Tag Archives: marathon

A farewell to 42.2

Note: Before you read this post, I may have to call bulls**t on myself. I received two running books in the mail today after scheduling this post: “Relentless Forward Progress: a guide to running ultramarathons” and “Born to Run.” So I’ll see you on the trails this summer …

May 1, 2011: a perfect day for a marathon in Vancouver.

Weeks ago in the midst of training I sent my boyfriend Chris a message that said “No matter what happens on May 1, this will be my last marathon for a while.”

I did finish. That makes two finishes and one DNF. After last year’s DNF, I was relieved, happy and tearful Sunday when I crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 39 minutes and 27 seconds.

It was absolutely gorgeous weather. We had a clear view of the north shore mountains and it wasn’t too hot.

I started out with a 6:10 first kilometre but knew it was a little fast and tried to slow it down. The 4:30 pace bunnies caught up to me within 3 k. I fell into step with them. I met someone from New York City and someone from Utah. We chatted as we ran. For someone used to running with a group, it was nice. I felt strong, I felt good. I felt like my goal time of 4:30 was well within reach.

I was momentarily clock-blocked by a homeless guy crossing the street somewhere in the downtown east side. I was rounding a corner and he was blithely crossing the street as if nothing unusual was going on that day. I just laughed and carried on running.

I was grateful for my fuel belt in Stanley Park because they ran out of cups for the water stations. I just refilled my water bottle. The other people around me were gulping straight from the jugs, and picking up used cups. Tsk tsk race organizers! Stanley Park is often the place where something goes wonky during the race, because it’s so hard for the organizers to get in there and replenish supplies after the race has started.

Coming out of Stanley Park my pace was faltering a bit but I really wanted to stay with the 4:30 pace bunny. Just before the Burrard Street Bridge Chris was there with his camera, fresh water bottles, encouraging words and a kiss. But as I turned to resume running I couldn’t spot the pace bunny group. I never did catch up.

The bridge wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Or rather – it was harder than I imagined? I couldn’t keep up my pace over the long elevation gain. I put on my music, but by the time I crossed I knew I was going to have a hard time achieving 4:30.

At 30k (the point that marked my longest training run) the hurt set in. Unlike my first marathon, there was no stabbing pain of muscles seizing up – it was just fatigue. I could feel my SI joint, my quads and calf muscles tightening. I felt like I was trying to run on wooden legs.

I had hit The Wall.

I took my last gel and kept going. A lot of the time I was grunting with effort. My pace dropped to about 7 minutes/kilometre and it seemed there was nothing I could do to step it up. I knew I had to run over the bridge again, but I knew it wasn’t as steep as I had imagined, so I would be OK.

I concentrated on my form and kept pushing, trying not to stop and walk. I imagined my legs being pulled up at each step, and that propelled me up to the bridge, which is at the 39 k mark. On my way down, I knew I was so close, that the pain would be over soon, that I was about to finish another marathon.

I started to cry.

That last 3k seemed really long, but suddenly there was the finish line and I heard my name being called. I cried even harder and tried to raise my arms in victory for the finish line camera. Sobbing, I walked through a line of volunteers handing out finisher medals and spotted a little girl.

“Can I have my finisher’s medal?” I asked. I think she was a bit scared because I was crying, but she handed it to me.

“Thanks sweetie!” I said, smiling as I put it around my own neck.

Then I went to find Chris, who was carrying the flask of Irish whiskey. It was the best finish ever.

I’m serious about the no more marathons pledge. The training takes up so much of my time and pretty much kills my social life. Plus, it’s HARD to run 42.2 k at a time. As in – painful, gruelling, grinding. It’s a long, long way to run.

Half marathons, on the other hand, are perfect. It only takes me about 2 hours to run 21.1 k – a nice morning’s run, and just hard enough to accomplish. The training is fun and it doesn’t kill my social life (which does include non-runners!). I still get a medal when I finish.

