My Love Letter to New York

Dear New York,

I Love NYIt’s been over a month since we last saw each other and it still saddens me. I feel like I didn’t make the most of our time together. It’s like a reunion with your best friend, but there was something external that wasn’t allowing us to just be ourselves – like a cloud hanging over our heads the whole time. The elephant in the room.

I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way we had planned. I went with high hopes and no expectations, except to enjoy myself, and even with that, I wasn’t satisfied. Know that there’s a special place in my heart for you and that I think of you often. I won’t be back next year, but one day, I will. You can guarantee that.

linda.

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New York! I’m coming, if you’ll have me.

To be honest, I’ve been up and down for the last few days. My heart was not completely there. I know most people would say that I’m not respecting THE NEW YORK MARATHON but I do. I respect the distances of all the races I do. But I’ve run a lot this year and, frankly, I’m tired. I can admit it.

And then I was torn.

On one hand, I’ve been watching the news, the weather reports, the tweets, the facebook postings, and the list goes on and on and on. Hurricane Sandy. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and, damnit Sandy, what did New York do to you?

Then, on the other, with half a heart, I was preparing. I downloaded the Runner Handbook, studied the maps, did my last tempo run, did my intervals, creating my checklists, and mentally preparing myself for my 6th marathon.

And then today, it all melded together – reports from friends on cancelled and rescheduled flights, airports being closed, deferrals on race entries, cancellation of trips, short and ambiguous reports from the race organizers, a soft announcement by the Mayor that the race will go on. Amongst all this, I got trapped and, at one point – my low point – I considered a complete deferral. New York was making it so difficult to come and it shouldn’t be that difficult, should it? But it’s not her fault.

Tonight, I gained clarity. The race will probably go on. It has to. The city needs it. If not for morale, then for the economic impact that the City will need to aid disaster recovery.

If New York will have me, I’m coming.

I’m going to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience because no one will ever experience this year’s marathon ever again. The city will never look like this again. The people will never feel this way again. The marathon will never be this way again. I want to run this marathon and document every single piece of it in my head. And, my original plan for the rest of my trip of seeing certain sites and doing certain things has changed. I’m going to lend a hand where needed and document MY New York – through my eyes, through my ears, through my legs, and through my heart.

it all happened by chance

sometimes things happen in your life and it’s merely a case of “being at the right place, at the right time.” Eddy Nolan happened to me by chance.

It was a typical day, unlike any other day. I work, I check email, I go on Twitter, I go on Facebook, etc. I went into one of my groups on Facebook and saw this posting:

“Good Morning, I am currently looking for a Runner to represent B.C. with a Tribute Run to Honor Terry Fox on Apr.12/2012 by running a Marathon carrying Terry’s Flag in your own province. This is not a race ,nor is it a fundraiser, it is simply a Run to mark the 32 anniversary on that Special Day of Apr.12/1980. I had done this tribute run alone in 2010 with a good response. In 2011 I was diagnosed with stage 4 throat and neck Cancer. Now in 2012 I would like to repeat this run only I am trying to involve a runner from every province and territory in Canada to do this along with me. There is an article in Apr. Running Room Magazine abot my involvement with the Terry Fox Run which I have been running and raising funds for for the past 31 years. As of right now, We have 8 Provinces and 1 Territory committed with a runner or runners in each ready to carry Terry’s Flag to do this run.. We are basically trying to show all Canadians and all the Children out there a True Role Model and what a Canadian Hero is. I had a runner from B.C. who got injured on his job, so now I must replace him. I have been contacted by CTV in Montreal who are showing interest in what we are trying to accomplish. This will be a nice event to be a part of. If anyone is interested in being our Runner from B.C. can you please contact me ASAP or lead me to someone who might be interested. I feel this will be a National Story and a real HONOR to Terry.”

I emailed Eddy asking for more information. He said he had a potential runner but would know in the next day and would let me know. That was March 23rd.

