A Marathoner

So last I wrote I had decided to try my hand at running a marathon. I expected it to be hard…really hard. I was pleasantly surprise that it wasn’t as hard as I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t easy, it just didn’t take the toll I was expecting. I also did not get the emotional rush I thought I would get.  Its funny really I found I was a little angry through much of the race. It was lack of moral support from spectators that I found as such a let down. Let me take you back…..

In the weeks leading up to my BIG RACE I found myself having difficulty getting out to train.  Where all good intentions lead not all will follow.  I fell ill with a bad cold which in usual form was in my lungs, then my shift work and kids schedule got in the way, and my drive to push through the adversity did not show up.  I chose to be complacent really. I thought ‘You know I got out there, I did a 30km run and it wasn’t so bad’… Generally speaking my Marathon training consisted of a weekly long run and not much else. I did get up to 36km before the race so I felt I could do it, in that I had some idea of what it would feel like at that high distance mark. My long runs varied with some feeling great then the next one horrible. My race day would be a matter of fate really.

On the advise of a friend I chose the Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon as my first. This course is known for being flat, downhill and fast. Its the top Boston Qualifier on Canadian Soil. Great just what I need to come in within my time goal of anything faster than 05:00:00. LOL pretty specific goal hey. Well I sure gave it a try with all of my lack of training.  The first few km’s were easy as they should be. In the first km I found my shoes were bothering be so I pulled to the side and retied them.  The weather was perfect for a November run, in fact it got quite warm. In my usual fashion, second guessed myself on what to wear the morning of. I went with my capri’s , my compression sleeves and a T shirt. I should have stuck to the plan of shorts and tank top with my compression sleeves and arms sleeves. But I didn’t overheat tooo much. After adjusting my shoes I found there didn’t seem to be a lot of footsteps behind me anymore. But I continued to pass some folks. By about the 4th KM mark I had to use the washroom, so I decided to stop and use the port-a-poty at the next water station to offer one, which was 6km. No problem I moved on but felt very alone. The course was nice it was a rolling country side, no spectators, no fellow runners at my pace. By the time I hit the downhill section I had passed a few more people, thinking I was somewhere in the middle of the pack as I tend to be.

Down the Red Hill Expressway I went…alone. I lost track of the KM’s as there were few markings in this section, and it seemed like forever since I had seen a water station. There was about 9km? of downhill. At maybe the 25th km my right quad started to cramp.  I stopped to stretch it out but found I could not lift my leg or my Hamstring would then cramp…great I have a lot more running to do and I could hardly move my leg. I chatted with a nice lady who helped to hold me up while I stretched then I carried on my way. Kms 30-36 mosly were a blur. I ran a few km with another lady who seemed very nice but I soon left her behind. (later she would pass me and we would continue this). I remember running along seeing other racers passing me going in the opposite direction. I saw the 4hour pace bunny and I thought ‘hey I am doing really well here, I wonder where the turn around is, I can’t be that far behind them…’ WRONG!! I was about 10km behind them for goodness sake.

At the 37km mark I was in a world of hurt. I could hardly lift my feet, my cramping quad had continued and now the other one was cramping too along with my calves. I had to use the washroom…again, I had to stop and stretch only this time for a little longer. I just took a deep breath, decided it is what it is, now just do a full leg stretch of both legs. I did what I needed and carried on despite my body telling me not to. By the time I reached the 39 or 40 km mark (I can’t remember now) I felt like I needed a pick me up. I take fuel on the course, but I needed something more. Luckily there was a station set up with these fruit gummies that I had seen at the expo. They were cut up so I took two or three pieces, chewed them up and BOOM there was the energy I needed. Suddenly I felt normal again, like I was only 20 km in instead of the 40 I was actually at. The stretching had helped the cramps as they seemed to be gone. I felt good but still disappointed. Many runners were walking past as they were all done and leaving. Many citizens were enjoying the section of the park but were not there to cheer on runners. In fact there were little to no spectators along the way which was sooo disheartening.

As I approached the end shoot there were a few spectators cheering me on letting me know it was just around the bend. I entered the shoot and again all was silent. I had picked up my pace although could not sprint out the finish…what would be the point anyway. I felt like my form was good despite how I had felt just a short time ago.  The announcer called my name but it didn’t matter since no one was around. I crossed that finish line expecting to be emotional but really I was thankful it was over. I received my medal, and a warming jacket. There were a couple of volunteers with mylar blankets which I do like after such a distance, but I could not bend down to get one myself so I had to stand there and wait for them to get one for me. As I walked out to the food tent, I was disheartened to find no one around. There were no spectators lining the shoot, most of the food and volunteers gone, tents packed or packing up. A band was playing but no one was there listening. I thought really? I did not have a particularly slow race why is there no one around? I ate my soup and prepared my mind for the 3km walk back to the hotel, when the runner who I had played cat and mouse with offered me a ride. It was her first one too and we finished about the same time so she knew how I felt.

Once I was back in my room and starting my recovery I realized I was not as sore or as tired as I had been after my first half marathon just over a year and a half ago. Had I really come that far that I could run a marathon and feel normal, like just another long run? I realized that that question has two answers. The first one being yes  The second being I guess didn’t give all I had out there. I didn’t leave everything behind on the course like I have at the half marathons. Its funny that at 37km I felt I had given everything possible, but not in the end. My Marathon days are not over. I still want to see a sub 5hrs or better yet sub 4:45hrs.  Let see what May has to offer when I run the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’ s Marathon.

Time 05:15:01  Place: 730 out of 776 finishers

Some thoughts regarding Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon: This race is not a great one for a first time Marathoner. Its a fast race designed for experienced and or fast runners looking to BQ. The downhill section while can aid a fast time is hard on the body if you have not been training on very long downhill sections. If you like being cheered on, this is not the race for you. However that being said. The race was well organized, and being family run I found that the organizers were very friendly. The organizers were out there at the crack of dawn with the runners being shuttled from the finish area to the start area. They had even lost a family member just two days before the race.  I had a question which I emailed  via the race website, and received a response within a few hours. They organized a shuttle from the host hotel which was very helpful. Race location is easy to get to. The expo was small but well laid out. The Runners Den, being the ‘host’ store had a large selection of items with good sale prices. I am unable to comment on post race items, but did like that they served soup it was quite good.  Overall my experience was ok, but I do not expect to run this one again next year.


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