Last Sunday’s Vancouver Marathon was a great race to end this leg of my marathon journey.

Photo by Christopher Mackay


Clockblocking: real runners don’t need an explanation

Just found this site: clockblocking.com. I hadn’t heard the term clock blocking before but as soon as I saw it I knew IMMEDIATELY what it meant. Let me explain via a story.

Last fall I was recovering from injury and entered my first race after regaining my running form: a popular local 8k. I had run the marathon at that same event the year before, so I had no idea the popularity of the 8k event. I was planning to run a conservative race and come in not much under 50 minutes. I just wanted to run healthy without any calf/IT-band/foot issues, so I’d know I was OK to start training again.

So – I seeded myself at what I thought was about 3/4 of the way back. Gun goes off – and we start running. Wow – these people are slow! I thought, but I tried to remain positive: at least they’re out here, giving it a good try, yada yada. I weaved in and out of a few strollers (GRRR! Please start at the back if you have a running stroller! I don’t care how fast you are) but was trying NOT to pass people because I wasn’t really out there to race, you know?

Until I met up with the walkers. You’re walking? Really? Four of you, all abreast hey? Chatting to each other. Uh huh. Then why were you not at the VERY BACK of the start line? Sheesh?!?!? There were a couple of patches of walkers to dodge in that first 2k.

I passed them but continued hold back my pace, trying just to be happy to be running again.

And there he was.

Another walker.

No — I mean an old guy with a WALKER. As in – a device that assists one in walking when one is in danger of falling over otherwise.


There were just no words. None at all, after that.

I did finish in 50 minutes and kept on training. I’m completely healthy and next week I’m at the start line of my third marathon. I’m pretty sure assisted walking devices won’t be the list of clock blocking that will happen. I’m pretty sure I will probably clock-block someone during the race too.

My apologies in advance.


How to enjoy a marathon

I haven’t blogged much about it, but I have been training for the past 4 months for my third marathon: May 1 in Vancouver.

My first marathon was a triumphant 4:42:24 finish. My second attempt ended at the 15k mark with an injury to one of my upper calf muscles.

I’ve been ambivalent about running this marathon. Training is hard, it takes over your life. I haven’t been out in the evening in weeks. My friends are starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Not only that, but I signed up to be a run leader for a spring marathon, not realizing my group would consist of exactly four people: me, two fellow run leaders, one of whom is not signed up for a race and who hasn’t completed a run more than 2 hours, another who injured her ankle hiking and had to drop out of marathon training, and our sole clinic participant who was in Hawaii for all of February and missed several crucial build-up runs.

But still, I slogged through my training, being sidelined by nagging injuries (that were caught early and treatable) only a couple of times. The whole time I’ve been plagued by doubt: do I really WANT to do this? Previously, the training was the most fun part of marathon training. Not so this time.

Of course, yes I do want to finish this marathon. I’ve worked so hard for this. I know the feeling of accomplishment after crossing that finish line and getting a medal is incomparable.

I think my problem is: I’m no longer a newbie. I know how hard it is. I’m under no illusions as to how much work it takes to cross the finish line after 42.2k. I’m under no illusions that race day might not be my day to have a good run. After last fall’s sudden, unexpected injury (it happened in the last week before the race) I know that any-freaking-thing can happen to derail my race plan.

I finished Saturday’s 3:30 run confident that I am ready to run Vancouver. Now taper starts. I’ve been doing everything I can to get into the right headspace to finish strong. I visualize the race each morning, including my triumphant finish. I listen to my marathon music mix, including Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset.” I imagine Chris (who’s flying in from New Brunswick the week before) waiting for me in the family area with his camera, a big hug and kiss to my sweaty, salty face.

I know that no matter what happens in the next 20 days, I will take whatever comes, knowing that life happens, the running gods sometimes have a sick sense of humour and I’ve done all I can to get me that medal.

If it’s true that the race is simply the victory lap after all the training, then I’m prepared to just enjoy the day.