March 24th, I’m in Oregon and the runner is not able to commit and it’s down to me. I ask to touch base via phone on Monday morning.

March 25th, I run the Gorge Waterfalls 50k – an extremely challenging run where I took a tumble very early on in the race but managed to cross the finish line.

March 26th, I can barely walk and I’m driving up to Penticton on the phone with Eddy Nolan. I’m committed.

To be honest, I don’t remember Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope when it started – I don’t remember much from 1980. I started running in 2001, without having done a lick of exercise, except for mandatory physical education classes in high school. I haven’t looked back. Running is my life and, of course, I am familiar with Terry Fox and his story. He is a true hero. He is an inspiration. I don’t remember him when he started but I know I will never forget him.

On April 12, 2012 at 9am, I will pay my tribute to this Canadian icon by running a marathon through the streets of Vancouver, starting and finishing at the Terry Fox statue in downtown Vancouver. I will be running on the same day as Eddy and runners from across the country (10 provinces and 1 territory), carrying the Terry Fox flag proudly.

Photo credit: Vancouver Sun

On this day, I will ask you only for one thing – remember. Remember Terry Fox. Remember what he did for you, for us, for Canada, for Cancer, for the human spirit.

If you would like to join me I will start my journey at 9am on April 12th at Beatty & Robson in front of the Terry Fox statues. There will be stops along the way to document this amazing day. I welcome all and any company – even if you want to pop in for a few kilometers or more.  You can find my route here: http://friendfit.com/route/81023

My stops along the way will include:

I will be snapping photos at each of these locations and sending them out via Twitter and Facebook so feel free to look me up, and follow my route around Vancouver.  Join the event I created on Facebook and run with me!

If you can’t join me but want to do something, you are welcome to donate online . My expectation is $0 because this day is really to just honour Terry Fox.

Please note that this is simply a tribute – it is not an organized event through the Terry Fox Foundation.  It started with a vision of one man in Quebec, who was inspired by Terry Fox.  Now, it’s a National movement to honour a Canadian hero and role model.

Year of the 50/50 .. and then some

I guess it’s about that time now .. time to declare my goals for 2012.  2011 left me a bit spent so I used the last two weeks to rejuvenate myself and not shudder at the sight of my running shoes – plus a week in Hawaii doesn’t hurt!

Actually, it will hurt but, rather, HURT.  My good friend, Hozumi Nakai, is undertaking his 3rd 100 mile ultramarathon at the HURT100 in Honolulu and a half dozen of us have tagged along to be his support crew and pace bunnies.  But, let me clarify – pace bunnies.  Hozumi can basically drop us all in a heartbeat, leaving us to eat his dust on all terrains and at all elevations.  Ultramarathons, however, only allow pacers, should the runner choose, to jump in about 60% of the way.  So, when we finally get called upon for our pacing duty, Hozumi will have already run about 60 miles .. that’s about 100kms, my friend.  I might have a chance.  *might*

So… this, of course, makes it quite obvious how I got into ultramarathons – or, at least exposed to them.  Many think that ultras are quite the feat, and they are, but it’s all relative to the company you keep.  Now you know why I make light of some of my accomplishments.  Let me give you an example.  Last year, I did my first ultramarathon – 50km in trails.  I was really proud of my accomplishment and I still am.  Then I went to crew and pace for Hozumi at his second 100 mile ultramarathon (he came in 7th, by the way).  Standing amongst those crazy, amazing folks that were about to embark on a journey that could take them from 15 hours to 36 hours is humbling.  It felt like going to a marathon and having only completed 1 5km race in your life.  It’s all relative.

2012 will be the year of the 50/50 for me.

What does that mean?  My goal for 2012 will be to complete a 50km ultramarathon by March 2012 as well as a 50mile ultramarathon by December 2012.  50/50.  At the same time, I will run the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May 2012 and the New York Marathon in November 2012.  That’s a lot of miles but when have I really shied away from running a lot?   It’s all relative, remember?

