I finally did it, I am a marathon runner! I think the best way to describe my experience yesterday is surreal. When I crossed that finish line, I was excited to be done, but I didn’t fully register what I had accomplished. It just felt like a tiring race that had come to an end. Today, I still don’t know if I fully understand that I ran 42.2km yesterday, but my legs definitely tell me that I did! Maybe when I’m done writing this, it will have set in that I ran a marathon.
I’ll start out from first thing in the morning, I woke up much earlier than my alarm, sometime before 5am. It was my first night sleeping in my new place in Victoria and it was FREEZING, plus I often have trouble sleeping the night before a big race. I made coffee, and oatmeal, and struggled to eat the oatmeal. I was feeling super nauseous because of being nervous, but managed to eat almost all the oatmeal. I pre-packed my bag the night before with my change of clothes and shoes, Flip Belt containing 11 gels, disposable jacket and gloves.
Since there is an early start-time for the marathon as well as 3 other races before the marathon main start, getting to the start-line was tricky. I ended up walking from China Town to the Parliament Buildings and that helped calm my nerves. I grabbed my bib from the out-of-towners pick-up and went to meet a running buddy at The Grand Pacific Hotel, where a local running store had rented out the banquet room so runners could relax and stay warm pre-race. We talked about our race plans, mine was to aim for a 5:00-5:10 pace for the first 30-35km and then see what was left in the tank after that. My fuel plan was to take a gel every 20 minutes. The half hour before the race went by super fast and before we knew it we were lined up at the start line. We hugged and then the gun went off, and so did we.
I started out a little bit faster than my target pace, the first 2 km were 7-11 seconds too fast. I didn’t even feel like I was running very fast and was very determined not to fall below a 5:10 pace. This was no issue at all, and I kept making a conscious effort to make sure I was not going faster than a 5:00/km pace. I realized I had seen a 3:15 pacer, but not the 3:30 pacer, because I was ahead of them. I kept making sure my pace was okay and they caught me a few km in, previous to that I was in a pretty thin pack, but all of the sudden I was engulfed by this thick crowd of sweaty people. It was kind of gross to be running like that. It was congested and hot. The other thing was, they weren’t going at the 4:59 pace needed to achieve that 3:30, it was 4:45-4:50. It was too soon in the race to go faster than goal pace as far as I am concerned, so I let them go, but kept them in sight.
I finished the first 10km in 49:22, a bit faster than a 5:00 minute pace. Everything was good and easy and I was enjoying myself and in disbelief that I was actually running a marathon. The km’s continued to tick by and before I knew it I was passing the 10 mile/16km point where a coworker was going to meet me for a few km. It was fun to have someone to talk to for a few km and I definitely appreciated it! What seemed like all of the sudden, it was already the halfway marker and my time was 1:44: 38. Closer to my goal pace, so that was good. I wasn’t really concerned about the distance remaining or really anything at all. All I had to do was keep running, stick to the pace, and take a gel every 20 minutes. I think taking all those gels actually made the time go by faster, because I had something to do every 20 minutes. If the water station coincided with my gel time I took it with water, if not I took the gel on its own and the water when it was available. I used a mix of Endurance Tap and Guu Gels. They worked great. I definitely recommend stepping up your gel game and seeing how your performance is impacted.
Shortly after the half-way point, I began seeing the elites after completing the turn-around. I always get excited to see how fast and smooth these runners are. Also, I knew I would get to see some people I knew shortly. I always get very excited and cheer for people I know when I see them, and yesterday was no exception. I cheered for the fellow racers I knew and loved every second of it. We all had an amazing day out there and I am so impressed by how we did.
I kept on feeling fluid and pretty at ease sailing through the 30km mark at 2:29:45, right on track with my target pace. Now, 30km is the longest I ever went on a long run, so I knew I could do that, but it was the last 12km that were the question mark. When you have already run 30 km, it doesn’t seem like 12km is very far to go… From 32-35km my pace dropped a bit and my quads just started to feel very tired. Those rolling hills had taken their toll. I managed to hit my pace again for the 36th km, but it fell again from 37-39km. I knew I was tired, and I was okay with it, there was never a question of whether I would be able to finish the race, just a question of how long it would take. I absolutely did not want t0 go over 3:40-3:45, and I knew I would still be able to do that or better with the strong beginning I had.
There were a lot of people walking and that was hard to see, I had no intention of walking though and just focused on continuing to run even though my pace had dropped. I hit my pace again for the 40th km, and it dropped again for the 41st km. This last part of the route is where I had done 2 training runs leading up to this race, I know it well and I knew it would be over soon. I knew it was almost over, but the reality of soon having completed a marathon was not clicking. I mustered up a 5:02 pace for that last km. Crossed the finish line and have never felt such pain in my legs and feet. There were team-mates cheering, my boyfriend and my coach, it was so amazing to have all that support.
After chatting with my coach, I headed through to the food tent, denied the cheese strings I was offered and grabbed my bag. Walking around the downtown area was no easy task and it took 5x longer than normal for me to get anywhere. Food was the last thing on my mind and all I wanted was water and a bath, so that is what I did. It took about 3 hrs before I was ready to eat and then I was starving. I chose the Guild for my treat meal and had the best soft pretzel I have ever had, along with a Persephone Dry Irish Stout and a burger as well as lots of water. I got full easily and didn’t have much desire to eat again for the rest of the day. After the Guild, I met up with a bunch of runners from Vancouver and EVRC to share race stories, over well earned beers. It was great to hear about everyone’s experiences, especially because the majority of us were very happy with the outcome. I finished my day watching the tale end of the Jays game and fell asleep before 10pm.
Overall, I am very happy with my first attempt at the marathon distance. I did finish within my target. However, I also know that I can do much better than this next time and that means a BQ. The cutoff time for my age is 3:35, so I need a few minutes faster than that to make sure I get in. I am looking at the Eugene marathon in May as my next race. I have heard it is fast and flat, plus it finishes on Hayward Field. Sounds pretty great to me!