Review of my first marathon: Vancouver Marathon 2016
The time has finally come, I waited for this 4 months! 4 months I was suffering from all kind of injuries and enormous milage, just to run the last 42.2 km and prove to myself that I can.
Day Before the Race
But lets not jump there yet….The day before the race I have started anxiously preparing my gear. Camelback – check, IT band straps – check, nutrition gels – check …
In the end when I laid it all out on the floor it looked like this:
Gear is ready.. I should feel great…. But something is still bothering me..
The whole day before the marathon I was getting these “ghost pains” in different parts of my body.. What if it starts hurting like this right before the start of the race ? I didn’t want to be that dude that starts the race and then quits after 1-2 km. That was NOT AN OPTION!
After preparing my gear, I turned on a boring Netflix movie and tried to get some sleep. That night, before the marathon, was terrible. I had a constant feeling that I will be woken up very shortly and I would have to do something very tiring. This anticipation did not allow me to get a normal sleep, instead I was just waking up and waiting when I could start my run… At 5:20 a.m the alarm finally went off…
I ate my sandwich with peanut butter and jam, drank nutritional drink and started preparing for the race. Nervousness of unknown was prevailing…
At about 6:00 a.m I did 15 minute “running yoga” sequence to stretch my muscles. I do this sequence before every long run. It is hard to tell if it really helps, but one day when I didn’t do it, I got injured, so even if it was a coincidence, I don’t want to play these bets on the big day.
Yoga done, gear is ready, its time to get out!
When I have reached Queen Elizabeth Park (start line) it was already packed with people. I checked in my bag (stuff that I want to see on the finish line) and started waiting for the epic moment, that I dreamed about all 4 months.
The run has started. “Now count just goes down” – this thought immediately ran through my head.
First 9 km
First couple of kilometres for me are always deciding. Will my injuries show themselves telling me “No, you won’t run today”, or will I be able to just move forward without pain ? For 2 km I was running in a huge batch of people,I even could not call it a run, it was a walking pace, so everything felt well.
After 3 km crowd cleared out and I was able to start running at a normal pace. My strategy for this marathon was to start slowly and if I didn’t have any problems, keep increasing pace every 5km. What surprised me most, at first 2km, was silence. I didn’t hear anyone speaking, it felt very meditative. Every runner was focused on their performance and nobody wanted to ruin this special moment of “communal meditation”.
I kept on running forward and my injuries didn’t hurt. At about 5 km I started seeing people who were cheering, which was very nice! I was so grateful to these folks, who instead of sleeping in, or doing anything at all, came to support us. It felt very special!
The weather was sunny. It was expected to be 22C this day, so I knew I needed to be well hydrated and ready to run in the sun.
At 9 km we reached Camosun Hill. In our marathon clinic, we spent a lot of time talking about this part of the race, as it was considered one of the toughest. Advice that I heard from almost anyone was to keep it slow on the hill.
When we started running up the hill, I saw many people lost their energy and even switched to walking or stopped. This time it wasn’t me. I felt great! I ate my gel right before the hill, and slowly reached the peek. It was amazing to see that I have enough energy to climb this difficult part of the race and continue running with even better pace.
The next couple of kilometres was gentle downhill road which felt very pleasant. After the downhill there was a flat part of the course that goes to UBC.
It was Kilometre 15 and I still felt very strong. Many people were cheering and I was saying thank you to each one of them – it was amazing!
Bye Bye Hydration Pack
At 16 kilometre, suddenly, I felt huge amount of water leaking from my bag. Water was everywhere! I started to get wet very quickly.
This moment I realized that something went wrong with my hydration pack.
On my long runs, I have always taken my electrolyte backpack with me and it was a great source of fuel on the race. In this marathon my plan was to 90% of the time rely on my own electrolyte drink, so I can skip water stations and hydrate whenever I needed to. But this time it didn’t work out… Without hesitation I took off my back-pack and threw it on the side of the road. The plan did not work out, but it won’t stop me from finishing this race! I calmed down and continued running.
While running with Anna, I was occasionally sipping her electrolyte drink and everything seemed ok. Half point mark – still felt great and had lots of energy…
Give me that water!
We approached Point Grey road and I decided to speed up a bit leaving Anna behind. Only after 2-3 kilometres, when I took a gel out of my pocket and started eating it, I have realized that I don’t have any liquid, as a result sweet gel on the sunny day felt so awful that I wasn’t able to swallow it. For a second I felt miserable. Thoughts about getting dehydrated and cramping started flowing in my mind. I realized that these thoughts are not helpful and I stopped myself from thinking about it. Instead, I calmed down decided that I will eat a gel at every water station.
Thankfully, next water station was right around the corner. I took 2 cups of water – one for my gel, second for future use. Unfortunately, in this heat (it was around 22C) future came very soon, so in 2-3 minutes I was out of water again.
In a “no-time” I was approaching Burrard bridge – last uphill part of the course. I took a gel at the water station right before the bridge and decided not to walk on the bridge, but just keep running. The weather got really hot and some runners switched to a very slow walk.
While running over the bridge I have passed at least 20 people who were walking. This gave me boost of confidence, but on the other hand, faster pace took some of energy away, and I needed to replenish it with some water…
I have passed the bridge and continued running towards the beach. My legs were tired, but I was able to move forward. My mouth was getting dry, and I started sweating. For some reason I was picturing people in the desert, how they can walk days without a sip of water, and how essential water is for our life support.
After 400-500 meters I was able to spot the water station, so I have increased my pace and finally was able to take another sip. It felt incredible, as if a life came back to my body! This time, when I stopped at the station, I drank 2 full cups, ate my gel and took 1 cup with me. My pace improved and I felt very strong once again.
On the road to Stanley Park lots of people came to the street to cheer, their support was indescribable. In the moment when you feel tired it is very crucial to feel that what you are doing is actually important.
At 32 km I shot a video report on my phone stating that I am still running and still smiling:
When I reached Stanley Park most of the people either were running at a nice steady pace or switched to a slow walk.
I kept on running with a constant pace, stopping for a short walk only when I felt that my muscles were getting too stiff.
When I have approached km 37, It was probably the first time I felt significantly tired.
When I say significantly, I mean that I felt that I would want to switch to permanent walk.
In the middle of Stanley Park, there is a section where it is impossible to put a water station, so water stations were located pretty far from each other. I had an urge to eat a gel, but due to lack of liquid I was waiting for a nearest station that did not came for a while.
After about 10 minutes of being significantly tired, but continuing to run, I was able to spot a water station and it gave me energy to reach it. I was continuing my run, tired but strong!
Last 2 kilometres was gruelling hard, but I ran them almost without stopping. At the finish line huge crowd of people was cheering, which gave me an extra motivation to speed up to the finish line.
I have finished my marathon in 4:28 which I consider to be a big achievement. I am very happy with the whole journey! Next day my ankle was sore and it was hard to walk, but it was totally worth it!
There are many things I’ve learned from this experience, but the most important one was that with dedication everything is possible, even things that might seem impossible at first.
Before starting to train for the marathon I thought of running as a boring sport. After running couple hundreds of kilometers in preparation for this marathon, I understood that running allows you to spend time with yourself, to think about your life, to relax your mind. This helped me to understand myself better and figure out what’s really important in my life.
So it ended up not being boring at all!
This challenge is done, which means I am now in the magical 8% of people who live up to their New Year resolutions.
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