Dear Jon.. Running Your First Half Marathon ‘Above the Line’

Dear Jon,

A couple of days ago, you asked me for tips on how to reach your goal of running your first half marathon in August. I’ve thought about it a bit more and thought these tips might help you.

First and foremost, keep your goal ‘above the line’. I know you’re familiar with the phrases ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ but let’s elaborate for the outside world – at least, my interpretation of them.

In Goal Setting, we want to ensure that all of our goals are coming from a place that keeps you motivated, inspired, and ultimately excited. Setting goals from ‘below the line’ is, as you can guess, the opposite of this. It comes from a place that is filled with expectations and “should’s”.

It’s just hitting me that I have the perfect example of this.

  • My first marathon (read race report here) came from a place where I thought I should do it. Running a marathon was never on my life list but given the amount of running I was doing and had done, and from what others were telling me, it seemed like the right thing to do. Fast forward, I finished the marathon and I was near tears .. but sad tears.
  • My second marathon (read race report here) started off from a place where I thought I should do it, again. But as I progressed and learned more, I was excited. When I stepped over the finish line, I was again near tears .. but tears of joy.

First marathon = ‘below the line’. Second marathon = ‘above the line’.
First marathon = ‘should’. Second marathon = ‘will’.

So back to running YOUR first half marathon. I’ve narrowed it down to a few steps, because I am a HUGE believer of breaking things down into smaller steps to keep things manageable:

1.  Declare Your Goal! I know goals are structured in the “I will (blank) by (blank).” I’m asking you to take it one step further and describe it – give the why’s and how’s and read it back to yourself. Make sure it’s coming from a place that’s ‘above the line’ so it makes you happy and excited. Keep this with you all the time. If your goal isn’t going to make you happy, excited, inspired, and motivated, then what’s going to get you there?

2. Set Your Milestones!  These are benchmarks that lead you to your goal. These could be things like:

I will join a run group by [16 weeks before your goal race]. Your race is in August, so it would be “I will join a run group by April.”
I will run once a week in January.
I will run twice a week in February.
I will run three times a week in March.

3. Build Your Tasks!  For each milestone, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. For example:

Milestone: Join a Run Group by April
Tasks:

– Find the running stores close to work and home that offer clinics.
– Visit each of the running stores to find out which one suits you best.
– Ask your friends, family, or coworkers to join you.
– etc.

4. Tips! This isn’t necessarily a step but some tips to make sure you don’t stray from your goal.

– Share your goal, milestones, and tasks with a friend, spouse, or coworker (or all three!) and ask them to keep you accountable. Ask them to check in on you. Or join you.
– Schedule your workouts! Put them in your calendar and don’t “snooze” or “dismiss” them unless you’ve done them.
– Read your goal to yourself when you’re feeling unmotivated. You’re in the midst of Winter and it’s not the most inspiring time to get outside so read your goal to yourself and get jazzed up again! Do this often.
Bottom Line: Have Fun. If you’re not having fun, why bother? When you’re out on a run, try to be aware of your surroundings and how you’re feeling. At those moments when you are loving it, remember it. Are you listening to music? Are you in trails? Are you on the seawall? Once you know what those positive triggers are, use them. When you think running’s not fun, pull your positive triggers out and activate them!

I’m going to share a couple of fun facts:

Fun Fact #1 – Yesterday, during the photo shoot, we were asked to smile a bit while we were running. One person said that they don’t really smile when they run. But I do. And, coincidentally, the location where we were shooting is often the place where I AM smiling because it can sometimes take me by surprise how beautiful Vancouver is and how lucky I am. So I smile. Because it rocks.

Fun Fact #2 – I learned to enjoy my really long runs solo through my iPod. I used to never run with music but you can’t always convince your friends to run 3 hours with you in the rain at 3pm in the afternoon. So I used it as an opportunity to tour through Vancouver. To music. I called it my “soundtrack to the city”.

