It had to come eventually. No matter how many prayers I said or how many witch doctors I consulted; February 20th and the Winterman Marathon was upon me.
The days leading up to the actual event became more stressful as the it drew near and suddenly I found myself second guessing my decision to forgo any actual training. Let’s be clear here, when I say no training, I mean not a single kilometer run in close to a year. No pace practicing, no treadmills, no running from the cops. Nothing.
It’s not that I didn’t want to give it the attention it obviously deserves; I just didn’t have enough hours in the day to do so. The choice though, was still crystal clear…this had to be done.
Friday February 18th gave me something to look forward to though. As I stepped outside the sun was shining and the temperature had climbed to a balmy 11c ( 51f for all you non Canadians). If this weather continued into the weekend I could at least take comfort in the fact that I was going to be graced by the weather gods. Saturday Febraury 19th however, was a whole different story. The temperature had plummeted to -15c and the winds were gusting at over 40km/h. To say the conditions for running were less than optimum would be the understatement of the century. My only hope was that upon waking Sunday morning, somehow, Fridays weather would be shining down upon me again.
I awoke around 6:30 am to a fresh bagel and glass of water provided by my coach, Robin Mounsteven (2x Boston Marathon participant), got dressed quickly and with a few last words of encouragement I was out the door, into a taxi and off to the race. At registration I proudly announced that this would be my first Marathon. I was met with sarcastic smiles and a “You chose the Winterman? THIS winterman? Are you crazy?”
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the weather never turned; it was -28c (-18f) with the windchill.
She told me that if I actually finished to come see her and she would give me a t-shirt for my troubles. So, with my new found motivation, I was off to the starting line.
1500 runners and only 79 running the full marathon. I was registered at number 79; whether or not that was an omen of things to come I couldn’t be sure.
The race started of smoothly enough. I hit the first marker (2.5k) on perfect pace and from that point on had a good grasp on how to gauge my speed to keep things moving. I hit 5k, 10, and a half marathon with gas in the tank and legs still underneath me. It wasn’t until 30k that things started to slow down considerably. My legs began to tighten up and every step seemed like I was generating enough force to push myself through the pavement. I had to slow to a speed walk just to help ease the stress. My mind started turning sour and all the minor annoyances I had been brushing off started to fell like a repetitive flick against my forehead. My balaclava kept freezing every time I lowered it below my chin to breath some fresh air and my earbuds would fall out every time I tried to wrestle it back into place. The wind coming up over the hill was too cold and worst of all I HAD NO ONE TO BITCH TO !!!
30 mins ago I had been literally dancing to my ipod and singing out loud, now I was ready to start tripping every runner that dared to pass me.
32.5k, 35k, 37.5k, were hell on earth and I slowed slow to a pace that had me running barely 50% of the time. Each and every time I would muscle up the strength to get back into stride it seemed almost instantly I was back to speed walking out of sheer agony. My muscles couldn’t bear the pressure being putting on them. With 4.7k left to go I was sure that I was done and positive I wasn’t coming in at under 5 hours if I somehow figured out how to keep moving. In a sense you could say I was smack dab, face to face, mono et mono with ….The Wall. 90% of the way though and this son of a bitch finally decided to show his face. Ain’t that a kick in the balls…or knees in this case.
At this point like everyone else who hits this wall, it was either quit or punch through. Me? I gathered every once of energy I had left and somehow pushed through and hit my stride. It wasn’t pretty, but with all my strength, chin in the air like a 9 year old running from a bully I pressed on with all my might. It wasn’t pretty, but I was determined.
40k, 41k, 41.5 and I was nearing the finish!!
As approached the last turn back into the war museum my ipod shifted to the song the that would take me across the finish line : It was Dierks Bentleys “I’ll settle for a slow down”. Well Mr Bentley? You know what? That sounds juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust fine. And with that, at 4:57.35 I crossed the finish line.
*It was such a nice feeling to have my family at the finish. I want to thank Mom, Dad, Uncle Paul, Aunt Sandra, Uncle John and Aunt Rosemary for seeing me through the hard parts. It couldn’t have been fun standing in that cold, but seeing you at the finish line meant the world to me..
* I went back to see that woman about the t-shirt and one of the organizers Terry happened to be there , he wanted to congradulate me on being the sweeper for the marathon runners and even bought me a winterman sweatshirt for my troubles. Dead last…..but, you know what?…I’ll take it.