a deal to slow down once we hit the flat river path earlier and we constantly reminded each other we were going too fast. The hardest part of the race for me was kilometers 34 to 36, my legs were starting to feel really tired as this was now into the farthest I had ever run before and the finish still felt very far away. Our conversation mostly stopped as we retreated into our own heads to find strength and push through the final kilometers. Over and over in rhythm with my steps I repeated in my mind “I am strong, I am tough, I am fit, I am fast – I am strong, I am tough, I am fit, I am fast.” I negotiated with myself that I would walk through the water stations, we had plenty of time to make our goal of 4 hours and it was getting warm out.
The last few kilometers are a blur; I remember the amazing signs and music in East Calgary by the Simmons building. Each water station we walked for about 15 seconds and chugged a cup full of delicious cold water then ran some more. Each kilometer we ran a little faster, like horses to the barn wanting to be done. Down the last steep hill I said to Terry that my legs couldn’t go fast downhill anymore. “Catch me on the way back up” she joked, so I did, and running up hill felt better than going down. As we ran onto the stampede grounds I said to her “We are doing this – I am running a F&^KING MARATHON!!” I felt teary and choked up and full of emotion as we ran down the final meters through the stadium at the Grandstand. Our last two kilometres were our fastest and I was smiling and crying as I ran. We crossed the finish line together and I gave Terry a big sweaty joyous hug. The journey we have taken running together, growing and changing as we have both become moms, has been so incredible and to run my first marathon side by side with her means the world to me.
It has been four days since I ran a marathon and I am still smiling. I also still get choked up every time I think about crossing the finish line. I believe more strongly than ever that we are far more than we think we can be. Running is a metaphor for life. Enjoy the journey. Bring happiness with you wherever you go and you will get out of your life what you put into it.