Fun Fact #3 – Those happy triggers that I talked about.. I’m not a great hill runner so when I’m getting back into training and am finding it difficult to walk out the door, I go to my default. I run the seawall. Both the Stanley Park and False Creek seawall. iPod set with fab tunes and hitting some of my favourite spots. Epic. And I fall in love with running all over again.

Ok, those are all my secrets – but not so secret.  Happy training and smile when you cross that finish line.

linda.

this runner and THAT marathon….

I’m sitting here on the bus ride to NYC watching the reflections in the window of buildings and cars pass by. In my mind, I’m thinking of what I’m going to do when I get home – Boston seems like a distant memory right now but as I adjust my seat, the tenderness of my legs brings it all back to the forefront of my mind. Wow, the Boston Marathon. I guess it is kind of a big deal. I know my finishing time doesn’t reflect a great marathon – my splits tell an even more trying tale. But it always is a tale, isn’t it? That’s what makes it a journey – good or bad, it’s a journey that stands out in your mind and etches itself in your memory bank so that you can reflect back on it one day and relive those moments. And smile. And wince. And maybe laugh a little or cry a little.

Setting out for the marathon, I was told a lot of things:

“Careful on the downhills – they’ll wreck your quads”
“Don’t expect a PB. Boston is a tough course.”
“Enjoy this one! Don’t do what you normally do and run with tunnel vision.”
“It’s Boston! It’s like nothing you’ve ever done before.”

Everything seemed to be going against me for this marathon. We took a red eye flight on Thursday night out of Seattle with a stopover in Dallas, having us arrive in Boston at 11:30am. High turbulence and a screaming toddler in the row behind me made for a challenging flight to Dallas, leaving me exhausted and irritable for the flight in to Boston. Fortunately, the second flight was fairly smooth – likely because of my comatose state going into it. 10:55am, we were in Boston. We hopped into a cab and darted off to our hotel to drop our bags and head to the expo. The weather didn’t seem too awful – windy & cold – but the worst was yet to come.

The expo was unlike anything I’d seen before – our senses were overloaded and 4 hours later, we stumbled out with arms full of bags of gear, samples, and pamphlets to add at least 40lbs to our already aching feet. 5:30pm, I finally had my first real meal since last night’s dinner.

The next couple of days were a blur as we explored parts of the city. Each day, we met up with more people in our group, including a fellow Lions Gater – Michael Campbell-Burns. And, by chance, I managed to bump into Bob Gardner and his daughter at a local sports store.

What was looming in the back of my mind was the worsening weather conditions and weather reports as each day passed. Another concern was the sore throat I had when I got off the plane, which turned into a sore throat + headache, then to a sore throat + headache + body aches + chills + fever. I was starting to get the flu.

Sunday before the marathon, I sent my group off to explore more of Boston as I caught up on some much needed rest. We watched with abated breath every update of the incoming storm, wondering how things were going to be for the marathon. The worst of the storm would hit Boston on Sunday evening and we would get the tail end of it on Monday. I went to bed on Sunday night hoping for the best – for the weather and for my health.

The blaring of the alarm at 4:45am marked the beginning of a very memorable day. I got out of bed and did a body check – no sore throat and no body aches! I remember Roger telling me before I ran Sacramento that if I felt sick the morning of the marathon, DO NOT RUN and I feared that I may have had to sit this one out – but I guess I was meant to run Boston. And thank goodness because what was I going to do with all the gear I bought?! 🙂

