Sometimes It Isn’t Pretty – My Toronto Goodlife Marathon
I realized a goal that I had for over 11 years last Sunday at the Goodlife Marathon. I managed a sub 3 hour marathon with 30 seconds to spare. (an eternity if you are falling off a cliff but a very short time if you are trying to come up with an excuse to tell a traffic cop!)
The Sub 3 was something that I didn’t know about before I became a marathoner – that I didn’t think about for my first 5 years of marathoning – that I fantasized about for the next 5 years – and thought ‘just maybe’ for the last year. Reaching my goal was made extra special by my Mom and Dad being there and seeing me race a marathon for the first time. Yvonne was there like she always is, the one person who can level me out when I go ‘off the rails.’ I always seem to do better when she is in the crowd.
Having now reached my goal, my feelings before, during and after the race; as with most things in life have been nothing resembling my fantasy. I think my race can summed up with something my Mom told my sister when asked what it was like to see me race a marathon. My mother’s response was ‘It wasn’t pretty.’
Leading up to the race I was strangely calm and confident. I never had this confidence before I joined the BRC. As I continue to run with the group and with the Lower East Siders I learn to run faster and train better. Stan taught me how to push my maximum without fear. We have so much knowledge and talent in our group!
Race morning (calm and confidence was out the window)
I caught a ride to the race with Patrick. My original plan was to drive to his house and leave the car. Literally 2 minutes before I had to leave I decided this was a bad plan, woke up my Dad, rushed him to the car, drove to roughly where Patrick lives, got lost, jumped out of the car and ran to find Patrick. Found him loading his van. (I found out later that my Dad circled back and saw I was ok – Dad’s are the best!)
Calmed down in Patrick’s car, chatted with him and his charming family, and got to the start line in plenty of time.
Found a nice warm place to spread out and relax. Ran into the Adaptive crew. Stan takes one look at me, says in a deadpan way ‘You won’t break 3 in that t-shirt’ and walked away. I promptly changed into my singlet and went outside to warm up.
Outside things started to become real. I ran into a couple of old racing friends and at the start line had a few encouraging words with Dave, Geoff and Stan then off we ran.
The first half of the race was uneventful as they usually are. I ran with 2 other guys and we worked well together, taking turns with the pace and going single file into the wind. I had a shoelace come untied at 15.5k. (I need to start duct taping them like I used to)
I saw Nir and Sean on their bikes around this time which always gives a lift and at the top of Rosedale I heard ‘Hey, that was Larry!’ behind me then cheering. I found out later it was The Lower East Siders! They made me smile!
At the half way point I was 10 seconds ahead of goal time and more importantly my legs felt great! Those sim runs that Dave and Nir planned had me prepared and mentally confident!
Just after the half Stan caught up to me. He is usually far ahead at this point in the race but was having an off day. I was feeling bad for a struggling running mate but was also in awe that someone could be having an off day and still work hard and pretty much match my best day! Yet another learning experience – perseverance!
Stan and I ran through downtown and soon we were at Ontario Place. I saw my Dad but he wasn’t expecting me. I almost collapsed a lung shouting and trying to get his attention! I succeeded! Shortly after I saw my Mom and Yvonne, gave them kisses and was on my way. (Apparently my Mom cried but she won’t admit it!)
This next stretch went quick. I saw many BRCers cheering us on in the bad weather. When I saw Julie and Jane I knew I was around 29k regardless of what the mileage sign said and I felt great! I believe at this point is when I knew I had a chance to reach my goal.
Shortly after I saw Mark and his daughters. I rhetorically asked ‘Hey Mark, want to run for a bit?’ He dropped everything, left his family and took off beside me. He didn’t even have to catch up he took off so fast, and this is 3 weeks after he raced the Boston Marathon!!!
I asked Mark to run at a 4:13 pace and he nailed it. It’s such a relief to not have to think for a while. I just followed step and chatted for a while. He was great!
Eventually Mark had to stop, he had other runners to pace, and I continued on, much fresher than when I met him.
From this point on I ran alone. Got through Humber Park and the turnaround. If you have never ran this turnaround it’s like The Peanut Trail at Ashbridges Bay only supersized. I hate the Peanut! I hate it almost as much as Jane hates The Spit! But I got through it.
At the turn I had banked 2 minutes total and was on my way to a 2:58:00 with roughly 6k to go. I was very proud because this was exactly how I planned the race and I still felt great. Rarely do things work out as planned!
Coming back was a strong head wind most of the way. I slowed to a 4:30 pace (down from my 4:09 to 4:13 race pace before that point). I saw Nir and Sean again on the bridge and did a little dance for them. I passed about 6 or 7 people and was feeling strong but the wind was taking it’s toll at about the 38k mark. It was at 38k in Chicago that I ran into difficulty and I hoped this wouldn’t happen to me again.
I saw many friends running westbound to the turnaround and heard calls of encouragement. I tried to cheer back but it was getting harder to continue. Olivia said I gave her cut-eye but she acknowledged that I did wave! I think that she understood that I wasn’t a happy boy at that point!
41K came and the true test began. I developed a bad cramp in my left leg. It crumpled a little on a few strides and I wasn’t sure if it would fail me. I started to fear that I would end up one of those people that got to 42 and couldn’t finish! It was such an odd feeling because, except for the cramp, I felt good (for having run 41k!) I started planning how I would get up if I fell. We have all seen those clips on TV or seen them in races when a racer can’t continue. I started to wonder if this was what they felt like. If someone helped me would I be disqualified! Funny thoughts that we think! I decided to stop and walk three steps to try and loosen up. I walked 6 exaggerated steps and started running again at a straight-legged stride.
Yvonne was at the turn to the finish line. She couldn’t see me but she kept looking at the finish line clock. At 2:58:00 she hadn’t seen me yet and was in a state our loved ones know more than us racers. Then she saw me. Run! Run! She looks back at the clock, 2:59:10 he’s not going to make it!
Then I made it!
In my fantasy there was a massive crowd, my arms were extended in the sun, I cried a few tears of joy and I jogged through the finishing shoot. The reality was I was cold and I hurt! I looked for my family, found and hugged them, got a little misty repeated over and over ‘I Did It!’
But that’s what I do every race. When I repeated ‘I did it’ I think I meant ‘I finished’ just as much as I meant I got my goal. That’s what I say every time.
Then I felt great for my friends that had great races and felt bad for my friends that were disappointed even though we all ran awesome in tough weather.
I have a new goal. 2:54:59