I love this race weekend for so many reasons: the expo is awesome, the course is fantastic, and the people are amazing! A couple of weeks ago I almost dropped to the 5k but decided to just stick with the half. I made it my goal to enjoy the race and just finish no matter what. I didn’t realize exactly how difficult that would be.
My friend, Trudy, flew in on Thursday night to run the Marathon so on Sunday morning we headed into the city together! I ate my overnight oats in the car with my coffee and finished my giant bottle of water.
We parked and headed to the finish so that we could run JP into the finish of his 5th marathon of the weekend (he is possibly insane!). I was relieved during that short run to see that my legs felt better than they had on Saturday during our little shakeout run. It was a tiny confidence boost that my legs would be okay!
After some pictures with friends and a lot of trips to the bathroom, I got into the corral with Kate and Trudy. I said goodbye to Trudy since I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her for even 10 seconds and Kate and I crossed the line together.
As we stood in the corral I remarked (probably a lot of times!) that I thought I needed to go to the bathroom. I was hoping that it was just my nerves but wasn’t sure!
Kate was too speedy so I told her to go ahead and that I would see her later sometime. I put my headphones in and turned my music up really loud. As I headed toward Queens Park I let my mind wander to the run with JP’s Team that I had done there. I took in the beautiful day and stuck to my 4 minute run/1 minute walk plan that had worked so well in Niagara Falls.
Before we even got to the 2km mark I looked up and saw Ben ahead cheering for the runners. I was stoked to see someone I knew so I ran over and gave him a giant hug. After a selfie, I headed off running a 5:17 pace which I had no business running. I always get a boost seeing someone I know and then think I’m destined to run super fast or something!
Not long after seeing Ben I saw the porta potties and knew that I needed to stop. I had to wait in line, but I was really glad I did because I definitely needed to go! I stopped and got some water from the aid station when I was finished with the bathroom and headed out running again.
I felt okay until we turned onto Bathurst when I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming “not good” feeling. I honestly am not sure how to describe how I felt other than I was feeling so hot. I was unsure whether I should stop and try to throw up or maybe use the bathroom again. As I passed the 3km mark and headed toward kilometre 4 my eyes started welling up with tears and I couldn’t seem to control them. I told myself to “suck it up!” but it didn’t seem to be working!
I walked through the next aid station and took both Gatorade and water and ate part of my second Xact nutrition bar. I was noticing my hands swelling and I wasn’t really sweating, so was hoping that maybe I just needed more fluids.
I stuck to my run/walk plan until just before the turnoff to Fort York. I walked across the bridge looking at the ground so no one else could see my tears. (As I think back, I am not even sure what I was crying about. I just felt so terrible and somehow that translated to tears!)
I ran again after my slow walk over the bridge and kept running onto Lakeshore. I tried to distract myself by watching the other runners coming back on the other side of the road and that helped for a bit. I sent texts to Anson and my sister telling them that I wanted to quit so badly. My sister told me to just walk and that there was no shame in that. Anson told me he was proud of me for just starting. (how did I get so lucky to have them both?!)
As I ran, walked and shuffled I kept my eyes peeled for the bathrooms along the way. I had convinced myself that if I could just throw up (which I literally never do!), I would feel magically better. Every bathroom had a giant line so I just kept moving.
I took multiple cups of Gatorade and water at the next aid station and drank more than I ever have during a race before. I finally got to the turn around on Lakeshore and knew that I would finish this race no matter what. I kept thinking of Chloe and how she didn’t feel good during the 15k, but she was just content to finish. I decided I would do the same.
Around 13k (I think), Jen and Rebecca appeared beside me and asked if I was okay. I’m not really sure what I replied, but I do know they said, “Just stay with us. We don’t have any time goals anyhow!”
For the rest of the race, they ran when I ran and walked when I walked. I drank two entire water bottles on Rebecca’s belt and listened to them tell me repeatedly that they didn’t care about the time. I was shaking and had goosebumps and my right calf was starting to cramp and seize up on me. I was told that I probably needed salt. I also learned that the race medics didn’t have any.
As we trucked along I met a woman named Kathy who stopped and asked if I was okay. She made me tell her everything I had eaten and had to drink during the race and then she literally forced me to eat a gel she had. I tried to refuse but she insisted and I’m glad she did. She offered to stay with me if Jen and Rebecca wanted to go ahead but they said they were good.
In my mind, I just wanted to run, but every time I tried it was like I couldn’t actually move. I remember seeing the Tribe Fitness cheer station and Mark made a sad face at me. I shrugged my shoulders and made one back. It makes me laugh now at the pitiful place I was at that moment!
As we finally headed up Bay I was determined to run the last bit. We got to 500 metres and I tried to run, but stopped. We walked to the 400 metres to go sign and Jen asked if I could do it. I said that I was going to no matter what.
As I ran those last 400 metres I saw friends cheering on the sidelines as if I had just ran a PB. That alone made the race worth every step.
I crossed the line biting my lip (as evidenced by every race photo).
Jen and Rebecca asked if I wanted to ask the medics for some salt and I remember replying something about wanting my medal first! I drank some Gatorade and we finally got out of the chute. As soon as we did I could feel my calf twitching and I got myself to a seat as fast as I could. The second I stuck my leg out the muscles in my calf went inward like I had just seen in a weird video online a few weeks ago. I started flexing my foot as hard as possible to stop the cramp but every time I stopped flexing, it would start again.
I sat on the bench in tears and looked up to see Cathy walking toward me. She didn’t say a word but just bent down and gave me a long hug. As my calf cramps eased, I wiped my tears and told her how it was the worst run ever. I probably whined a lot as she got me walking around and we found the group of JP’s Team runners. Cliff had salt tabs and Tylenol 1 in his bag so I was able to take some while I walked around a little bit.
Cathy and I then headed down the road to wait for Trudy and some others to come into the finish. I sat on the curb and ate my banana and drank more water. It wasn’t long before Trudy headed to the finish in a crazy sprint.
It took about an hour to start feeling better after I crossed the finish line which is exactly the time I needed to be able to see JP come into the finish of marathon number 6 for the weekend! Trudy and I joined in the celebrating with JP, Peter and their families before we headed home. I left Nathan Phillips Square feeling happy and content rather than disappointed in myself.
During the race, my phone dinged with a text from Lisa. The first thing I replied was, “This is so humbling.”
This race was humbling because my mind was so confident. I knew I was going to be slow, but I was confident I was going to be steady. My mind was ready. My body wasn’t. I know I didn’t train enough or do enough long runs, but I’m not even sure that was the issue. Did I not drink enough that morning? I have no idea. Did I not eat properly the day before? No clue. Would having perfect training have made for a perfect race day? I will never know!
This race was also humbling because of Jen and Rebecca. They came alongside me and just would not leave. They embodied everything that is truly wonderful about running and I will never forget what they did for me. When I think about Sunday, my eyes well up with tears. There are no tears for a terrible race time, but rather for the beautiful display of love and friendship I got to witness. I hope that someday I can do the same for someone else.
As I look at my race time (which is 33 minutes SLOWER than any other half I’ve ever done!), I’m not disappointed in myself. I could’ve walked off the course at 3km when that first tear fell, but I didn’t. I will hold my head high because when I wanted to quit more than anything else in the world–I didn’t.