At 6am, our group piled on to the train to get to the bus loading area to take our trip to the start line in Hopkinton. It was raining, windy, but not too cold. We managed to get to the start about 8ish. The field where the Athletes Village was located was saturated from the previous days of rain, leaving very muddy and slippery conditions. We start to make our way to the tent and quickly got separated from the rest of our group. We went from 7 to 5 to 3. We gingerly walked into the tent and found no empty spaces to rest our feet before race start. We attempted to find some shelter as the rain sporadically came down on us and the high winds tossed us around. We temporarily found shelter in the back of a trailer truck but within 5 minutes, we were kicked out. We reassessed the situation and ended up parking ourselves UNDER a trailer truck. Even with the multiple layers, I found myself only getting colder, shivering from head to toe. They started to call for runners for the first wave to head to the start and we had to say goodbye to one of our three. Another 25 minutes go by and they start to call for runners for the second wave and Mike Campbell-Burns and I decide to make one last pit stop to the restrooms before we go to the start. The line-up was longer than anticipated and it became a mad scramble to strip down, toss our gear bags into the busses and run to our start corral. Mike forwent his corral and started with me. We hopped into the starting area and never stopped moving – our wave had already begun!

I was told to be careful of the first couple of miles because they were downhill so Mike and I ran together conservatively, crossing Mile 1 at 9:05. He saw the concerned look on my face but told me not to worry as we’d make it up later – we crossed Mile 2 at 8:29. That was better. By Mile 3, I had already lost Mike in the crowd. There were so many people running, shedding gear, running left, running right – I found myself getting fairly distracted. I tried to make sure I didn’t start too quick or get caught up in the crowd and I thought I was doing a fairly decent job, crossing the 5k marker at 26:36. At 10k, I was at 52:15. I heard Andy’s voice in my head to make sure I enjoyed the race so I hi-fived some kids left and right along the course. At about Mile 7, I had a sharp pain in my chest that took my breath away and I panicked. I relaxed my shoulders, gave them a quick roll, shook out my arms, and plodded on. I was starting to get tired and I had many more miles to go. I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way through! But I continued to plod along. What I didn’t expect about this course was that there were very little flat sections – you were either going up or coming down. And it was a harsh realization when my left IT band started to bother me at 9 miles – the same IT band that bothered me in Sacramento. Throughout the course, we were being hit with a headwind, the occasional rainfall, and, surprisingly, a few warmer pockets. The high winds from the storm had blown in some warm air from the South.

Mile 12 and the infamous Wellesley girls were up ahead. You could hear them from a mile away! Andy had asked me to hug one for him but there were too many people and I couldn’t make my way over .. sorry Andy! You’ll have to hug one yourself!

The half mark came and went and I was still on pace at 1:50:17. My IT band pain wasn’t letting up though and I found my mind weakening – wanting to stop, wanting to quit. At Mile 16-17ish, at the start of the first of the Newton Hills, I did the unthinkable – I stopped and walked. The pain was more than I could take at the time. It was so blinding that I couldn’t even smile back at the spectators and if I can’t smile, then I can’t enjoy myself! I heard Cory Cullen’s voice in my head – “if you need to stop and walk for 30s or a minute, it won’t make that much difference in the end.” I walked to the top of that hill and mustered up the energy to start again. It wasn’t pretty though .. half limping, half running. The pain radiating up and down my leg was excruciating, as I made my way down the hill.

I grabbed one of my Fuel Belt bottles for a drink and realized that I wouldn’t have enough to finish. The winds left me parched and I was drinking more than I expected. I spotted another water station and stopped again to fill up one of my water bottles.

I started up the next hill – the uphills weren’t as painful and I managed to gain a bit but the downhills proved to be more than challenging. I was trying to figure out the least painful way to run it.

Do I take shorter steps? Nope, that hurts.
What if I stride it out? Nope, that hurts too.

I tried to find my “pace” and somehow managed. And then there it was ahead of me – Heartbreak Hill. Head down, arms relaxed … and I plod along. But then I lost it. I couldn’t make it. I made it up the steepest portion but as it started to flatten out at the crest, I stopped and walked again. I took another drink and pulled myself together again. This isn’t how I’m going to finish – I gritted my teeth against the pain and made my way down the other side of Heartbreak Hill.

