I am officially a “Marathoner!”

Last week I was all nerves before the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 4th. It felt like I was a kid again waiting for Christmas … only I wasn’t sure if I was going to happy or disappointed with what I found in my stocking when the day finally arrived.

I woke that morning to rainy weather and glumly put on my Lululemon capris, a long-sleeve shirt, my fancy Nike socks, and my Nike+ GPS watch.  I wasn’t sure exactly what the weather was going to do so I brought a few different jackets with me, as well as a toque, a running hat, a headband, and a disposable plastic poncho. I wore my most water resistant runners and packed lots of warm, dry clothes for after.

I had decided that I wasn’t going to wear a hydration belt or vest since there were lots of water and Ultima stations throughout the race. I did however want to bring my own Honeystinger gels so I carried a bunch of them in my SPIbelt. I also brought my phone with me just in case.

My breakfast consisted of a plain bagel with peanut butter and honey on it and a banana. I also mixed up a bottle of lemon Ultima electrolyte drink to sip on the way there.

At 6:45am, my super-supportive and awesome boyfriend, Jesse, drove my friend and I to Queen Elizabeth Park. We got there around 8:00am, had no trouble finding a parking spot, and headed the start line. We met up with another lady from our running group that was going to with us and wandered over to our corral. I said goodbye to Jesse as we parted ways and anxiously awaited the start. Since we were in one of the last corrals, we had to endure several countdowns but finally it was our turn!

I felt great for the first 10 km. The three of us kept up a good pace and there were lots of people with signs cheering on the runners. Despite the miserable weather, the atmosphere was amazing! There was a long hill that we powered up and then it was mainly downhill or flat for the rest of the race.

At about 10 km I could feel my legs starting to get tired and I knew it was happening too soon. By the halfway point (21 km), my legs were quite stiff and I was seriously getting worried that I might not make it to the end. We eased off a little on the pace. The lady from our running group, who appeared to be having little or no difficulty maintaining the pace, slowly and steadily pulled ahead of us.

From here on out the race was one of the biggest mental and physical challenges I’ve ever experienced. My legs hadn’t felt this bad in any of my training runs (even the 35 km one). I was focused on just putting one foot in front of the other and taking the race one kilometre at a time.

I saw other people pulling off to the side and stretching out cramps or sore muscles. I knew while there were people who felt better than me at that moment, there were also people who felt worse. I was glad at least that I didn’t have any pulled a muscles, back pain, or knee pain. I thought about the disappointment I would experience if I stopped running and I knew that wasn’t an option. I would keep going until I physically couldn’t run any further and then I would walk the rest of the way and hope I made it to the finish line before it closed.

When I made it to the 32 km mark I told myself that I had already run 10 km in significant discomfort and that I could do it again. If I could at least make it to the 37 km point then I could walk the last 5 km and still make it to the finish line.

My friend tried to distract us by telling random stories and being ridiculously positive. She claimed she was struggling too but it sure didn’t seem like it. After she ran out of things to talk about she asked me if I had any stories. I don’t know exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of an abrubt “I can’t talk right now.” I needed to concentrate all my remaining energy and mental focus on moving forward. So she carried on chatting.

During the last 5 km there were quite a few people who were walking. It was very tempting to join them but I just kept running (slowly). We were coming around the north side of the seawall and could see a long stretch of path winding along the coast ahead of us. Downtown looked so close and yet so far away. I had run this part of the seawall fairly often after work and am very familiar with it. We made it past the lighthouse, and then the canon, the rowing club, the Vancouver Yacht Club, and onto Pender Street – the home stretch.

I finally KNEW I was going to make it and was scared to find out how my legs would feel after I stopped running. My friend and I crossed the finish line together, received our medals from John Stanton (founder of the Running Room), and proceeded down the chute where people took our photos and gave us food, juice, and water.

We found our friends and family and as soon as we were out of the chute I sat down on a curb and started cramming my face full of the post-race snacks. I immediately started shivering as all my clothes were soaked so my dad gave me a sweater and Jesse gave me his jacket.

We went to a nearby Starbucks where we warmed up with a cup of coffee and shared our experience. I was so relieved to have even finished that I hadn’t even looked at our time. I googled the race results and found out that we had run our first marathon in 4:20! After we had warmed up, we all headed home.

I was expecting the worst when I woke the next morning but was surprised to find that my legs felt great (all things considered)! Sure, they were stiff and sore but no more than after long runs I had done in training.

It feels weird that this 4-month journey has come to an end. I thought it was an insane goal to do a marathon after only a year of consistent running but I decided to give it a shot anyway! I’ve learned that with the proper training, support, and dedication that our bodies are capable of much more than we think.

I’ve already been asked a few times if I’m going to do another marathon. I would think after my difficult race that my body would be screaming “don’t you dare!!!” but it instantly forgot the pain upon crossing the finish line. While I have no plans to do another one right away, I would definitely like to do another marathon in the future … maybe BMO again next year??

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