I ran my sixth full marathon yesterday (MEC race series #7)… And it was brutal. I’m not going to sugar coat it, it really sucked. Like, so bad that I’m not going to even bother checking my official time. I cried approximately twice and wanted nothing more than for someone to pick me up on the route because the distance between me and the finish line just felt so overwhelmingly huge.
I’m not exactly sure what happened. I trained, albeit not super hard but I got the necessary mileage for my program in. I tapered, rested, and carbo loaded. I was in a good mood at the start, no big goals, just focused on having a solid run on a beautiful day, however the universe decided that I needed to work a little harder for that to happen.
The day started out innocently enough. I slept well, saw a beautiful sunrise on the way to the start line at the Telus Science Centre. I met up with my Oiselle teammates Leana and Ange, who were both running the half marathon. The full went off first at 9am, and with Leana and Ange cheering for me, I left the start all smiles.
Being my first home city marathon, my mom promised to meet me at the 5k aid station, and my dad said he would cheer me on along the way, and ended up station at the 16/27ish aid station. Seeing them on the course was the best experience. Seriously. It was the first marathon that my Dad has seen me run, and he stuck it out for a good long time to see me both ways. I had a huge smile on my face each time, even though the second time I was feeling significantly less optimistic.
I felt pretty solid up until km 20. I was right on track for running a cool 4-hour run. The course was generally very flat but around that point we entered Bowmont park and started heading up. And up and up. And I think it was somewhere around here the wheels fell off.
I had to really pee, and had been holding it for a while, then my Achilles (a little on and off niggle) started getting angry, and the hill up to the 22.5km turn around point/aid station kicked my ass. I decided I would plod out until then, hit the bathroom and regroup. I did just than, and head back down the hill. I noticed a weird ache in my tailbone. TAILBONE. Seriously, wtf. It made running downhill very uncomfortable, but then over time (a long time) it did go away. But my legs were done. Everything just generally cramped up and hurt.
When I was at about 25km, my mind took a one-way express train to negative town. I started feeling incredibly overwhelmed. My energy felt good, but my legs ached SO BAD. It felt like I should have been 35km in, not 25. And I was on the opposite side of Calgary from the finish line. This was the first time I texted Dan.
I somewhat employed a 10/1 run/walk routine, until I saw my dad again at the aid station. He gave me a hug and ensured me I was looking good and that everyone was looking rather tired coming back. We walked for about 5 min together towards his car (which was the direction I was headed in anyway) and chatted. I was able to gather myself for a while after that for the next 3ish km, then the reality of how far I still had to go sunk in. I texted Dan for the second time, whilst bawling. I sincerely hoped he would offer to pick me up so I could throw in the towel. But all I got was encouragement to keep going. Damnit.
The next aid station informed me that I was just about 10k from the finish (oh ya, I forgot to mention there were no km markers, and I didn’t properly sync my watch to satellites so I was essentially running blind to distance), and that seemed still far, but slightly more doable. I kept running at 10/1 as best as I could, but sometimes my legs hurt too bad, or there would be small hills near bridges that I would have to walk.
I kept plodding along, picking points in the distance to run to then typically kept running past them. A lady on a bike (who was cheering her friend along) was particularly encouraging and chatted with me for a while, following me on her bike. Then about 5km from the finish, everything went numb. Although it didn’t last, it was a nice break from the sore everything I was experiencing.
Those last 5k would just not quit. When I got to the section that went along the zoo, the undulating hills were impossible for me to run. I walked a good section, and ran when I could (aka when it was flat). Then, a switch went off in my brain and I just stopped caring, and started feeling almost happy and enjoying myself, despite the pain. I sang along to George Micheal, complete with hand motions, while bike lady rode past me again, giving me a thumbs up (I was slightly embarrassed).
I turned out of the zoo area and aimed north towards the start/finish a the Science Centre. Plodding up, I saw two figures on a bridge, one waving at me. It was my Mom and Dan.
I “sprinted” (lolz) as hard as I could to them, got hugs and cheers to carry me to the end. I kept as strong as possible, knowing my next spectator, my friend Meghan, would be there.
Right around the very last bend I felt something “go” in my toe (blister related), hobbled a bit, but pushed through the last bit of pain. Meghan spotted me, ran towards me and we both crossed the finish line holding hands. It was a truly magical friendship moment!
Meg took good care of me until Dan and Mom arrived back from their post on the bridge. She helped me get my bag and presented me with a selection of beer to choose from (FUN FACT: Oiselle arm sleeves make effective beer cozies in a pinch when drinking in public post-race). I had a quick free massage, relaxed on the grass as Dan and our friend Andrew played on a nearby swing set. Later we feasted on BBQ and beer, followed by an ice bath and early bedtime.
Would I liked this run to go better? Of course. Am I upset? Not at all. I wanted to quit, I want to so very very bad, but I didn’t. And not only am I grateful (although surprised) by my own perseverance, I am grateful for those who who stuck it out with me that day. My dad for being the best mid way pick-me-up/photographer. (Dad, you’ll have to come out to another one soon so you can catch me on a “good” day :). My boyfriend Dan for always making sure I follow through on what I set out to do, and always with a smile on his face. My Mom for always being a great cheerleader, and Meghan for being a great new cheerleader (you can bring me beer at the end of any race!). And of course my Oiselle ladies, Ange and Leana, for sending me off with a great start and knowing you were rooting for me. I can’t wait for our Spirit of the Marathon/wine night/cry fest. (And for the pictures I stole from you for this post).
Sometimes even with the best laid plans shit goes south and you end up getting what you need out of a race instead of what you want. I guess I needed a kick in the butt to get training a bit harder (and smarter) if I want to get back to where I was a year ago. I had my time building back after last years “shinjury” (like that, mom?), so now it’s time to get serious. And I also needed the experience of having so many positives happen in a day that it outweighs one seemingly catastrophic negative. I got to run on a beautiful fall day, along the river, in a race I only paid $25 for, with some incredible friends and family, and I finished one of the hardest races of my life. What could I possibly feel sad about?