As we turn a bend and start the flat section to Boston, I look over at some spectators. They were holding a sign that said “Hi Fives for Free.” And that’s what it’s all about. I set my sights on them and took off in their direction. They see me coming and cheer excitedly, sticking their hands out. I couldn’t help but smile as I slapped each one of their hands.

I’m now on the last 5 flat miles into Boston and the temperature has dropped and the winds have kicked up a few notches.

I kept telling myself – it doesn’t hurt. You can run. Now let’s go!

Miraculously, I hurt less. Mind over matter – who would have thunk it?! But my mind was not all that clear. I’m going along at a steady pace and I cross the 35k marker. For some reason, I think that there’s only 5k more to go. Then I see the 22 mile marker after that and then wonder if the markers were off because 4 miles isn’t 5k?!! By the time I get to 23 miles, I’ve figured it out. They were right .. people who run marathons ARE crazy! 🙂

I see the CITGO sign in the distance and set my sights on it. There was some significance to it but at the time, it had escaped me. I just knew I had to get there. And I did and onwards I go – 1.2 miles to go. I pick up a bit of speed and think I am just flying as I pass people left and right. One last turn onto Boylston and the finish line is in sight. With one last push, I cross the finish line!

I stumbled a few steps, stopped my watch, and just stood there. My muscles were starting to tighten up and the pain was increasing exponentially but what was consuming my very being at that moment was the sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t a stellar performance. It wasn’t all that fast. But, despite the pain, the stopping, the walking, the weather conditions, the flu, I left it all out there on the course. And that moment was mine. A minute later, I stumble forward a few steps and find Mike waiting for me – a familiar face and a great friend.

Heartbreak Hill broke my heart but not my spirit. I’ll be back to conquer it once and for all.

My First Marathon – Race Report ……

I’m sitting here overwhelmed .. I returned to Vancouver tonight (home sweet home!) and my luggage is still on the floor unopened. I thought I would check my email before I unpacked and it’s been 3 hours and i’m still going through it all. my email inbox is flooded with congratulatory emails from everyone – my friends, my club members, everyone .. i’m so touched.

this moment is the best part of running that marathon.

some have been there every step of the way and some have received sporadic quips from me – sharing in my ups and downs and minor anxiety pangs and panic attacks … all being so patient with me, giving me advice, providing me with words of encouragment and support, sending good “vibes” over my way.

it’s been so wonderful – all of this has provided my “base” for this marathon. Of course, the physical training gave me the fitness i needed to complete the marathon but it was everyone’s support that got me through those last 6 miles. and boy, they were tough.

Friday, December 1st, a group of 12 drove to seattle and flew to Sacramento – 11 of which were going to run the California International Marathon, and of those 11, 2 were to experience their first marathon!

Truth be told, I was not excited about running the marathon – I just wanted to get it over with. Racing hasn’t made me nervous in a while but this one did and rightfully so but for those who know me well, I have very little patience for this sort of thing. =) Ten days before the marathon, at the height of my anxiety, I emailed my Lions Gate coach, pleading him to help me .. to give me direction. I doubted my ability .. I was lost. I didn’t know what to run or how to run it or what I was capable of. The response I received initially caused my heart to stop and sent my mind into shock .. but as soon as i caught my breath again, i let it slowly sink in. The time was far beyond any goal I had set in my mind but, after all, my coach knows me best .. he knows my fitness, he’s seen me at the track just about every week for the past 2 years .. i had faith in him so from there, i built my race plan. And from that point on, I was calm.

Fast forward to race morning .. we all got up insanely early to catch the bus to the start line, as the CIM is a point-to-point marathon. There was a medical situation on the bus while we were en route to the marathon and thankfully, the person was alright (but was still rushed to the hospital) and it didn’t seem to send any of us in a panic. We still had a bit of time before the start so we decided to stay warm in the bus. The morning was brisk .. about 0 degrees and it was still dark.

Before we know it, the time is nearing and we all head out to do our last “pit stop” before going to the start line.

