It all started with an email. A friend of mine and REALTOR had run many different marathons over the coarse of a few years. We had often talked about them and he knew I had a small nagging interest in pursuing the challenge. We were exchanging emails on a file one day and once we had completed that series of emails he sent me one last one that said “Oh yeah, if you are going to run the Edmonton Marathon, training starts today”. He went on to attach an 18 week training schedule. Now I have never been a distance runner in my life and have always had trouble with my shins so was a little skeptical but thought “What the heck, I need to get some excercise”. The first days run was only 4 or 5 KM anyhow so I figured lets see how it goes. I did not respond to the email and did not tell anyone that “I was going to run a Marathon”.
I kept up with the training program and gradually improved both my times and distances. By the time I got to, and finished my first 18KM run I started thinking, “Holy crap, I may actually be able to do this!”. The next weeks long run was 22KM and once I finished that one I was committed. Heck, if I could do 22KM, a distance I would have never thought possible, then why couldn’t I work my way up to 42.2!
At this point I started telling people about it and made the plunge. I registered for the race, shelled out my money and was mentally “IN”. As this was my first kick at the cat I had no illusions about trying to set world records and really did not care about ‘time’. Unfortunately, being the competitive soul that I am, as I became more and more comfortable with my runs, I started looking at what my pace runs might mean for a finishing time. I set myself a goal of 4 hours and picked up my training to try and hit that target.
Fast forward to race day and man was I feeling great! I had come a very long way in those 18 weeks. Moving my previous longest run from 10KM all the way up to 32KM and feeling good. For those of you that I have never trained for a marathon, my training program never actually took me up to race distance and 32KM was as far as we went. I guess the idea is that 42.2KM is a large stresser on your body and you do not want to do it more than you need to.
I lined up at the start/finish line with thousands of others. My family would be out on the course cheering me on and I was so high on adrenaline that nothing could stop me. The gun went and the race was on. I found myself the 4 hour pace bunny and settled in with that pack. I felt GREAT! 18 weeks of training, no pain and I was ready. We hit the half way mark at just under 2 hours, I had seen my wife and kids twice so far and both times waved back at them vigorously excited to see them out on the course.
Once I hit about the 30KM mark I started to realize that I may not be able to keep up the pace for the whole race and started to lose the 4 hour pace pack. I saw my family again at about the 34KM mark but this time it was all i could do to raise a hand and acknowledge them. I was glad they were their but was in a battle of mind over matter with my body and needed to focus 100% of my mental energy on simply moving forward.
By this time I had mentally adjusted my time goal and started thinking about perhaps a 4:10 finish. At about 38KM the 4:15 pace bunny passed me only to turn around jogging backwards yelling encouragement at his group. It was about 40KM that my leg started to cramp and I had to walk it out a little. The experience was surreal. There were racers scattered across the route in various states of pain, exhaustion and joy. Some were walking in obvious pain, others focused intently trying to keep up the pace and others looking entirely fresh. I felt like I was on a battle field. One runner passed me and yelled out “Rub it out buddy we’re almost there”. I started jogging again and managed to overcome the cramp.
For the last couple of kilometers we crossed the high level bridge and ran up the hill at 109th Street. I thought that may finish me but as I got to the top, the REALTOR that inspired me to run was there in his capacity as a course martial and his smiling face encouraging me on was exactly what I needed to help me round out the last kilometer or so.
I finished the 2003 ING Edmonton Marathon with a time of 4:20. I was thrilled! After I found my family I went and found the massage tables, paid my $20 and got the best leg rubdown I have ever had in my life for the next 15 minutes. It took a lot of time and commitment but completing that marathon was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my life.