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42 Ks in 42 Days 

Day 42 – The Big Day

Sorry about taking so long to write this blog. Work has been ridiculous (the final days before a conference tend to be hectic) and I needed a couple of days after the marathon to decompress and let the whole experience sink in. I don’t want it to sink in too far, though, or I’ll forget everything that happened.

As it stands now, the run itself is a pretty big blur. I have heard of people giving mile-by-mile breakdowns of their marathon, but I couldn’t tell you more than a few specific memories. I know it was ridiculously cold (it was minus two when we started, but the wind chill made it feel like minus ten), and that my legs really hurt for the last three kilometers of the race, but after that the details are few and far between.

That being said, I will try my best to recap the run. Hopefully I am not forgetting anything awesome.

Section One – The City (Kilometers 1-6)I started out conservatively for the first couple of kilometers, making careful note of my times for each kilometer. The pace felt easy (about 4:35/kilometer), but I knew that speeding up early in the race would only hasten the appearance of the wall, so I laid back. I was placed near the front of the pack (I stayed back for fear my competitive nature would kick in and burn me out early), but there were still a lot of people in front of me. As I ran I wondered how many of the frontrunners had gone out too fast, and whether or not I would catch them in the later miles. I also wondered if I had gone out too fast, but I pushed the negative thoughts out of my head and continued on my way.

Section Two – The Trail (Kilometers 7-22)As we headed on the trails that line the Petitcodiac River, I noticed how cold it was for the first time. I was well dressed – hat, two long sleeve running shirts, spandex and gloves – but the slight headwind chilled me to the bone. It was so cold (how cold was it?) that the water at the first few aid stations was covered in a thin layer of ice. Thank God I didn’t decide on shorts.

I also noticed how well the race was mapped out. Running in the city wasn’t very scenic, but I could have run forever along the river. The path was basically flat, and when you weren’t in direct contact with the wind it was quite warm. Had it been any windier it could have been brutal, but on race day it was just right.

I chatted with a couple of people during my travels, but for the most part I ran solo, enjoying the riverside scenery and keeping note of my form. I passed the halfway point at 1:36, almost Boston pace, but by that point I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold that speed for the rest of the marathon. My legs were starting to tire, and my right knee felt strangely uncomfortable. All I hoped for was a relatively pain free finish.

Section three – The Subdivision (Kilometers 23-31)I hit a mental roadblock at the first subdivision water stop. I slowed down to drink some fluid, and found that I couldn’t speed back up immediately. I watched with annoyance as a group of runners pulled away from me that I had just caught up to. Fuck. It took me a good couple of kilometers to shake the negative energy out of my system.

Still, I wasn’t faring too badly. Aside from a couple of sore spots, I was feeling fine physically, and I started breaking the race down into water stops. Every three kilometers they had an aid station, so instead of thinking about the finish line, I thought about getting a drink. It didn’t make the finish line come any quicker, but it gave me small, attainable goals.

As I was leaving the subdivision someone yelled, “You’re in 15th place, keep it up!” It was the first time I even thought about where I was in the pack (139 runners finished the marathon), and while it was good to hear I was still near the front, I just hoped that I could stay there for the last long stretch.

Section four – The Trail, Part Two (Kilometers 32-36)Pain started creeping into my legs at this point, and I had a hard time keeping a positive focus. I could see the city in the distance, which was depressing, so I keep my eyes to the ground and thought about putting one foot in front of the other. Three kilometers between aid stations was a distance too long to fathom, so I broke my run down into kilometers and hoped for the best. I passed a couple of people who were faring worse than me, but a few people who looked like they could run forever blew by me like I was standing still. Bastards. They probably ran home after the run too.

The highlight of this section was seeing a partridge walk in front of me while I was running. Actually, I am not sure if it was partridge or not (based on pictures on the internet, I think it was), but it definitely wasn’t a seagull or crow, and it lifted my spirits for a bit. Hell, anything that distracted me from the run was a blessing at that point.

Section five – The City, the end (Kilometers 37-42)I hit my second mental and physical wall 38 kilometers into the run. The road was now well populated with marathoners, half marathoners, ten kilometer and five kilometer runners (they started later in the day), so there were plenty of people to talk to. I, however, did not feel like talking. All I wanted to do was finish, but my legs were conspiring against me. Nothing specific, just fatigue, but man it was painful.

I stopped for water and barely got started when I saw what was ahead of me. The final three kilometers were basically a straightaway down a city street, finishing with a long, brutal uphill. Actually, it wasn’t very long or brutal, but it was the last thing I wanted to see with three kilometers left. I was spent.

Instead of focusing on my legs, I let my mind do all of the work. I muttered ‘you can do this’ over and over as I plodded one foot in front of the other, dragging my tired carcass to the next kilometer marker. I probably looked crazy to the people who were cheerily running and walking around me, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to finish.

The bad spell broke with about a mile to go. I looked behind me and noticed a full marathoner on my tail, and my competitive spirit finally kicked in. While I didn’t care much if people passed me during the first 41 kilometers of the race, there was no way in hell anyone was passing me anywhere near the finish line. I muscled my way up the final hill, and coasted on fumes through the finish line at 3:23:40 (3:23:38 according to my racing chip). It's not quite a Boston qualifying time, but much better than the 4:00 finish I was predicting at the start of my training. Excellent.

So here’s the final tally – 3:23:40, 17th overall, and first in my age division. Not bad for six weeks training, and hopefully a sign of things to come. I am already looking for another marathon to run, and perhaps with a little training I can shave 15 minutes off that time. Only time will tell.

Well, I guess that’s it for now. I am going to write one final blog in the next day or so, but for now I got to get back to work. The world doesn’t stop just because I have sore legs, you know. I wish it did, but that’s a rant for another day.

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