Monday, May 27, 2013

My Marathon experience.

It has been a while since I posted last and this post will be a little different from the usual.  Today I would like to share my experience in running the Calgary Marathon on Sunday May 26, 2013.

I had registered for this years 49th annual race last October with full intention of training to have a good run.  I started well but over the next six months I had a number of different set backs that through the whole training regime off.  It was not until about 5 weeks ago that I was able to get back to a regular routine.  Now this might not seem like a lot of time to train for a race of 42.2 km's but in a way it did prepare me for my race day strategy.

Even leading up to race day I was not sure, but when I woke up early that Sunday morning and saw that the weather was going to be perfect that I made the decision to head down to Stampede park.  Now it had been four years (2009) since I last ran and completed the Calgary Marathon and my chip time was 6:00:56.  Knowing that with the way the training had gone I set what I felt was a realistic goal of just trying to better my previous result.

I arrived downtown on a brisk morning and joined the 11,000 other participants in the Marathon, half-marathon and 10 k run that would start at 7:00 am.  I walked around the grounds and stretched out being careful to conserve my energy.  I checked my jacket and sweat pants and moved to the back of the pack since I didn't want to interfere with any of the more serious runners. When the gun sounded we all surged forward and I snapped this one shot as I neared the start line.
 I wanted to keep a nice steady pace through the entire race but knew I had to have a good first 10 km when I still had my highest energy levels.  So with a combination of light running and fast walking I set a very good 7 min per km pace.  A number of the runners in the half-marathon commented on the fact that my walking pace was as quick as their running speed.  It was just before the 10 K mark that the half-marathoner's peeled of to follow their course and those of us doing the full headed of on our long trek.

This was when two things happened the first is that the pack thinned out considerably and now there were less of us on the trail.  At this point and for the next 20 km this was not a big problem as I still had other runners around me.  The second thing that happened is that I knew from my 5 weeks of training that I had to set a pace that was more of a brisk walk then a run thus slowing my pace down to about 8:30 minutes per km.  This I was able to keep up until the 30 k mark.

It was at this point I did slow down as the body aches started to become more intense and the pack really thinned out.  Now I found myself running down Memorial Drive, a normally busy roadway, all on my own with no one close by and only the people at the aid stations stationed 3 kms apart there to cheer and encourage me on.  This is when the mental fatigue really sets in, especially as we are running west and away from downtown.  All I could do at this point was focus on small victories and goals such as reaching the turn around point.  When I did the turn I felt a little boost as now we were heading back towards the Stampede grounds and the finish line.  At about the 35 km mark I passed a young man who was hobbling along as he tried to keep going (I do believe he finished as I saw a time in the final standing that would have been consistent with the pace he was at).  I felt for this guy as I had an injury the first time I attempted the Marathon in 2008 and was pulled by the medical staff at about this same distance.

At this point I was all alone and the km's seemed farther apart.  At any point I could have just given up and shut it down.  Yet this is when mental stamina takes over and one has to just keep pushing forward.  It is my feeling that those of us who complete a marathon in times higher then 4:30:00 hours actually have a greater accomplishment as they are the ones who have to fight a different mental challenge then other's.  When you are bringing up the rear and the encouragement is farther apart the will to go on is severely tested and it takes a lot of fortitude to reach the finish.

This struggle entailed until I hit the 39 km mark and soon found myself in the middle of the 5k and children's marathon which had started at 12:00.  Being around others again, even if they were going at a relaxing pace and enjoying the experience, gave me a burst of energy and I was able to bring my pace up to 8 min per km.  I also knew that at this pace I would be close to beating my personal best from 2009.  As I reached the final turn into the grandstand and the last couple of 100 meters I heard the announcer calling the name of a runner whom I had started to catch up on.  I also noticed that the time clock had reached 6:01:00 and knew that if I wanted to to have a new PB I would have to sprint.  To hear the announcer you would have thought I was trying to beat the guy in front of me, but I really just wanted to be across as soon as possible.  I did this as I knew that my chip time would be under 6 hours if I could just give that final burst.

Although it took a lot out of me I hit the finish in full stride and a gun time of 6:01:31 giving me the adjust chip time from when I crossed the start to when I finished at a nice 5:57:32.  This gave me a 3:24 faster time then in 2009 when I was 4 years younger.  Even though I was exhausted and sore I found that I was in better shape then in 2009 and had a quicker recovery.  I learned something from the first two races and also discovered that developing a race plan ahead has a lot of benefits. Below I am holding my finisher belt buckle medal.
Thank you for reading my insights.  Tomorrow I will start posting photo's once again and try and catch up with stories and images from the last five weeks.

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