After dropping M off at his aunt and uncle’s for a sleepover (thank you!) Colin and I went home with every intention of going to bed early after we packed up our race gear. Totally didn’t happen. There was always just one more thing to do: hunt and gather laundry for post-race, tie on chip timer, re-tie chip timer two or three more times to get it just right, add music to iPod/figure out playlist, etc… It must have been force of habit, along with having a kid-free house that kept us up until 11pm. So when the alarm went off at 4:30am the best we could do was roll ourselves out of bed and blearily get dressed and fed.
We met up with our carpool (the wonderful Herb, who drove us even though he was injured and no longer running, Allison and Laurie) at our local running store at 5:30am. It was about a 45 minute drive out to the race course and we had our fingers crossed that the rain shower we passed through would turn back to drizzle. We got a fairly close parking spot on the street and got our stuff together. We all look cheerful, but that was more race-day anticipation than anything… it was cold. As we were heading to the starting area we met up with James and his wife and commiserated about the weather – and, yes, James, I did say that my legs looked like plucked chickens (I had a severe case of goose-bumps)!
Once we were on the race site we decided that it would be best to check out the porta-potties. Thankfully there were lots, but, as is usually the case, the lines were ridiculous. They were set up in a triangle so all of the lines were getting crossed. We didn’t have to wait long, but there wasn’t much order.
Today was my first marathon clinic night. I was anxious, jittery, and basically felt like I was going to throw up. I showed up 15 minutes early just to make sure that I wasn’t the last one there. When I got there I got my name tag, sat down and waited. A few more people arrived up and then we started with the introductions.
I’m very thankful that I was one of the first ones to say hi. My goal – to finish The Marathon, time TBD – seemed a little sad after hearing everybody else. Now I know that I can’t compare myself to men and women that have run longer races. It’s just very hard to sit there and think you have an attainable goal when 4 out of 12 in the group have BQ’d.* It’s also hard to hear that some of them have run 10+ marathons. I can’t help but feeling extremely intimidated, even if the more experienced runners are the pace leaders and they are there to help the rest of us out. Now it’s not that I don’t think I can do it. I do. Everyone is really nice and I know that they’ll be supportive too. But really. How can I not feel a tiny bit discouraged if I’m one of the only ones running their first marathon? It seems pretty far away still. (And, Mum, even though I say this I won’t drop out…)
The good thing about the night though was that I’ve slotted myself in with a pace group. We did a 6.7km (4ish mile) steady run and I totally kept up – about 46min total. As long as everything goes well during training my goal at the moment is 4hr 15min. So I’m happy with how things went and am looking forward to doing my training runs. Everything starts off nice and slow for the first few weeks – but since I’m training for a 1/2 I kind of miss those runs – and then we get into uncharted (for me) territory. It’s not too long until I start long runs that are past the half marathon distance. I’m still a little out of my element right now, but after meeting everybody and going out tonight I’m a lot calmer and, dare I say, a little more enthusiastic.
*For those of you who aren’t up on the lingo (and I wasn’t a month ago) that means they have qualified for and have run or are preparing to run the Boston Marathon, the Holy Grail of Running. I’m just looking for a PR (personal record, also known as PB or personal best) which I will have even if I have to crawl across the finish line.
I have wanted to write about my “running journey” for a while, but since it seemed long and involved I hadn’t yet gotten around to it. It seems appropriate that I kept putting it off because when I finally sat down to write I discovered that I have been running for a whole year. It seems crazy that this time last year I was having pre-clinic jitters about even going out to run (which, to call it what it was, was more of a shuffle). So here is the real beginning of my journey to The Marathon…
I started running in May 2009. I had gotten to thinking around my birthday, in March, that I needed to do something for me. I’d had a brief encounter with running in my early twenties, but it didn’t stick. However, it was something that I had enjoyed; obviously enough to try again. The main reason for signing up for a learn-to-run clinic was to have some time away from M, who was 18 months old at that time. That and I was thinking ahead to my “I’m turning 30 midlife crisis” the next year and decided that I would work up to being able to run a marathon by the time I was that age.
