Marathon Race Report

Like most races – I didn’t get what I expected. I’d expected to start and finish with my brother Frank, and to finish in three hours and thirty minutes (or less). What I got instead was the race that was waiting, and it was good and hard, in differing measure.

Frank had tweaked his Achilles a few weeks before – and so he’d spent the last few training weeks with massage, the elliptical trainer, and stretching. That meant when race day dawned crisp and clear –we felt pretty good!

Puja and Frank and I walked from the hotel to BC place, where we checked our gear, had one last hit of water, said hello to the owner of the restaurant where we’d had dinner the night before (she was running her first marathon!) and headed out to the start.

The start was slow – lots of people, and lots of turns. But the sun was out, the runners and crowd were cheerful, and best of all – Frank and I both felt good. We spent the next hour checking out the road near False Creek, catching up about work and friends and family, and being pretty happy that all was going well.

Near mile 8, though, just before we were due to see Puja for the first time – Frank got a warning twinge. And the weather turned a tad, too – not a lot – but the sun peeked behind the clouds. We kept moving, though, I spotted Puja (a bottle of “go-juice” for me and a camera for picture taking) and I gave her a quick update as we headed towards Stanley Park.

There was music along the way (rock, dance, accordion, folk, marching band) and that helped keep us cheerful as we also tried to moderate a tender Achilles. Our pace was pretty good still –but some of the early warnings were starting to come true – so as we headed to mile 12 (just before Stanley Park) where we’d see Puja again –we tried to be careful on the hills.

Puja had more pictures to take and more go juice for me, and we headed into the Park. It was cooler there, and I realized that my tank top and gloves weren’t keeping me very warm in the shade! And Frank’s Achilles didn’t like the park either – but it was odd – we’d have a mile or two that felt pretty good, and then there would be the twinge. Hard to know that a small injury could upset all of our good plans!

The park was beautiful, though – even the spots where last years’ storm had done so much damage. We hit mile 13 and knew that our hopes for a 3.30 marathon were just that – hopes – but even so – we still felt pretty good about finishing together, which was our goal. Between 13 and 16, though – what with the rolling terrain and the accumulated miles – Frank’s ache took a turn for the worse. We talked about walking to the finish together – but you know. We didn’t train to walk a marathon, we trained to run one. And we weren’t getting our day – but Frank made a hard decision and figured that stopping early would get us to the next marathon finish that much sooner.

We knew that we’d see Puja at 17, so Frank handed me his watch (I was running without one) and I kept going. What an odd feeling to have run 17 miles together (and we’ve run a lot more than 17 miles together!) and to know that we wouldn’t get that finish. I spotted Puja, grabbed a bottle of go-juice, told her to keep an eye out for Frank, and I headed out for those last 9 miles.

It was odd – I’d been running with Frank for more than 2 hours and now I was off on my own – and because I was headed over the bridge to Kitsilano – I also knew that I wouldn’t see Puja again until the finish.

The first mile was a bit of a blur – I’d picked up the pace because I was a little upset – so when I saw that first mile pace I thought “uh-oh – too fast”. But I felt good – and there is a lesson here. I’ve always tried to run the last part of the race faster than the first – but had always cut that margin pretty close. Now though – even though that last mile had been pretty fast – I felt like I COULD run hard the next 8 miles! I’ll have to figure that into my next race plans!

I must have looked funny – I was charging hard, carrying a water bottle, just when others were starting to slow. After the bridge I had a gentle downhill, then some turns (and a small headwind) but I was holding that speedier pace. I knew I had to go back over the bridge, so I slowed a bit – I didn’t want to run out of gas at mile 25!

Some runners talk about a high – but I don’t generally feel like that – it’s more like disappearing – and that’s what happened from 19 – 25. I just went away and ran. I was aware of what was going on, mind you – but mostly I was running hard enough that nothing mattered besides the rhythm of my feet and my breathing and looking at my watch at each mile.

24 was the hill, though – up and over the Burrard St. Bridge, and I was definitely not disappeared when that happened! By then, I’d been running at a top effort for 7 miles or so, and I was tiring and the hill, while not really steep – was long. Fortunately, the organizers had printed first names on our race tags – and between the friendly people of Vancouver and all of my friends and family – I was able to pay less attention to the hill and the hurt of getting over it, and more to how lucky I felt to have such support!

I crested the bridge, headed down to Pacific, spotted the 1 mile to go sign (and my hotel, and thought “I could be home now) and picked up the pace – I could hear the finish from almost a mile away. I’ve never finished a race feeling so strong, and it was great. I was tired, I’d strung together a hard effort, I was sad that my brother wasn’t on the pavement with me –and – that’s sort of how it goes. What you expect and what you get can be different – and it’s up to you to put those pieces together.

So – thanks for the company and the support – great to have your help and comfort for another race!

-Patrick

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