front of the other. It is physical, social, emotional. And race day amplifies all of these at once.
I guess I start by saying that I knew it would take a whole lot to surpass the awesomeness that the first two years of the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) held for me. The 5K had been my first race ever in 2013 and my first half marathon had been at STWM in 2014. These two days had been incredibly memorable and rewarding. For 2015, I had decided to focus my efforts on my second half marathon with the hope of achieving a personal best finish time.
My winter training and spring races had left me with a few pesky aches and pains and I worried about ramping up my training. Therefore, in creating my summer schedule, I decided to change a few things up compared to last year. I really enjoyed the variety of this new plan. But, inevitably towards the end of the summer, I found myself worrying about the effectiveness of my training. The plan had felt fairly easy and enjoyable. Maybe I wasn't training hard enough? That said, on long runs--especially group runs with friends--I found myself taking walk breaks. Was I going to be able to keep up a pace fast enough for a personal best?
When fall arrived, so did the Oasis Zoo Run 5K. I pushed hard on a challenging course, finishing just shy of my personal best time which I knew was a difficult record for me to beat. The race gave me a boost of confidence and reminded me that I had to trust in my training. My Chicago friend Lisa had compared it to putting all the ingredients into a bowl when baking. So I continued with my recipe and kept adding ingredients over the next month as race day approached.
The long awaited race weekend finally arrived. On Thursday I happily accepted an invitation by Tribe Fitness to run with them in the STWM torch relay. I have to say it was a little different than last year when I was the 'new girl!'
Friday was the race expo. I was downtown for work so decided to go just after it opened--along with what seemed to be every other runner in the city! Thankfully I wasn't in a hurry so I enjoyed saying hi to a few friends including Michelle and Laura, buy a couple things, listen to Lanni Marchant's talk and pick up my kit. Just like last year, I found myself wishing I could go back on several occasions that day and the next when I saw the impromptu expo gatherings by friends on social media.
Saturday I got everything ready for race day. The forecast was calling for chilly temperatures and runners were stressing about what to wear. I decided to lean towards being cold at the start knowing I would likely warm up during the race. For the first time I also packed a change of clothes to check, as I planned on sticking around after the race and could not fathom being out in the cold in sweaty clothes.
I felt really good mentally and physically as I got ready that morning. My wonderful hubby dropped me off at Nathan Phillips Square where I bumped into Carmy. We checked our bags and headed over to the meeting spot on at University and Richmond that I'd prearranged for photos, hugs and chatter. Janice (who I finally got to meet in person!) was waiting for us. Within minutes friends started arriving left, right and center and the air was filled with excitement...and runfies! In previous races my iPhone battery typically died before the end of the day. This time I decided the few extra ounces of race weight were worth it and I brought along my little digital camera. After using my iPhone camera so frequently for photos the past couple years, it took me--and anyone I asked to take a photo--a few moments to remember how to use a real camera (no, that's not a touch screen and yes, you have to press a real button!) I was so glad I did bring it, as I was able to snap photos all day with no concern of burning through my battery (which died on it's own about an hour after the race anyway!)
Before I knew it we were at the start and running. I ran slightly back from Christa and Melly knowing that I needed to be cautious of going too fast. It was crowded, which helped keep my pace under control. My music was at a louder volume than usual, but I found myself energized from my race playlist so decided I would leave it. It was actually nice distraction to not hear the breathing or footfalls of those around me.
In the past I was very conscious of the people and pace of those around me, but as the race progressed I found myself in a zone. The phrase "run your own race," popped into my head and I found myself repeating it several times during the race. Why this phrase, I'm not sure, but as I ran it started to make sense. Instead of looking for where my friends were or trying to chase the pace bunny, I ran my own race. I tried hard not to waste any energy weaving around other runners, although anyone I found distracting in any way I moved away from. I ran my own race. As a part of this, I decided to walk through water stations taking the time to have an eLoad disk and a couple Honey Stingers with my water.
Before I knew it we were turning onto Bloor Street and then the sweet, gradual downhill of Bathurst. Remarkably the kilometers seemed to be passing quickly. I had been energized by my music on the first 7K while the next 5K along Lakeshore I found myself nicely distracted by watching the runners going the opposite direction, looking for familiar faces.
At 13K I remember thinking, I feel good. My pace was good. I smiled. I passed a photographer and smiled more. If I could keep this up, I knew that I would finish with a personal best. The question was if. I knew the slightly harder parts of the route were ahead, and I knew that I typically had a harder time maintaining my pace over 15K. I decided to walk part of the hill just before the CNE for fear of it triggering the downward energy trend. My stomach was was feeling a bit turned off the fuel, so I chewed another eLoad disk with water and skipped the Honey Stingers at the next water station.
Just as expected, I started to struggle more at around the 17K mark. For the next couple kilometers I walked for about 10 seconds at each kilometer marker, and thankfully my splits stayed within a good range. I knew the uphill trek of Bay Street was ahead and pain of the past two years on that stretch came back to haunt me. I passed the marathon split and thought, 'thank goodness I am not doing the marathon'--just like I had last year.
I turned onto Bay Street with it's multiple meter markers of agony. With about 400 meters to go, I totally started to struggle and slowed my step. A tall guy running next to me glanced back and with a big smile pointed to the finish. I nodded, smiled and picked up my pace. We ran side by side until 50 meters before the finish when he smiled again, waved and zoomed ahead, leaping up in the air repeatedly. Thank you random stranger, I thought laughing. I had no kick left to give but I smiled and trekked across the finish with pride. And a personal best of over 4 minutes!
I headed out to the Square hearing an announcer up on the stage "Lanni Marchant..." followed by cheers. I walked up to the stage barrier to watch the Canadian Championship awards ceremony. I snapped some more 'old school' photos, caught up with Laurie (who was volunteering due to a persistent injury) and chatted with Lanni Marchant to congratulate her on qualifying for the Olympics!
Soon after, there was chatter in the crowd that they were coming up Bay Street. Alan Brookes walked by and confirmed it. Everyone waited in anticipation, continually scanning Bay Street. At long last the group turned the corner to cheers, smiles and photos. Andrea and I ran to the finish chute just after they crossed. The crowd was speechless as JP received his three medals for running three marathons in a row that day--126.6 kilometers--all to raise awareness for childhood sexual abuse. We watched as he received hugs from his incredible wife Mary-Anne, Alan Brookes, his family and friends. Athena had run the full last marathon by his side. I gave her a huge hug and congratulated the incredible Justice League runners who had ended up running a large chunk of the race with JP as well. I don't think there was a dry eye in the crowd--yet at the same time, smiles were on everyone's faces. It was a moment no one at that finish line will ever forget. A running moment that topped off what was already an absolutely incredible day.
***This race was dedicated to my running friends who were unable to run due to injury.