This past Sunday I participated in the Edmonton Marathon. I had signed up for this event in hopes to qualify for Boston, as I failed to in June at Calgary. I felt better trained and prepared; my head was in the game. And the weather, other than the mugginess, was perfect-it did not feel like an August day! Starting race temps were around 50 F, and only got up to just above 60 F. However, this story did not have the exact fairy-tale ending I was hoping for….
Here’s the story.
My husband and I headed up to Edmonton Saturday morning. We had stayed in Red Deer the night before so this drive was relatively short, compared to the 5.5 hour straight drive from Edmonton back home to Lethbridge would be come Sunday. After checking in to our hotel (Coast Plaza Edmonton) we walked the ½ mile to the Shaw Conference Center where packet pick up was. This was a new location this year, and the facility was very nice. I don’t know if it was crowded the first day of pickup, but by Saturday at 2:00 pm the place was dead. Not tons to look at either. I picked up my race bib, got my shirt, and back to the hotel to get things settled.
I made a plan with my husband of spots for him to try to be at during the race. I focused a lot on the second half of the course, as that would be when I would really need the help. I had pasta for dinner, laid out my clothes and food items for the morning and went to bed around 9:00 (didn’t fall asleep until 10:00).
We walked back to the Shaw Conference Center that morning, as the start and finish lines were located here. I felt mentally and physically set for the challenge ahead. After kissing my husband, and my dog Snoopy, good-bye I filed in to the starting corral near the 3:30 pacer. I knew I had to start of strong and find my pace quickly, so when the race began, off I went. I got into a great groove and I was feeling positive about my pace. My first five miles clocked in at 7:41, 8:04, 7:52, 8:10, and 8:03. I was more than set!
I had seen my cousin Erin and her friend about mile 3, and that was a great boost of energy. I had been hoping to see my husband at mile 7 or 8, but he was nowhere to be found. After we did the turn-around, he still wasn’t there. I was still doing great at my pace, running miles 6-9 in 7:51, 7:55, 8:13, and 7:58, but I needed a familiar face. The course is indeed flat, but you are curving through some neighborhoods quite a bit, and the streets aren’t lined up with spectators. I started getting a leg cramp in my right leg (the leg that hasn’t been causing me issues!) and there was a pain in my IT band area. I tried to avoid thinking about it.
I finally made it on a busier street, heading back towards the downtown Edmonton core, when I spotted Dan, Snoopy and Erin. This was a huge boost that I needed at that point to bring me to the halfway! I was still on track, though the pain was still there. I told Dan I needed pretzels and more Nuun tablets the next time I saw him, and off I went. Miles 10-13 were 8:05, 8:07, 8:15, and 8:16. I was beginning to slip, but I was still on pace.
Miles 14-17 was when my mind started going. In my head, I wanted to keep going for that 8:00 minute mile pace. I was telling myself to go get it, but I started to waiver in my pace consistency. It was like what happened in Calgary at the start, but was happening now. Miles 14-17 were 8:00, 8:27, 8:25, and 8:10. I still was on pace to be under 3:35:00, but no longer under 3:30:00. I could do it, and I felt pretty proud of my mile 17 time, because that was the mental mile I needed to get past. The pretzels I had received from Dan during these miles helped, however, they couldn’t make me fly…
Mile 18-22 were a struggle, but it was at mile 21 that I just became unglued. I knew I wouldn’t quit, but I realized that as each mile passed, Boston was slowly slipping away. Miles 18-22 were ran in 8:31, 8:28, 8:21, 8:42, and 9:41. Those miles began after I saw Dan, Snoopy and Erin for the 3rd time, and as I ran by I yelled “I need you to run with me.” Neither of them had a chance to get out there and help me at that point, and I don’t think it would have done any good. I knew with how the route was, I would be looping back over to where they were stationed, so I hoped one would join me for the home stretch. Running through those neighborhood loops with my legs tightening up and being alone was extremely tough. When I made it back that way, I had about 4 miles left to run. I was hurting. Bad. Dan joined in with me as I was running, and he really thought I had a chance to still get Boston. If my legs weren’t in the pain they were in, I could have potentially made up time. But I was slowly coming to the realization that my body just wouldn’t let me do that.
Dan ran with me the rest of the race. In his blue jeans. And brown North Face canvas shoes. I use the term ‘run’ loosely because we had to walk at points, I had to stop at points, and I gimped at points. He kept telling me I couldn’t quit—I wasn’t going to quit. I was going to finish. As I realized Boston was gone, I did also come to the realization I could still get a personal best. It would be close, but I could.
I managed to get my last mile back under 10 minutes, which helped me get in to the finish at 3:44:59, beating my previous best by 1 minute and 23 seconds. Those final four miles were run in 10:50, 10:21, 11:30 and 9:50. I never full out lost it with tears that day, but as I came in to the finish my eyes swelled. I was thinking about my training, about this race, about how much my legs hurt, about how close my time had been to the correct pace, about the last 2 years of running, about my dad…There was so much going through my head. Sure, I didn’t make the time I had come out to get, but I had calmly talked to Dan as we jogged the last 4 miles that I would be OK with it. I think he was actually surprised how calm I was, how I wasn’t throwing a fit. Four years ago, when I was still all out of sorts about personal losses in my life, I would have lost it. But I am in a better place now.
This wasn’t a true failure or defeat, though. I did not ‘lose.’ Hell-I got a personal best! I’ll take that any day of the week! As for Boston-Boston will always be there; I have the rest of my life to qualify for it. I will qualify for Boston and run in Boston someday. I will, I can promise you that. It just didn’t work out in the cards this weekend that I would be running in 2015.
The full marathon is a different type of beast, and it’s very hard to tame. They have a mind of their own. I can barely move today, and my body feels like it is just shut down. I want to curl up in fetal and sleep for 24 hours. I am going to continue with my half marathons, 10 km races, Spartan Races, and other distances I can find. Maybe I’ll do another full marathon in the near future, but it won’t be for a Boston attempt at this time. There would have to be a special reason for me to sign up to do the 26.2 miles again anytime soon. I will keep searching out new races in the area to support and try, and also keep heading back to my old favorites. I am also hoping to get more people into the act of running, because it is something EVERYONE can do. I love coaching cross country, I love getting kids excited about long-distance running, and I love getting friends and family members involved who maybe otherwise wouldn’t have. Running makes me happy, even when I am in as much pain as I am after doing 26.2 miles. The pain I feel in my body is worth it, because if I didn’t keep running, I would be in more pain than this.