One week ago I ran my 15th marathon. Before I get into it, let me set the stage. If you know my story, you know that the marathon has been a journey for me. I ran my first 42.2K in 2008 at the Calgary Marathon and finished in 5:38. I didn’t think much of that time, other than I had *actually* finished. As someone who grew up dancing, I would never have pictured myself a marathoner. Over the years, my relationship has running has evolved. I have goals and big dreams and those are what fuel my fire. Along the way, I have chiselled nearly 2 hours off my marathon time and have set my sights on Boston. I’m close, but I do not, for one second, take for granted the hard work that goes into moving the yard stick from my previous PR of 3:44 (November 2016) to the sub -3:35 it will take to get me to Boston. My goal going into the Shamrock Marathon was to move the yard stick closer.
On the Friday of the race, my husband and I drove from Ottawa to Virginia Beach. We got to Virginia Beach around 8:00pm and dropped our stuff off at our AirBnB. We were tired but all was good. There were some rumblings that there was a storm that weekend, but mentally I would not entertain that. I couldn’t. I knew it would impact my mental game that I have worked so hard on.
On Saturday we went to the expo and picked up my race kit. Fun! Everything was decked out in green and four leaf clovers. I bought some green 2xU calf socks and we left before lunch. My bib would be 350. I texted my Mom and she said “3+5+0=8. Eight is great.” It was. I got this. I had packed most of my food for Friday and Saturday, so my fueling plan was going well. With away races, I like to control as much as possible, as I know there will be lots of new elements that I will have to be flexible with. Oatmeal, white rice, water, nuun, repeat.
I had given some thought to my race plan, but wasn’t going to stress. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to pace the first half and then run like hell to hold onto my pace in the second half. Thankfully, with 14 marathons behind me, I have some knowledge of what this was going to feel like. I knew it was going to hurt. I knew it was going to be hard, but this is why I love the marathon. If it was easy, everyone would be doing them.
Race morning. 5:20 am. I wake up before my alarm. I hear rain outside, but don’t think about it. I focus on my coffee, sipping my water and eating pre-race Picky Bar. I have no problem with the washroom (tmi) and I’m feeing good. I get dressed and watch my pre-race youtube clips. I’m in the zone and grateful for a husband who gets that. I’m quiet, not talking much. Preparing for what’s about to go down. George drives me to about 300m from the start. It’s 3ºC out. Funny, it was 16ºC yesterday. It’s pouring rain. It will stop, it has to stop. I remember going to leave about 20 minutes before the start and George saying to me, “You sure you don’t want to wait longer? It’s pouring.” I responded, “I’m going to be running a marathon in this. I don’t see the sense in avoiding it now.” It was my attempt to subtly tell Mother Nature I did’t care about her today, this was my race. Out I go. I’m wearing a garbage bag, at least.
(0-10K) The race begins. I’m just behind the 3:35 pace bunny and I’m focused on not being swept away. I don’t think much at this point other than being cold. I am so cold. I will warm up I tell myself. I try not to think about my feet. I feel like my feet are in two blocks of ice. My legs are feeling nice and fresh though, so I don’t dwell. The rain is coming down and I’m regretting tossing that garbage bag. The race is fairly flat, at least. The course is bookended by two military bases. We head out to the first base where so many military members were out cheering. THANK YOU.
Around 8K I think of Steve. Some of you may have known him, but he was a fellow Run Ottawa member that passed away that week. He was in his 50s. Far too early. I first met Steve when we volunteered together in the Run Ottawa booth at Ottawa Marathon Race Weekend 2016. He told me all about his Running Room race clinics and I remember so many people coming up to him to say Hi. He clearly had made a positive impact on many. We exchanged funny race stories and he offered tips for the heat we would go on to experience in the Ottawa Marathon that weekend. While I only knew him briefly, he seemed like a great guy and a passionate runner. I think of him for a kilometre of two and know I will think of him again. For now, keep your head. We’re running a marathon today.
