I will remember this year’s Road2Hope 1/2 marathon not for my finishing time, but for the runner I met around the 15k mark. He told me that his butt was hurting, and that he was in the middle of radiation treatment. And that he ran a 1/2 marathon last weekend. And that he does it to get through it all. It’s all about perspective.
As in previous years, I spent Saturday morning volunteering at race kit pick-up at Confederation Park. This year, I was assigned to “same day registration”, which was a fun spot to be. It was amazing how many people arrived at the very last minute wanting to register and pay for the 5K race starting at 10 AM. Some people arrived just 5 minutes before the race was to start. Seriously. Ditto for the 10K. And the number of people who registered to run a marathon the next day?! Who decides the day before a marathon to sign up? Apparently the beautiful weather brought the last minute runners out in droves. I also had the pleasure of volunteering alongside my friend John, not knowing that he was going to be there helping out too.
heading straight home to put my feet up in preparation for the next day’s race leaving, I chatted with my friend Kristi who came from Ottawa to run the marathon. Then I stopped at MEC to buy a backpack for my broken-footed son, picked up my daughter and went clothes shopping with her, got groceries (forgot that I drove there and walked home with my bags), made dinner for everyone, and then put my feet up! Life as a mom! I was still debating whether I should even run the 1/2 marathon, because my butt/hip had been bothering me for about 1 1/2 weeks (out of the blue). Worst case scenario I could make it to the 10K mark and get on a bus for relay runners taking them to the finish line.
Before going to bed, I turned my clock back an hour, set my alarm for 5 AM, and went to sleep. Sunday morning I woke up at what I thought was 4:45 AM. My husband asked me when I was getting up. I said “in 15 minutes” and tried to fall asleep again. Ten minutes later I got up, turned the alarm off, put my contacts in, brushed my teeth etc., went back into my bedroom and saw that my clock said 6 AM. What?! I was supposed to be at Confederation Park at 6 AM! Alasdair’s clock said 7 AM. I asked him if he changed it, and he said he changed it to match mine. How did I mess up the clock change 2 years in a row? Maybe it was fate, telling me that I shouldn’t run because of my butt/hip. I said to Alasdair, “I’m not going.” I wasn’t dressed, hadn’t eaten breakfast, and the last shuttle bus from Confederation Park to the start line at Dofasco Park was in less than 40 minutes. It takes 25 minutes to drive to the shuttle bus. Then Alasdair said, “Would you be any worse off if you went and missed the bus?” So, I decided to go. I quickly dressed, grabbed my breakfast to go, and took off. I drove about 200m before realizing I had forgotten my phone. Drove back. Then headed for the bus. Once I got close to Confederation Park, I hit the stop and go traffic of everyone else also running late trying to get to the bus, so I ate my breakfast in the van, and took everything out of my backpack that I would need for the race, scrapping the need for baggage check for the first time at this race. I figured I might not have time to make it to the baggage check at Dofasco Park. It was 6:45 AM when I parked, but thankfully there were still buses leaving and I even had time for a quick pee before walking to the bus. Phew. I would get to race after all. Alasdair texted me to say that in the night, I reached over and did something to my alarm clock. If that’s the case, I did it while asleep!
When we arrived at Dofasco Park around 7:15 AM, I headed straight for the portapotty lineup, and chatted with other runners while waiting for my turn. Unfortunately, there was no time to look for my friend Kristi, with the marathon starting at 7:30 AM (and the 1/2 just 15 minutes later). I left the portapotty, and headed straight back to the end of the line, knowing that I would need to go again! While in the line the announcer said “5 minutes to the start of the 1/2 marathon”, but he was 5 minutes early. People started panicking, wondering if they would make it through the line. I did. And then I arrived at the race start and he said, “5 minutes to the start of the 1/2 marathon”. The runner beside me said that the earlier announcement was the 5 minutes to the 5 minutes warning! Race conditions were perfect, with a forecasted high of 10 degrees Celsius (in the afternoon) and winds of just 5 km/h.
At 7:45 AM, the race began! I had lined up just behind the 2:00 pacer, knowing that with my butt/hip issues, running a sub 2 hour 1/2 marathon would be a stretch (I’ve only done it once before, in May of this year), and that doing it on my own was unlikely. But as the race started, I quickly lost the pacer (because of the sheer number of runners) and had to run quickly to catch him and the group. For the first couple of km’s, things were rather congested, and running in a pack with a pacer didn’t help, but things eventually spread out. I spotted a few police officers running ahead of me in full gear, and knew that one of them must be Josh Turner, with the Hamilton Police, running to raise aware for mental health and the Canadian Mental Health Association. I heard a couple of runners behind me wonder why they were in uniform, so I turned and quickly told them. I had hoped to catch up and introduce myself (he’s also a triathlete and we follow each other on twitter), but he was called into action for a fallen runner and I never did see him again.
I was amazed that as I ran, my butt/hip weren’t bothering me. I was hopeful that I could actually run the entire race. The course changed slightly this year, so that runners did an additional 1-2 km before reaching the Red Hill Valley Expressway and running about 6k downhill, meaning that once you reach the bottom, there is slightly less running to do along the waterfront trail. I kind of liked the new route.
Things were going well and I was staying with the 2:00 pacer. He had mentioned that we would make up some time on the downhill, but as we ran down it, he didn’t seem to be going too fast. It’s always tricky with the downhill, because you want to go faster, but don’t want to burn your legs out. Just before we left the Red Hill, I started to fall back from the pacer – even while still running downhill. At that point I realized that I just didn’t have a sub 2 hour race in me. The cardio wasn’t there. I had a gel, and continued to run as fast as I could manage. Eventually I lost sight of the pacer.
And then I met that runner at 15k, the one who was in the middle of radiation treatment. I told him that he must be in phenomenal shape, to have run a 1/2 marathon the weekend before, and then the Road2Hope. And that’s when he said that he does it to get through. What an inspiration.
Once I reached the waterfront trail, I knew that I wouldn’t have to run too long before I reached the turnaround, which was just past the 18k mark. I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch and my pace times by this point, just trying to keep moving forward as fast as I could. The last couple of km’s are always tough, but in the last 3, my calves started to tighten up. I noticed this year that there was a lot of first aid coverage in the last km of the race, including lots of paramedic students.
As I ran I tried to figure out exactly how many minutes over the 2 hour mark I would finish. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:06:06, which was a little disappointing, but satisfying nevertheless. It’s just a race.
Volunteers at the finish line gave me a bottle of water, a race medal, and an emergency blanket to stay warm. I went through the food tent, picking up a piece of Roma pizza, a cup of soup, a banana and an apple, and after eating the hot stuff, walked to the van to change into warm dry clothes. I was planning to stay to wait for Kristi to finish her marathon.
I decided that a hot chocolate would be just the thing, and asked someone if they took credit or just cash, and was told that it was free! The Tim Hortons van was giving out free coffee and hot chocolate to anyone who wanted it. And amazingly, there were only about 5 people in line ahead of me. That drink warmed me up and I actually had to take my winter hat off for a bit!
I headed for the finish line, and chatted with Emma for a while as she waited for her husband to finish his marathon. She ran a speedy 5K on Saturday!
After spotting Kristi coming down the finishing chute, I left the finish line area and found her just coming out of the food tent.
One day, I will break 2 hours on this course!
Time: 2:06:06 (5:55 min/km)
Women aged 40-44: 52/96
All women: 398/749
All runners: 854/1343