I will admit I was scared at first. My experience with marathons hasn't been the best. 10 years ago I ran a couple for fun at an easy pace and that was great. But my attempt at running at a competitive level in Chicago several years ago didn't go well. I got the flu right before the race and was unable to finish the race, despite having a fantastic marathon build up in training.
Also, I had to consider the impact of marathon training on my family. Lots more time in training and with recovery. The family was supportive and excited for me so that helped.
I set out training with the goal of enjoying the journey! Given my past with marathons I recognized that despite best laid plans, the marathon was a race where anything could happen. My training went really well. I only had one set back, a cold, which couldn't have come at a better time as it was my down week, so didn't impact training too much. I loved heading out on my long runs and long tempos. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a crew of amazing women who came out and supported me on my runs when they could, or constantly reminded me of how fast and fit I was getting. The training also made me tough. Long tempos in pouring rain and wind on hilly loops showed me I was ready for the race.
I arrived in Houston the Thursday before the race. The elite crew in Houston is unbelievable. They really want to ensure you as an athlete have a great race. Meals and snacks were provided and they were there for any questions you may have. They even provided me with bottles to fill for race day and decorating equipment so I could easily identify my bottle on course.
The weather for the race was optimal with temps between 10 and 15 degrees celcius. As elite runners we were required to be on a bus at 5am to head to the start line. Access to the start was only available by bus. This meant a 4:15am wake up to give time to get organized, eat and get to the bus. Houston is 2 hours ahead of Vancouver meaning my body felt like it was the middle of the night. I wasn't too worried about this as the adrenaline before the race usually means I am full of energy at the start. I did my usual pre race routine, although shortened due to the long race ahead and lined up at the start line.
The gun went off and I settled into a rhythm and remembered Patience, a word that had been told to me by just about every experienced marathoner I had talked to, and my coach before the race. The pace felt good but my stomach didn't. I won't get into details but I experienced stomach cramping and GI distress. Unfortunately this caused some unplanned stops along the way. This is where I had to dig deep. When you have to stop in a major race that you are aiming for a time goal in, you have to be flexible and change your goals as you go. As I watched time slip away I started to become disappointed and had thoughts of dropping out. I had to talk myself into continuing. That's when all those miles of training helped. I recognized that a DNF would feel so much worse than not achieving my time. I had not done all that work to not finish. I started just focusing on the moment I was in and putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile. The crowd support really helped and although I was not running as fast as I hoped, I was running.
When I crossed the finish line in 2:44:59 I was so proud that I had finished as it was probably the most uncomfortable run I had ever done. I was also so happy that Alan Brookes of the Canada Running Series, was there to meet me. Having a friendly face there to help me was so needed. I was really disappointed with my time but having finished lets me know that I am capable of so much more. I am already thinking about my next marathon and redemption!
When I decide on my next marathon, I will once again remember to enjoy the journey, hopefully the outcome will be much faster, but if it's not I will remember how much fun I had on the way:)