The first was to get to the start without any anxiety. I've struggled a lot with nerves in some of my races. To the point where I've had to medicate to get to the start line. It's something that I've not been proud of but something that I've had to deal with since I was a nervous little kid. I've been to a psychologist about it and worked hard on not letting my head take over before a race and for all my lead up races I was fine. In fact I was great. But a marathon is a totally different creature so there was every chance that the demons of my past would revisit.
The second goal was to run the entire way. For both of my other marathons I'd had walking breaks. And I'd secretly wondered if I was mentally strong enough to ever complete one without giving in. In both previous marathons I'd been happy enough to finish but always a little disappointed in myself for throwing in the towel.
Apart from that it would have been great to get a PB and even better to go under 4 hours. But the first two were my biggies. Had all the work I'd done on my head paid off?
I knew as soon as I woke up on Sunday that I had my first goal in the bag. I was amazingly calm. No jitters. Able to eat without wanting to throw it all back up. Just in a good head space. I didn't think about what was ahead just what I had to do. Get dressed. Eat. Poop. Get to the squad tent. Cheer our half marathoners. Queue for the loos. And find my running buddies, Sue, Adrian and Craig, who were about to slay their own personal dragons.
At 7:00 we headed up to the start line. Made another pit stop and then squeezed between the fencing railings to get into our start zone. Got my Garmin started and then sweated on it finding the satellites before the gun went off. No worries - made it with a couple of minutes to spare. Then the gun went off and I realised that there was still a couple of minutes before we crossed the start anyway.
We were off. Our group of 4 were planning to run around 5:30 pace. And the first kilometre was pretty spot on. It was tough running though - way too much traffic. Lots of stop-start running and avoiding people who were trying to find their own space to run in. It was hard to resist the temptation to dodge and weave and even harder to resist the temptation to stay together as a pack. So much nicer to spend as many kilometres together with friends than to run by yourself for hours. I didn't resist either temptation - something I regretted later on.
|Thanks Mel and Youngie for the pic and the cheer|
It all seemed great at the start. Running along the road looking at the surf and the other runners. Bantering with my friends. It was a gorgeous morning and we were on an adventure of sorts. Sue was running strongly and had pulled away fairly early. Then before halfway Adrian pulled away. I was content to keep running at the pace I was at - around the 5:20-5:30 zone - probably a little faster than I'd planned but I was feeling ok. Except for a tightness that was starting to build on my left side. Just a little tightness around my left knee and in my glute.
I knew exactly what it was. Been there done that a few times before. My ITB was starting to complain. Bugger! It wasn't even halfway. I tried to consciously relax the area. I prayed. I tried to distract myself. But after a while I knew that I was just going to have to live with it and hope that it didn't get to the point where I had to stop and walk. Or pull out altogether.
I'm not exactly sure when I lost Craig but I know it was before 30k. I was sure he was still on my shoulder but it turned out to be another tall man in a blue shirt with a white cap. I was on my own and heading back to the start area. Up and over the Sundale Bridge and then up quite a long but not steep ascent. I had no strength in my knee at all. My stride length had become so small that I felt like I was shuffling but if I tried to lengthen it out my knee felt like it was going to collapse so short and shuffly it had to be.
And then I passed the GaleForce squad tent and for that brief time the pain disappeared. They were loud and raucous and I felt like a rock star. Like Keith Richards because I'm sure at his age his knees give him curry too. It didn't matter how tired I was or how much I was hurting, I was going to believe what every person in that tent was telling me - that I could finish.
|Photo credit - Miss Megs Photography|
But I wanted to stop! So badly!! Ten kilometres can seem so far when your body hurts so much. A huge argument was raging in my head. I kept reminding myself that I had something to prove - to myself and to my boys. That we're stronger than we think we are. That we don't have to quit when things get tough. That we can defeat those voices in our head that would defeat us.
It was ugly. Really ugly. And demoralising to have people passing continually. The worst was when the 4:00 hour pacer passed and disappeared into the distance. There would be no catching him. It was as much as I could to to keep running - or doing the only version of running that was possible at that moment. I counted the kilometres down. Each one getting slower than the last.
Four kilometres - I can do that.
Three - yep, I can do it.
Two - so close and yet so far. It was around here that I ran into Chris, from the squad who'd run down to the coast from Brisbane overnight and then lined up to do the marathon. I have incredible respect for that level of crazy. We ran together for a bit and were joined by Katherine who was helping us strugglers to get to the finish line. She dragged me back past our cheering tent so I could suck in as much of their enthusiasm to get me through the last kilometre.
|Photo credit - Miss Megs Photography|
The finish chute at Gold Coast is sooo long. And the finishing arch was such a welcome sight. I'd done it! 4:03:13. Three minute PB.
My legs were a mess so I sat down as soon as I could. Sue came over with a bottle of water and a big smile and we debriefed about our races. When I got up my knee had completely seized up and I could only walk with it straight. Took forever to get back to the tent and finally stretch out.
Then came the best part of the day. Being able to say I'd done it. That I hadn't been sick with nerves. That I'd run every step. The PB was just the icing on the cake.
I can't say exactly what the best part of the day was. The run was great and awful. Meeting my goals was fabulous. But I think the messages I got from my boys were probably the things that will stay with me most. Nothing is more special than have your child tell you that they're proud of you.
And the celebratory ice cream was pretty damned good too.