In all its glory, this is what happened before, during, and after my very first marathon ever….
Despite using my watch without problems on Saturday morning, I realized in the evening that it had frozen at the screen displaying my godawfully high BMI. I had picked up 3 pacebands earlier in the day for the finishing times of 4:30 (4 hours 30 minutes), 4:45, and 5:00, and wondered how useful they would be when I didn’t have a watch to track my own time!
Before we went to sleep Saturday night (by 10 p.m.!), I remarked on how it was my last night as a non-marathoner….
I started out with CM, Tony, and Joe. By 8:30AM, the drizzle had lightened to a mist and we started out strong and steady. With nary an eventful occurrance and rapidly thinning fanfare, as we neared the halfway point, I thought there would be nothing to report. Yup, I thought this marathon report would draw to an end right now: “And then I finished it.”
By 16K, I had fallen behind the group but even they spread out with Tony ahead of all of us. Joe kicked up his pace for the second third of the race, and CM was just a few paces behind. I was alone as I had anticipated but not entirely because I could always see CM in her bright pink shirt. There was a spate of fans and cheering along a strip in Oak Bay but only one live (steel drum) band. Some enthusiasts set up stereos and for a 50-meter stretch you could giggle and/or forget your woes to the strains of “Chariots of Fire,” the Star Wars theme, and Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”
Then, of all the surprises, I saw J- around 22K! He had maneuvered across the peninsula and met me there. And since we doubled back once we reached Spurn Head, I saw him again at 25K! I was so happy he trekked away from the city center to cheer us on (and take pictures!) and to soak up the different parts of the marathon experience.
I noticed how from 25K onwards, as we trudged alongside the seemingly endless Oak Bay, there was a lull amongst the runners. Our pace wasn’t one that precluded conversation but even people in groups didn’t chat or jest loudly. I would sometimes pull up alongside CM but more often than naught, I fell behind and just watched for her signals to walk every ten minutes.
At 27K, I was looking forward to 15K to go. That might not sound very reassuring but I was playing a mental game to stay as fresh as possible. I tried to convince myself I was 90% fresh – that I hadn’t done more than a half-marathon already….
I was really looking forward to 32K, where the marathon purportedly starts. Reaching and passing 32K was new ground as it was the furthest distance we had trained in the summer. At that point, there was one more Sun Run to go, one more 10K. I can do those at a lazy and steady pace in 1:08 and I was ahead of the 4:30 schedule on account of keeping pace with CM who is leggy and athletic and officially had the goal of a 4:15 finish. Such was the bargaining I was doing with myself.
From 32K onwards, two annoying “phenomena” occurred: I experience a numbing pain in my right hip and the 10-minute intervals and kilometer markers never seemed to come!
With 6K to go, I was gritting my teeth because my legs were stiff but all that was left was the itty-bitty distance I hammered out every Tuesday and Saturday morning on the Seawall while half-asleep. Max. time: 45 minutes.
And with 4K to go, I was soothing myself that it was just 24 minutes. Hey, the thought process isn’t very brilliant after over four hours out there.
With just 2K to go, CM and I were incredulous that our very first marathon was nearly over. We hadn’t hit the wall/ bonked. I hadn’t thrown up on myself. I hadn’t slipped on a manhole cover or otherwise collapsed in a heap. I reflected how I didn’t feel glorious… and should I? Our trainers had already congratulated us on our training and some of the attitude is that you’ve already won in the race after 18 weeks of training, “Just go there and get your t-shirt and medal.” It was hard to believe that a personal milestone was materializing and it would be amongst the clean white mist of a foggy
morning afternoon in Victoria, B.C.
And amazingly, contrary to expectations, with about 300 meters to go, I was feeling strong, picked up my legs again, and was racing through the finishing chute. My ears were roaring such that I couldn’t hear the broadcaster announcing my impending arrival at the finish line and I couldn’t wipe the stupid smile that had spread across my face.
I did it in 4:20:46. I finished “upright and smiling.” The medics did not need to rush towards me to assess my physical or mental condition. When the volunteer was clipping off my timing chip, I was as close to crying as I’ve been in years – that happy, welled up, near-sob feeling. I am a marathon finisher and plotting already if the next one will be in ’07 or ’08. A woman I didn’t know came up to me in the chute and thanked me (and thereby CM) for being her pace bunny – in a way, we are all in it together.
The lot of us (CM, Tony, Joe, Harry, and I) celebrated at The Keg that evening with our respective, supportive significant others. It was fun to get together in our “civvies” and relive it and scheme. As it turns out, marathoners are normal folks but we (reasonably?) had a little wind under our sails that night and we “geeked out” talking about where/when the next race would be, our new goals, and strategy. When you throw the lot of us together, the conversation naturally goes that way….
As for me, I had advertised a goal of 4:30 and honestly thought that I would blow it by at least five minutes. So to have done better by nearly ten whole minutes, I won’t let anything rain on my parade in being satisfied with my results. Not even being in the top of the bottom half of female finishers because we all have to start somewhere.
Miscellany (Random stuff to remember for next time.)
* Pre-race eating. Alfredo pasta on Thursday night at Cactus Club with the marathon clinic. Mid-autumn festival Chinese dinner of soup noodles and Hainan chicken and rice on Friday. A ridiculously large portion of spaghetti bolognese at Macaroni Grill on Saturday. 500mL water and 1/2 cup Grainshop cereal with a splash of milk pre-race.
* Racing fuel. Gatorade and Sharkies (supplement gummies) with water at water stations to dilute the mess.
* Sleep. Amazingly I slept like a log on Saturday night where the usual slumber is unfitful, broken at least 6 times with nightmares of oversleeping or starting the race 90 minutes late (if possible). I also took the trainers’ warning to heart and heeded what time I slept on Friday – around 10:30.
* B.M. Had one. It might have made all the difference in the world. Runner’s trots is a b*tch and was entirely avoided. =D
* We stopped at water stations without guilt and stuck to “10 and 1’s” until the last 2 kilometers. (10-minute run interval followed by 1-minute walk. Repeat.)
* Injuries. In order of onset: little toe blister at 10, smooshy right ankle at 16, niggling knee pain at 18, hip hurt at 32, stiffness set in at 34. A day later, quads are massively sore (esp. the left one) and the toe blister was exascerbated by all the top skin being basically twisted to the back. =S
* Utter Wynism. I rolled each of my ankles within a few days of the race. Rolled the left ankle at a dance lesson on Wednesday – simply too tired at the end of the day. Rolled the right ankle on a little piece of uneven sidewalk on Saturday in Victoria!
Finally, here are all my stats ——
1,199/1,845 Marathon finishers
430/852 Female finishers
71/114 Female finishers age 25-29
4:22:16 Gun time
4:20:46 Chip time
2:11:17 Split time (time I reached the halway point – negative split!)
On this day..
- NPY's PotD*: Day Forty-One - 2011