This is the only marathon I ran this year, I’ve only ran one marathon prior to this about a year ago. A year ago my aim was to finish and I did in 4:21. With a good chunk of my races this year being used as training runs for the DeathRace I decided to challenge myself and finish this 42.2km run in under 4 hours.
Like all my training plans they look so good on paper and I bet they would be awesome if I actually stuck to them, but I’m very good at making excuses not to do the hard work. I rarely miss a run, however I rarely do the actual workout I planned. For example I did no speed work going into this marathon, admittedly I’ve never really done speed work for anything, instead I would figure out what distance I would have covered running around the track and would just run that. I did actually do some tempo runs, but not at the speeds I should have been. So the week before Road 2 Hope I started to get nervous and regret telling anybody about my time goal because quite frankly I didn’t really deserve to reach it. However I’m also really stubborn and never back down from a challenge so I was still going to give it a go.
Race day was ideal, sunny around 10 degrees Celsius, it was a tad windy but tolerable, so I wasn’t going to be able to use weather as an excuse not to perform. The race start is nice as it is at a high school and we got to wait inside and use flushing toilets. Race time was delayed by about 10 minutes but that worked out in my favor as I actually seeded myself correctly, hanging out behind the 3:50 pace bunny (more on him later). It was announced there would be a lady wearing a monkey suit and we should be nice to her, I have no idea why (Dan informed me later that she was the race directors wife, don’t worry I wasn’t mean to her) and that there was a guy dribbling a basketball for the whole of the marathon (because just running a marathon isn’t challenging enough), finally the anthem was sung and we were off…fast! I panicked a little for the first km because I was going way too fast, yet the 4 hr pace bunny was nipping at my heels, what the heck? Stay calm, things will settle and the did.
The first half of the marathon takes you through these lovely quiet country roads (re: no spectators) blah, whatever, it was sunny and the houses were nice to look at, the manure odor was gross. Just after 8km a man asked if we had just run in a circle, I pointed out that it was more of a rectangle but yes, we were only a few blocks (are they called blocks in the country?) north of where we had started. He asked if I was from here, I said no. He stayed beside me so I asked where he was from and he told me he lived 10 minutes down the road…hmm. He was also widely overdressed for the warm weather, hopefully he wasn’t suffering heat stroke, he started to complain to me about the pacing ability of the 3:50 bunny, what are you supposed to say to that? I just smiled and nodded, eventually we caught up to said pace bunny…hmm, I was running pretty consistent splits, I shouldn’t be catching anybody.
Bunny and his crew pulled ahead and I was left with my own thoughts, except they kept being interrupted by this strange almost rhythmic noise and that’s when I realised I was being reeled in by the basketball dribbler. Sigh, it’s bad enough that I’m constantly beat by costumed runners but seriously a dribbler? Turns out the dribbler was a 17 year old named Colin who was trying to change people’s perceptions of teenagers. He’s concerned that adults think kids his age just want to drink and smoke, so he decided to raise money for a good cause and dribble a basketball for 42.2km. Now I’m feeling downright miserable, I never smoked but I was probably sipping some drinks when I was 17, I certainly was not thinking about saving the world and/or running a marathon (while dribbling).
I left the dribbler behind at he next water station because I think he was embarrassed to be seen running with a slow 30 something year old, or it may have been because the station was staffed by his high school and all his friends were there. Frightening things started to happen then, I started to pass people, um we are only 15km into this thing people what’s going on? I deduced that because I usually start further back I don’t pass these people until much later on. Passed a girl in a shirt that said she was the best, I felt good passing her and that pretty much kept me entertained (she kept trying to catch me) until the 18km mark where the country road suddenly got a bike lane?? What the hey??? (or should I say hay?).
