I arrive at the Florence Filberg Centre just over half an hour before the start time. The room is buzzing with runners. I grab my bib, listen patiently to the instructions I am given about not folding it and ruining the chip, and attach it to my shirt. I begin looking for a place to leave my bag of clothes for after the race, people are putting theirs on chairs, reserving places for the awards. I find a spot in the corner, I am not expecting any awards today. I stow my gels away in pockets, and overhear a conversation about applying more vaseline before the race, old-school.
I head outside to do my warm-up, only 10 minutes today, lots of other runners are doing the same near the beginning of the course. The course is totally new to me, I have heard rumours of rolling hills, and downhill, but overall a “fast” course, great for Boston training. We line up and someone says, “5 minutes to the start”. I take a gel while we wait. There is no gun or horn, and after 5-minutes we here a quiet “GO!” I love the start of a race, everyone is excited, very high-energy and take off like it’s a 100-m event regardless of the actual distance.
I settle into my pace and observe who is around me, I can stay with them to keep me on pace and from going faster than I should. At the 2km marker a volunteer says, “great job, see you on the way back!” A guy turns to me and says, “that’s not very encouraging, when we’re just starting!” I say “she just means see you soon”. 21km is hardly daunting when your goal race is double the distance. Shortly thereafter, I notice a figure standing on the side in cycling gear, waving and cheering, a teammate who lives in the area. He congratulates everyone, snaps a few photos and hops back on his bike. I move in behind two girls in matching outfits, I-Pods strapped to their arms. This is 3km in and I feel like I’m walking, the pace is so comfortable. Every so often one will say to the other something like “we could be drinking wine right now” or “mimosas at brunch!” Unfortunately, our paces don’t match and I can’t hang out to hear the rest of this.
I begin to wonder where these rumoured hills are because, from what we’ve seen so far it’s pretty flat, making the finish the same. I am holding marathon pace easily and pleased with it. Then I notice the upcoming hills, nothing too steep, but enough to feel the lactic acid. I focus on effort each time rather than pace, knowing I will naturally increase speed on the downhill. This is around the point where I notice everyone I started with is gone, oh well, time to find a new group. This works for a while, but before long they are gone too, hills are hard. At the top of one of the hills, lays a pig and cow farm, the smell is so bad it makes my stomach turn. I can tell everyone around me agrees by their faces and sounds they make. I feel like speeding up just to get to fresh air faster.
Around km 8 I start to feel tired, which worries me. I have not been going faster than my pace, but suddenly feel tired. Some of my km show as being slower than I planned. It is hilly and also I notice my Garmin’s km are not matching the courses km. I try not to think about it and instead look ahead. Fortunately this doesn’t last long, and before I know it we are at the half-way turnaround point. As we turn around I begin to feel more energized, we are already half-way done! Since we just have to retrace our steps I know the course, and that the uphills are mostly over. I embrace the downhill and when I see 4:29, and 4:35 km’s flash across my screen, I know I have made up for those slower uphills. I focus in on 2 women in the distance and wonder if I’ll end up running with them. The downhill allows for this and I am excited when I catch up with them. However, once we get to the flat one of them falls behind. With 2-3 km to go, so does the other. I am feeling strong at this point. The finish is fast and flat and my final km is 4:29, sprint to the finish at a sub 4:00 pace. I’ve said it before, I can’t not sprint to the finish, it’s too much fun.
I finish in 1:41:44, right on track. I grab a cup of water, remove my bib and head back out on the course for my cool-down, 45 minutes easy. I see a woman I ran with at the beginning walking towards the finish, when suddenly, a friend runs up to her, puts her arm around her and helps her run to the finish. As I pass the 2km, a volunteer smiles at me, and says, “aren’t you already done!?”I respond with something like, “just a bit extra”, and carry on. Further down the road, another volunteer says, “you’re back!”, “round two”, I say. Around the 3km mark, I see the final runner and support cyclist, I am trying to encourage her, but somehow trip, maybe over a pylon. That feeling when you know you are going to fall, and hurt yourself flashes through my head and how awkward this would be in front of other people. Somehow, I stumble instead, double over, and recover without ever actually falling. This is still awkward, but far less so than actually falling to the ground. I give them a thumbs up and carry on.
After 4km out, it’s time to turn back. The course is being torn down, I get asked if I missed the race. Everyone is friendly and encouraging though. I finish up my cool-down for a total of 31.5 km for the day. I head inside to grab my stuff, and quickly check the results, realizing I have come in 3rd in my AG. That means I get a medal, not bad for a training run.