Our group of 11 walked into the crowd of just under 3800 people, all on equal ground – each with different expectations, different goals .. but all to be marathoners. to pound through 26.2 miles, to battle the beast ..

3 – 2 – 1 and off we go. I try to stick around the pace bunnies in the time I had set out for myself. I took my coach’s prediction and gave myself a buffer of 10secs/mile on the slow end.

I stayed between two pace bunnies – little did I know that they were going to start off too quick! My first 5 miles, I was running a sub-8:00min/mile pace. When i looked at my watch, I knew I had started too fast and had expected the infamous “bonk” later in the race. So i brought the pace back a bit and would try to hold on for dear life. Hopefully, it would cause my “bonk” to happen later than sooner!

The course was a NET downhill course and they were right. The course was undulating and for every downhill portion, there was an uphill to match it. Surprisingly, I felt fairly strong for the first 15 miles or so – i tried to pick up on each uphill section, keeping in mind that i would recover on the subsequent down or flat section.

I ran into a few friends along the way – I’m thankful for that as it provided me with a pleasant distraction from the race. Colin passed me somewhere around 8 miles (my memory’s a bit fuzzy) and i kept him and Tavis in my line of sight. Shortly after the half mark, i was able to creep up to Colin and then we were running together. We had a quick chat and then we fell into our own pace again.

I had been feeling some discomfort in my left knee during this time but i continued on. Near 17-18 miles, I was starting to tire. My quads were hurting and my knee was starting to bother me more. At 18 miles, I saw Ron cheering me on and i was so relieved. I was definitely struggling but seeing him gave me that bit of energy to continue, regardless of the pain. I thought in my head that if i get to Mile 20, I could take a walk break .. a friend told me that if i needed to walk, a 30 second walk break won’t hurt anything so i set my sights out for mile 20. Then i saw the mile 19 marker and it seemed to be so far away and I doubted if i could make it to 20 but i had to. So i continued. Mile 20 came and went .. and I went through “The Wall” (the CIM built an inflatable wall at 20 miles that you get to run through). A volunteer called out shortly after mile 20 saying that the bridge we were about to cross to get into downtown Sacramento was the last hill .. thank goodness! I crossed the bridge and was on that final long strip .. I knew the finish line was just off of 8th Avenue. I looked up and saw 57th .. oh dear. ok, forget counting down the streets .. I’ll just concentrate on the mile markers. smaller numbers seemed to bring me more comfort at that point. Everything was hurting and i was on auto-pilot by then, just barely maintaining a 9:00min/mile. Funny the things that go through your head to keep you going .. things that people told me .. advice that i was given ..

“Whatever you do, DON’T stop!”
“Start, Finish, and Don’t suck!”
“Just visualize the pain at certain parts of the course so that you’re prepared for it .. ” but this was so much more pain than i had expected.

The one thing that really stuck in my head though was talking to an elite runner friend and he told me that the only advice he was going to give me was not going to be about pace. He said to focus on the fact that my 2 longest runs were during really hard weekends ..

weekends when i had raced and i followed them with 3 and 3.5 hour runs. I had the fitness to do it. I just needed the mental toughness to get through it. So that’s what I had repeated in my head ..

“I have the fitness to do it .. I just needed the mental toughness to do it.”

21 mile marker. 5 miles .. 8 more kms to go. I can do 8km. Just plod along. I wasn’t keeping track of my time but I thought that if I could stay around a 9:00min/mile pace, I would still be ok. Just count down the markers.

22 miles .. 4 miles .. 6.5km to go .. for the first time in this race, i checked my watch for total time. i do a quick calculation in my head and deduce that if i stay under a 10min/mile, i can get in under 3:40.

23 miles .. 3 miles .. 5km to go .. i check the total time again and again, if i stay under a 10min/mile pace, i can get in under 3:40.

but then i get a shooting pain. my knee. and I stumble a bit .. and continue. and then another shooting pain but this time, it’s at the back of my knee and shoots down into my calf. i drop my pace off a bit and continue, knowing that i was changing my gait to compensate for the pain. i can’t let it beat me. i’m close .. i’m TOO close.

