When I woke up on Sunday, May 1, I knew my four months of marathon training was about to pay off as I put on my gear to run the 40th Annual BMO Vancouver Marathon.
It was a perfect morning. Clear, blue sunny skies, cooler air for the rain the day prior, and a body that was full of energy for the day’s events.
Every race event I’ve been to has been full of energy, but this one was different. Jay and I had a well thought-out plan for the entire morning, we knew our responsibilities and we were prepared.
Also bringing peace, calm and harmony to the early morning start was seeing so many of the familiar faces of the members from the Denman Running Room who I had spent so much time training with. I put all my trust into their program and I was anxious to feel the results.
Although I had trained for a 3h 30m finish time, I had to re-evaluate after being out of training for over four weeks due to multiple injuries. As a result, I lost out on valuable speed and endurance training. As I approached the start line I was prepared to run with the 3h 45m pace group.
I remember June James from the Running Room telling us you have to set three goal times:
- To complete the race
- The goal time you think you will run and be happy with (3:45)
- Whisper time – the time we secretly tell ourselves we want to achieve when we feel inside we are prepared for our best run day ever.
I had spend the days leading up to race day mentally preparing for “to complete the race”, but when I got up race morning and got to the start line for the 3:45 pace group, the energy felt wrong. Like I had the energy to do better. I shifted to the 3:40 pace group
When the shotgun when off to start the race I crossed the start matt with the 3:40 group. They were running 10 and 1’s; I had trained for 20 and 1’s. My training has taught me to start off slow and to trust the pace bunny’s speed. I did exactly that.
After the first 10km were over I felt like I had got into my rhythm and was ready to excel. From that point I was off on my own, managing the course on my own. I maintained my pace and moved to 20 and 1’s. I was paying attention to my hydration and nutrition levels and felt very confident.
I breezed through all the water and nutrition stations having learned in training that you should never rely on on-course supplies, especially because our bodies have been adapted to using specific products. Race day is not the day to try something new!
Along the route I had planned to see Jay and Ross, which they were anxiously awaiting me at every point and cheered me on. I also saw other friends along the route including Steve. When you see someone you know along the race route who is cheering you on, it gives a giant boost of energy and feeling of purpose, that you instantly forget your pain and continue on with renewed excitement.
During training I had only ran up to 32km. When I hit km 30, I could feel the pain in my legs. I popped an Advil and kept on running.
At km 32, I passed John, another member of my Running Room training group. He was already headed towards km 34.
At the top of the hill at km 33, the furthers point in the entire course from the finish line, my body was screaming for hydration. I stopped at the water station for water but was handed a sport drink. I could feel it instantly upset my stomach, which thankfully only lasted about half a km.
I felt in control the rest of the way through Kits. The crowds along the street helped keep me going.
I knew km 37 – 40 were going to be the toughest. It’s the point in the course with long, steep hills. I couldn’t maintain my 20 and 1 tempo and dropped back to 10 and 1’s. I could feel the lactic acid weighting down my legs and the gels in my stomach starting to sit heavy. By km 38 the 3:40 pace group had caught up.
As I approached the Burrard Bridge the 3:40 pace group over-took me. On the way up the bridge deck I could feel my heart sink as I saw the group get further and further ahead. By the time I had crested the bridge, the 3:40 pace group was easily two full city blocks ahead of me. It was at that point I had to make a decision – finish in advance of 3:40, go for complete.
I chose to go for it and by km 41 I had caught back up to the 3:40 pace group. With only 1.2 km left to go, I asked if there was going to be any more walk breaks and the pace bunny said no because there was only about six minutes left in the run.
Although I was extremely tired, my body was exhausted and my legs were in pain, I knew I had to push on. I mustered up what little energy was left in my body and continued to run ahead of pace towards the finish line.
So many times my body kept asking to take a walk break, but with the cheering from the people lining the streets and knowing I only had moments left before I would complete my first every marathon, I knew I could not stop.
I sprinted the last half kilometer to the finish line. I don’t remember hearing anything other than the beats of the music as my feet pounded forward. I knew there were friends waiting for me.
As I approached the finish line I remembered two key things:
- To take out my ear buds as I crossed the first matt in advance of the finish line so I could hear them call my name – to which I almost cried
- To listen to June’s advice to run across the finish line, ‘upright and smiling’, with my arms proudly above my head.
Once I crossed the finish line I wanted my medal so bad. I had worked so hard to wear the blue ribbon around my neck.
Making the moment even more exciting was to see Jeremy greeting me at the finish line. Jeremy was my 3:30 pace leader at the Running Room had he was instrumental in keeping me on track, motivated and focused during training.
Once I caught my breath I walked out of the finishers area and joined up with friends. Knowing there were people waiting to see me after my biggest athletic achievement made me feel so proud.
As accredited media for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, I also had the unique opportunity to be able to be on the finish line at the time Charlie Bewley crossed the finish line. Charlie is best known for playing the character, Demetri, in the Twilight movie series. It was exciting to hear first-hand Charlie’s first words and comments as he completed his ultra-marathon challenage (a 21.1km half marathon followed immediately by a 42.2km full-marathon).
I ended the morning event by rejoining my friends for a celebratory bottle of champagne and hugs.
This was by-far one of the most exciting running events I have ever attended and it was well-worth the four months of dedicated training.
My final stats:
- Place Overall: 568/3225
- Place in Sex: 470/1827
- Place in Division: 81/246
- Pace in Minutes/km: 5:13
- Finish Time: 3:39:53