Runners share the rewarding experience of completing 26.2 miles.
With the sad events that took place last week at the Boston Marathon, a sea of memories about my own marathon experience in October 2012 at the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon came rushing back. In addition to the deaths and the many injured, all of the 23,000+ runners in this year’s Boston Marathon have had their memories of this amazing achievement irreparably intertwined with a cruel and senseless act. In tribute to those runners, and all the others affected by the tragedy, I wanted to share the beauty of my own marathon experience.
After the bombings last week I found myself explaining the significance of the Boston Marathon to one of my non-runner clients. The long tradition of the event was of course mentioned, but I also found myself explaining the importance of achieving a “Boston-qualifying time” in a marathon. As the Scotiabank Marathon was the first (and only!) marathon I ever intended to do, I wasn’t committed to a Boston-qualifying time (which would have been 3:40), but I definitely wanted to clock a sub-4 hour time. Still, I used the Boston-qualifying time to guide the pace of my training runs and as a bit of a “stretch” goal.
I was fully prepared on the day of the race. The weather was rainy, but relatively warm for a morning in the middle of October in Toronto. I had on my cheap raincoat to throw away once the race started. Making my way through the long lineup into the starting corral was a bit of a mission, and once our section had started it was a battle to get around people and avoid the larger puddles that had built up from the rain. There was a stitch in my side from the very beginning of the race, which rarely happens to me. I knew this race would probably throw some unexpected challenges my way and I was mentally prepared for that.
When I struggled with pain in my IT band at about the 17KM mark, I forced myself to push through. I didn’t want all the work that I’d done over the past 4 months to be wasted. I didn’t want to disappoint my family at the finish line. I didn’t want to fail at this goal that I’d set for myself. A lot of sacrifice went into preparing for the marathon and on that day it was all on the line.
All along the race course, there were people watching and cheering the runners on. If I found myself thinking about the pain in my IT band, the cheers and applause of the well-wishers made me want to push through. I loved the signs along the way:
“Keep running, complete stranger, I’m so proud of you!”
“Sun is for wimps”
It was so great to hear my name shouted out along the way, being cheered by strangers who read it off my race bib. I acknowledged as many as I could and for those that I couldn’t I feel like I owe them too. They were part of my race and they gave me another reason to keep going.
As I approached the finish line the cheers of the crowd started to get louder. I saw the big clock indicating to me that my sub-4hr finish was well within reach. I picked up my pace a little bit as I saw the line and after I crossed – in 3 hours and 47 min – I lifted my arms up in the air and smiled.
Then, without thinking, I threw my head back up towards the sky, totally exhilarated.
TAKING IT ALL IN
As I received my medal and went through the finishers’ corral, there was a distinct giddiness as if I’d had a couple of glasses of wine. I felt quite emotional as the race volunteers handing out drinks and food congratulated me at the finish. Those volunteers made me feel like I’d been the first person to cross the finish line – and not the 877th.
Mentally, I wasn’t feeling very competent. I was almost teary-eyed and feeling very loving towards everyone as I finished. As I wandered through Nathan Phillips Square, where the runners who had finished looked for their families, I stretched and chatted to other runners, commiserating about our aches and pains and congratulating each other on our finishes. The whole atmosphere was filled with comradery and enthusiasm.
LOVE AND SUPPORT
I was so happy to be part of the running community on that day. It was so wonderful to have my now-husband, my mom, grandmother, and sister (also a runner) there after the finish. The most special part of any achievement is sharing it with those you love.
Finishing a marathon is one of my proudest accomplishments and I wanted to pay tribute to the inclusiveness and support of the running community. A community that rallied around those affected by the events at the Boston Marathon and will move forward with enthusiasm for their sport and its inclusive nature.