Last Sunday, Oct 20th I raced the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I have been running competitively for over 15 years, but this was my very first marathon! Although I spent 3 months devoted to my training plan, and felt very prepared going into the marathon, I was scared!
The day before the race I was having lunch with a few of the other Elite athletes and they were all sharing their “marathon horror stories”. Collapsing, vomiting, pooping of the pants, cramping, fractures….while the stories were meant to be “funny”- I was terrified! I did not want any of that to happen to me! But, I had a good talk with my coach this week and he reassured me that if I followed his race plan- I would be just fine.
The race plan was to run MY race no matter what my competition was doing. I was not racing for a certain place- we wanted me to just have a positive experience for my first marathon. We knew my training had gone very well, and that I was ready/capable of running under 2:35.00. But Richard (my coach) wanted me to run conservative for the first half, to avoid “blowing up” in the last 10km. The main goal was to finish under 2:36, with 2:35 or under being icing on the cake. Rich told me that if I was able to take in all my bottles (water) and gels (every 5km), and run a “smart” first 30km, I would not fall apart in the last few kms and I would not have my own “horror” story. I trust in my coach very much, and was prepared to do exactly what he told me to do. After all he coaches Dylan Wykes, Canada’s fastest marathoner, so he must know what he’s talking about:)
I flew into Toronto on Thursday, 3 days before the race. This gave me lots of time to relax and prepare for the race. My roommate for the weekend was a good friend of mine, Lanni Marchant- who just happened to break the 28 year old Canadian record last Sunday! We have been racing each other for years, but are more friends than competitors. She is an amazing runner, and my inspiration! So since she had already run a few marathons, I was able to pick her brain for advice and tips. We created our “bottles” together, which required a lot of creativity. You want to make sure you spot your bottle on the elite table right away so you don’t have to waste time stopping or searching. So our bottles were very elaborate:) haha we had a great time decorating. Lanni also taught me how to “carbo load” for the marathon. I thought eating carbs for 2 days would be fun. Nope not so much. So much bread, potatoes, pasta- I was a bloated mess! But its very important so you are energized on race day. We kept each other calm the night before the race and just chilled in our room and watched a movie.
Race day!!! We were lucky with the weather- 7C and sunny! Light wind. I got in a good warm up and was feeling excited! I was lucky to have a pacer for my race, and also a friend from Vancouver that was running the same pace as me. Chris Napier is my physio here in Vancouver (Restore Physio) and we have also done some training together. He was originally wanting to run about 2:38 but after doing some harder sessions with him, I convinced him he was ready to run 2:35 and to run with me in Toronto! Our goal was to run the first half of the race in 1:18 or under. About 3:40-3:42 per KM. We went out in exactly 3:42, and got into a good pace right away. We hit a few 3:39s but nothing too fast. Rich told me it would feel ridiculously easy and that I would want to run a lot faster for the first 20km, but I needed to be PATIENT. And he was right- it felt very easy. I kept speeding up and Chris kept telling me to slow down! Lol- Thank god for him and keeping me on pace! He was a life saver. So we ended up gong through the half in 1:17.26. Pretty much right where we wanted to be. A little faster then 1:18, but it was a beautiful day out and we were rolling! I still felt great and was moving along nicely. I had no problems taking in my Gels or water. The next 10km we were still on pace, but I could feel things starting to fatigue- my lower back is always the first to go. It started to tighten up around 30km, but nothing too bad. Rich told me at 35km if I was feeling good, I could push harder. I hit 35km and pushed that last 7km as hard as I could. With 2km to go, I was exhausted- but nothing was really hurting too bad, so I finished hard and really went for it in the last 600m. I thought I was gonna break 2:35, but ended up running 2:35.11. Still a great time and I was super happy! I crossed the line and just started crying! So many emotions! Relief, happiness, pain! My parents were at the finish line and I was so thankful to have them there. Hugs all around. It was a great moment. I was so happy that the marathon went so well. And I am confident that I will be able to run my next one much faster. My lesson learned in this race was patience. I stayed patient and it payed off for me. So many people go out way too fast and pay dearly in the last 5km. Feeling good in the last part of the race and coming across the finish line with a smile on your face is what you want your marathon to be like. It should be a positive experience- maybe even fun? I very much enjoyed my race and can’t wait to run another one!