“Whatever you do, DON’T STOP.” … “I have the fitness to do this .. i just need the mental toughness” …

24 miles .. 2 miles to go .. just over 3kms .. the pain is just excruciating. my quads were radiating pain and now i was of the verge of muscle spasms in my calves .. i try to stay on pace .. just keep plodding ..

25 miles .. 1 mile to go .. i’m just about there ..

and then the pain gets worse .. SO much worse .. the shooting pain from the back of my knee goes up into my hamstrings and i stagger again. i let out a cry of pain but grit my teeth and continue .. and manage to plod along again ..

26 miles .. i’m there .. i’m nearly there.

i’m 5 blocks away from the final turn to the finish chute and try to pick up the pace and am brought back to a horrific reality as the pain shoots up into my hamstrings again. i drop back a bit and continue. it’s so close. finally, i make that turn and pick up my pace .. praying that i don’t send my hamstrings into a full muscle spasm .. i head down the finish chute and cross the finish line. i stumble a bit and then manage to stabilize myself with my hands on my knees, wincing in pain. The pain was absolutely unbelievable. A volunteer offered to get me to a first aid tent but i declined and thought i would do better with a bit of a walk. little did i know that i could barely walk. Each step was more excruciating than the last. I was near tears …

I had been told that the feeling you get when you cross that finish line is better than anything else in the world. I didn’t get it. It didn’t come.

I proved to myself that I could do the time that I had set out but at that moment, I honestly hated the experience. I thought i had injured myself, I was in the most pain I had ever been in my life .. and I was alone. I stumbled and limped around and saw no one. No friends. And we forgot to pick a spot to meet up so I was alone.  A kind woman – just a spectator – saw that I was disoriented and struggling so she generously helped me to the Bag Check so I could get my clothes.  It was near 30 minutes before I finally found a familiar face.  Eventually, I was reunited with my friends and I was relieved but that “moment” still hadn’t come. I was still too upset about the pain and the possible injury. And the only feeling that stayed with me post-marathon was being alone.

For a while, and even up to the actual event, i questioned my reason for doing this marathon. My heart wasn’t in it .. I think I committed to it during a very vulnerable time, coming off an injury and feeling almost like a failure as I had lost so much of my fitness, or so it seemed. I wanted to use it to prove to myself that I had the ability to do it and use it to better my other race times.

Over the course of the next couple of days, the realization of my feat was becoming clear. I would have small moments of a sense of accomplishment.

In retrospect, it was an insane experience but I’m thankful for everything – for all the support, for my friends who were there to experience it with me, for my friends who weren’t there but were my support system.

The race course was beautiful – a lot of community support and spectators and it was a beautiful day. It was a perfect day. The marathon started at 7am and by about 8am, we had sun and it was sunny all day. Although it was a downhill course, it was not an easy course. I have many highlights in my mind that i won’t ever forget .. the voices in my head .. the words of encouragement .. the advice .. and somehow, i don’t know how, but somehow i managed to get through those last 6 miles .. the most painful 6 miles of my life.

I had a minor *moment* of elation driving home today .. just reflecting on the day .. and then it hit me again, harder, when i read all of my emails.

Tonight, Paul picked me up from the airport and he gave me a recap of the Lions Gate Christmas party. I’m still disappointed I wasn’t able to go but I was happy to hear it went well. And when I found out that Paul won the most improved male award, it just capped off my night. i’m so happy for him.

I know people think my accomplishment of qualifying for Boston is a fantastic feat, and I’m humbled by it but my accomplishment is no better than anyone else on that race course. It’s no better than anyone who’s entered a race and completed it, regardless of the final time. We work hard, we train, we set our goals, and hopefully we meet them. The process requires dedication and hard work .. we do it because we are runners. It’s inherent in our life. It’s who we are and it what’s we do.