When I signed up in March I was asked if I wanted to start that night, but I just couldn’t bring myself to commit since it had taken me so long to even voice the long term goal. I had a month and a half to stew over it and in May 2009 I started running. Well, walk/running – with the emphasis on walk. Looking back I remember feeling really self-conscious about it (and being there by myself too, introvert that I am). But everyone was there for the same reason. We worked our way up to 10 + 1s (run 10 min/walk 1 min) and at the end of the clinic we were prepared to run a 5km race. Instead of paying for an entry fee, I got ambitious and put the money toward a 10km clinic).
My next class started in September. I had anxiety at the start again, especially when I found out most of the class was coming up from the 5km clinic. I discovered very early on that I was slow compared to everyone else. Looking back on my training log there are a lot of clinic-night entries that say “at back of group”. I definitely went through a phase of feeling like I wasn’t good enough and doubting myself because I couldn’t keep up with the faster runners. Of course, I hadn’t quite gotten that it wasn’t a race with anyone but me. This class introduced me to steady runs and hill repeats – I’ll let you figure out which one I liked better. I never got much faster, but the class really helped me get my base up. At the end, my last long run was 16km. It took my 2 hours and 15 minutes which I was thrilled with then, but I’ve gotten so much better.
In keeping with my plan of eventually training for The Marathon I actually began my half marathon program 3 weeks before the 10km class was over. It was really nice to get away 2 nights a week for that time! As with the other classes I was a fairly entrenched “back-of-the-pack”-er. I had all of the same feelings as before and was actually pretty intimidated. A lot of the other people had run halfs or fulls before and I was a little lost. My first run was at tempo pace and even though my log says “felt really good” I know that I had no idea what I was doing. At that point all I understood was that tempo = go fast.
Everything was moving along well until a month in when I had to have my wisdom teeth extracted. I didn’t run for 2 weeks and that first run back really stunk. It was a 10km run that took me almost an hour and a half. My brain wasn’t getting that I had taken time off to recover – all I could concentrate on was that I was the last one back. It was incredibly demoralizing to find out that everyone else had gone home and just the store staff were there. Hindsight tells me that this made me stronger emotionally as a runner (perseverance, what doesn’t kill me…, etc), but that day was probably the worst one I’ve ever had running. After that, though, things started to get better. Quite a few of my entries say how proud I am of myself.
At Christmas I got my heart rate monitor – a perk of my staff discount was that I could get one that had all the bells and whistles that I wanted – and it changed my running. Before I was pretty much all over the place and it helped me get more consistent. I was introduced to more training techniques: hills (more repeats, so thanks Mum and Dad for babysitting), fartleks and a little speed work, which I gave up after one week so I wouldn’t hurt myself.
After floating around in the group and mainly running on my own I finally decided to see if I could keep pace with the 2:15 pace group 2 weeks before my race. Surprisingly I was able to do it. It was a big confidence booster and I really wish I had gotten up the guts to join them earlier. At the end of the clinic I ran my first race – The Historic Half Marathon in Langley, BC. It was a hilly course (my practice run notes call one hill “evil and long”), but I felt really well prepared. It was a warm February day and a great day for a run. I lost C right at the start (on purpose as he’s faster; Mr. 1:55:07) and I just ran for myself. I had my ups and downs, but never really felt like I was out of it – however, I never should have taken my last walk break… I almost didn’t start running again. I’m not sure where I found a burst of energy on the home stretch – most likely it had something to do with picking off a woman that was older than me who I’d been pacing for half the race – but I crossed the line in 2:16:58. Since I was aiming to complete, and I thought 2-1/2 hours would be nice if I tried really hard, getting a decent first PR was awesome.
I’m training on my own now for my second half marathon, but I know I’ve been blessed with good, supportive instructors. Big huge “Thank You”s to Diane, Jenn and Darren!
My next clinic starts 10 June and then I’m on the final road to my ultimate goal. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s not as difficult as I had expected. Thanks so much for your support – please keep sending kind words my way… I’m sure I’ll need them!