The wind had really picked up now and it was irritating me so from 18-21km I pretty much decided I hated this race and somehow I caught up to the 3:50 bunny (how?) Just as I was depressing myself with how much further I had to go I heard my name, I looked up to see Dan and my Dad cheering at a corner that actually had spectators. Dan’s words to me, “you’re way ahead of your pace”. He said it in a kind tone but I felt there was an underlying warning there. I looked closer at my garmin and established that I didn’t care that I was ahead of pace, my heart rate was right where it should be (as it had been for the whole race) and I was running pretty even splits. Dan told me later he simply said it to cover his own butt incase I blew up later down the road then blamed him for not mentioning something. (In fairness, he is a very wise husband).
At 23km the course heads south and down a parkway. It was kind of neat to run on a highway, but I was mostly happy to have the downhill. I like running down and I just went with it, on my way I chatted to a few people who had fallen behind the 3:50 pace bunny, they were very annoyed. One guy called Istevan was having quite the rant when I asked him what pace he should have been running to finish in 3:50, his response “I don’t know that is the pace bunnies job, but this guy just speeds up and slows down and now my legs are thrashed, he’s going to fast”. Hmm…I have to admit that I’ve never run with a pace bunny, I will use them as gauges, something to keep behind me or within eyesight, but at the end of the day pace bunnies are people too. They have good and bad running days, and ultimately I think it’s the runners responsibility to know their pace and run their own race, pace bunnies are not a guarantee, you still have to do the work.
We exited the parkway at the 29km mark where once again Dan and my Dad were there with a cheer, I needed it, I was getting a little over heated and well, I was starting to realise that running at faster than normal pace for so long was hard. Meh, I got myself this far best to just keep going.
By 33km I was tiring, my heart rate was elevating and it was getting tougher to keep my pace, also my heart rate monitor had started chaffing me (which is new) so I decided to take it off, thankfully while I was doing this and faffing around with safely stowing my monitor I completely missed a runner being loaded into an ambulance, I merely caught the aftermath of the bike medics, solar blankets and flashing lights fading into the distance. The last 10km of a marathon can suck exactly for this reason, people not only start to mentally break but some physically break. I started to think about all the cheesy “pain is temporary” quotes to keep me moving I was hot and tired and thirsty, but I was in the final 10km. I kept myself busy tying to figure out how long it would take Reid Coolsaet (I “heart” Reid) to run it.
The final turn around at 36km ejected us onto a paved path along the water, I tried to take in how lovely it was but I was seriously fighting to keep moving, stuff was starting to hurt “ok 5km to go, pull yourself together and move” It’s hard to be happy about passing people when they looked as crappy as the ones I was passing. I actually kept closing my eyes for a bit, until of course I almost fell over, I wondered if I’d actually be able to myself up if I had. That scared me enough to focus on where I was going…is that the 3:50 bunny ahead? I quick glance at my watch, could I make it in 3:50? Only one way to find out. Now I have to admit, I like crossing the finish “looking good”, smiling, arms up, waving. So I think I shocked my Dad when he saw me looking, well, beat. I barely waved and I don’t think I managed a smile. When I reached Mom and Little Sister cheering I managed a weak hand flail, but that was it, my Mom could tell I was in pain. I didn’t even notice Dan or Little Sister’s Fiancé.
The worse part of the course was about to be revealed to me, the last 200m required of a full 180 turn and an incline, volunteers stood by smiling “just around the corner and up the hill”, sure no problem, “you look great”, what are you looking at? And finally I was across the line, I think I put my arms up, I know I smiled when my name was announced only because the announcer thought I had “a great running name”. Water handed to me, I feel wobbly, medal around my neck, where is my family? I’m so wobbly. Strong hand on each arm, Dan and Dad, I’m safe.
I’ve never pushed myself that hard before, so I wasn’t prepared for how my body would react (severe muscle twitching, didn’t actually hurt but was very uncomfortable). The post race food was adequate but a mad shout out to the cabbage and dill soup. On our walk back to the car we saw Colin the dribbler, I gave him a big cheer. The world will be a better place with kids like him.
In other news, Big Sister successfully made her half marathon return after battling injury.
And as for me, did I make 3:50?
Nope, officially 3:51:15, chip time 3:50:47, totally satisfied, and that poor 3:50 pace bunny, he crossed the line alone just ahead of me and collapsed, clearly it wasn’t his day.