Most of you already know that yesterday I ran the Westlink M7 Cities Marathon to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of my first marathon (the same race in 2013) and what a challenge it was.
I knew this year was going to be a lot tougher as not only was I finding it harder and harder to stay motivated when road running these days (as I prefer trails), but I also wouldn’t have the cheer squad that i had last year to spur me on. So my plan was to talk to as many other runners as possible and this year I also had my headphones as backup if things got really tough.
So i rocked up at the start line feeling very nervous and a little under prepared having done only 1 long distance training run on road, as the others had all been on trail. I saw many people I know and also made some new friends while we all gathered in the warm(er) registration room before the race – it was freezing outside!!
I ran into Sarah-Jane who I met at this same marathon last year and we had a good chat. Later she told me that this was be her 30th marathon…. what a legend!! Go SJ!!
We all slowly made our way out of the warmth and over to the start line and it was nice to know there were lots of others team mates from the Sydney Striders there to compete too (see photo below).
Tom from Sydney Harbour Runners was also there at the start line with me so I was surrounded by lots of my running family, the best way to start a race!
Did I have a race plan? Not really. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself as I know Oxfam is only 4 weeks away, but I really wanted to beat my time from 2013 (4:14:00). And I wondered if a sub 4 hour marathon possible? Maybe, but would that be too much for my body to handle? Don’t you hate it when there are more questions than answers. I guess you have to live and learn and I am still new to the marathon game so why not play along.
The gun went off and I realised there were some real heavy weights competing in the mens field, such as David Criniti, Brendan Davies and another guy (Alex?) who had won the King of the Mountain a few weeks back. They sped back past us after the first turn around point and I was luckily enough to see them one more time at a later stage in the course. Those guys make it look so easy!
Tom and I ran together and caught up to the 4 hour pacer. We sat in neatly behind the group and I thought this sub 4 hours thing might be a possibility, I just had to stick with them for as long as possible. To finish a marathon in 4 hours means that you should stick to a 5’40” pace and this was definitely achievable for me over shorter distances, especially since I had run under 5’00” pace last weekend for an 11km race.
Our pacer was Andrew and he runs with the Berowra Bushies group which my running friend Gavin also does. Gavin was pacing the 4:15 group so I had given him permission to yell at me if/when he caught up to me, but deep down I hoped it didn’t come to that!!
Andrew was great and we all chatted and encouraged each other. Although further into the race a few people began to slowly dropped off at various water stations and hills. Tom, myself and another guy in a red shirt (who was competing in his first marathon) kept hanging in there (see below photo).
The first 20kms seemed to go past quite quickly. I did start the race with calf pain and frozen toes (AGAIN!!!) which was a bit of a struggle but I was determined not to let it slow me down and that the pain would go away as it had done last year. And it did, but not until after the biggest hill of the race, oh well. Our group kept moving and was a little ahead of schedule but it was better to have a little time in the bank than not.
I was so happy to see my friend’s Todd and Erin on the course too, they were in the same spot I had my support crew last year and it really lifted my spirits. I had been struggling to keep up with Andrew but was determined and kept pushing myself more than I probably should have been. So seeing the familiar smiling faces was such a pleasure and I knew that I would see them again after the turn around point, another reason to keep moving and stick with the pacer.
The legs were getting tight and i could feel my hip was not happy with me, but I kept moving and kept positive. I think it was about this point that we lost Tom, he slowly fell behind and unfortunately I didn’t see him again until after the race.
So then there was just Andrew stuck with us 2 amateurs. I told them i was struggling and might fall behind but they encouraged me and I kept with them for a little while longer.
Andrew said something that I will never forget, and even though I had heard it before I think it’s important to remember “the real race starts at 32km”.
I got to about the 38km mark I felt spent. I felt like there was not much left in the legs. I think the other guy was feeling the same way as we both dropped back in pace and Andrew slowly crept ahead, he called to us to try and motivate but I know I couldn’t keep up that pace any longer. So I just kept running as fast as i could, as fast as my legs could carry me. Not sure how I managed a thumbs up for this photo (below) or the smile!!
I saw Todd & Erin again which gave me another burst of energy and Todd let me know that the pacer was not that far ahead, in fact I could still see him and I thought maybe I was still in with a chance… just maybe. It’s amazing how much of a lift you get from having the support out on the course, I must make sure that I try to do the same for others in future.
The chances of running a sub 4 hour marathon were very slim now, I had slowed to a 6’00” pace which wouldn’t get me there in time, but it would get me there eventually. Ahead of me I could also see April, another fellow Strider and I thought I was slowly catching her which gave me a bit of a push. April and I played leap frog for a few kms but she eventually got ahead of me and stayed there. I also spotted Enrique, another Strider who was aiming for sub 4 hours, I hoped he was okay.
Then I saw the big lights of the stadium and something sparked in me, there was less than 2 kms to go and I decided that I was going to give it everything I had left in the tank. My legs were hurting, but somehow I managed to speed up and I actually overtook April as I went up the last hill. She cheered me on and I wished her well but I didn’t look back. I made a left turn to cross over the M7 which is the last time I would see the highway and then the course heads downhill towards the stadium for the final victory lap.
I knew that sub 4 hours was out of reach, but I wasn’t going to let that slow me down. I was going to fight till the end and as I saw the athletics track unfolding in front of me I picked up the pace and took aim to try and catch the 2 guys in front of me, one of them was Enrique.
When i got to the last 100m I gunned it. I found another gear and sprinted towards the finish line overtaking the 2 guys with only seconds to spare. It felt amazing! My legs were completely shot and I had nothing left in the tank but I had made it and i had finished strong. Enrique shook my hand and seemed impressed with my finish, I was chuffed.
The legs were very wobbly and I made my way over for some food and drink, then collected my finishers medal & cap, then headed for the massage tent. I chatted to some other runners while we waited in line and then it was my turn. The calves were agony and I almost cried out in pain as I got a a massage. Did he not know how sore my legs were!!! ha ha
I got up from the table and headed for a shower then caught up with Sarah-Jane and a few others while we sat and cheered on the last of the runners. I really enjoyed this part too. Cheering on the people who were out there struggling the longest, it takes a lot of courage to hang in there. People are so amazing!
Happy Running 😀