5:12, 5:01, 5:00, 5:06, 4:55, 5:02, 5:05, 5:12, 5:07, 5:18
(11-21.1K) The rain is still coming down hard. The route makes a couple of turns and all of a sudden I am running right along the ocean into the wind. Physically, I am doing ok, but this wind and rain is starting to get to me. I take a quick side glance at the waves and realize they are huge. I commit to not looking at them again for the rest of the race. They tick me off. We are practically running single file on side walk to stay far away from the break wall and the waves. I am soaking and cold. I was only at the half and the knew the second half would be marching directly into the wind. Buckle up.
5:00, 5:06, 5:11, 5:12, 5:14, 5:16, 5:21, 5:23, 5:26, 5:43, 5:23
(22-32K) I see George just after the half. I wish I could put on a happier face for him. I grab his gloves and carry on. It was around 22K that it hits me that there rain has turned to sleet. That’s why my face and legs sting. I’m annoyed. This is not where I had planned to be (mentally or physically) at the halfway mark. I know this is where the race begins and I’m struggling with the FACT that this is not the race I wanted. I know some races don’t go your way. I know there are many things beyond your control, but this realization cuts deep. I see many of the half marathoners are on their way back to the finish and I know that my race has only just begun.
I start to bargain hard with myself around 24K. Negotiating with yourself in a race is something to be expected. The doubt demons will ALWAYS come out to play. It’s just some days you are better at squashing those conversations than others; I firmly believe your ability to manage these conversations will determine your race outcome. I entertain a DNF for a few minutes and tell myself a hard NO. Shut that right down, girl. I battle between feeling weak and pathetic and telling myself WE ARE NOT QUITTING TODAY. After letting my race goals go, I told myself to JFR. No judgment here, Jayme. Just. Keep. Going.
With the added weight of the water, my shorts start to fall down. I need to get my gels out of the pocket, or I will be pulling these shorts up the rest of the way. At 30K I ask a female volunteer to help me. With a frozen face, I tell her my butt is showing. She says, “That’s ok. We all have butt cracks,” and kindly helps me get my gels out. We laugh. I think how awesome these volunteers are for standing out there in the rain. THANK YOU.
5:36, 5:39, 5:52, 5:57, 7:07 (stop @ aid station), 5:41, 5:44, 6:14, 5:40, 6:01
(33-41K) We reach the second base, a naval base. I know we will be turning around to head home to the finish soon. Thank goodness. Get me off this ride. I run up beside a gal who seems to be trucking along pretty well. We run for a bit. She must of heard me either sniffle or laugh (or cry?) to myself because she says, “I’ve done 10 marathons and this is by far the worst conditions I’ve ever seen.” We both say, “less than 8K (5miles) to go.” You got this.
With less than 8K to go, everything in me wants to quit. I have never felt this defeated. Or maybe I have and this is just my most recent encounter with the feeling. I think of my Mom saying EIGHT IS GREAT and tell myself repeatedly to keep going. The wind has blown sand in my mouth. Lovely. By the grace of God, I manage to keep moving. I was on the brink many times in these last few kilometres. That’s the thing about marathons, the 42.2K is an opportunity to show yourself what you’re made of. I was heartbroken. All I wanted to do was cry, but I knew couldn’t. I had to finish and knew that I would manage a sub-4 if I *just* kept moving. Easier said that done.
5:41 5:52 5:49 6:08 5:46 6:27 5:56 6:00 6:52 6:21
(42-42.2K) I feel everything all at once. I want to cry but at the same time I AM SO PROUD. I remind myself how long it took for me to achieve a sub-4 race, and here I was running in at 3:58 on a horrible day. I look for George and see him running along beside me. I love him so much. THANK YOU. I cross the finish and don’t have words for what happened out there. I am so happy I finished this marathon. A volunteer hands me my medal and my finisher hat. I will wear this hat for years.