On September 17 (which is also the seventeenth anniversary of R. v. Marshall), I finally did my first marathon at the Maritime Race Weekend in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. I signed up for this one back in June once I learned more on how to find and register for races. It was also the only first truly available marathon for me to do that fit my schedule. I also signed up for the Tartan Twosome.
The Tartan Twosome is where you do a 5K on Friday evening, and then another race the next day (a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or a full marathon) for three medals. As I wanted to do my first marathon as soon as logistically possible, I signed up for the marathon.
In leading up to Maritime Race Weekend, I did the Cobequid half marathon in August as sort of a last race prep. It was a very flat trail, where I did earn a PB. Last weekend before the marathon, I went for another run around the city, intending to do something above 20 kilometres but less than 30. Running with the Run, Zombies app, it turns out that I actually ran just under 20 kilometres in about two hours.
Throughout the summer, I was researching on marathon preparation/training. I learned from my Cobequid run what shoes and socks wouldn’t work for me. I wasn’t too worried about my endurance as a whole, given BODYATTACK™ keeps it very strong and I run on occasion. I also learned (from research and experienced runners) to eat/snack on something for marathons, and to carry water, things that I’ve never done in my two half marathons (nor would have thought to do so). The other piece of advice was to not experiment on marathon day, a rule that I did break but didn’t pay for it. Finally, I was repeatedly told to pace myself, and to not go all out.
Friday night I went over early, as I’ve read that parking can be a bit challenging. After finding a nice spot that wasn’t a far walk, I went over to Fisherman’s Cove to scout the location. It was a picturesque evening with a full moon, albeit a tad bit chilly (which I knew wouldn’t matter once the race started). Erica (who I’ve been running with since May) was on her way over. While waiting, I bumped into a class regular and we chatted for a bit. Once Erica arrived, we walked around for a bit, and then did our pre-race Facebook Live video. We spoke about the Sunset 5K (the evening race), how Erica wanted a PB, and I was talking of taking it easy as I had a marathon the next morning. But I remembered doing my 5K at the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games (NSMSG) just last month, and how I went on to instruct BODYATTACK™ that night. So I figured, “Why not?” Let’s try and win this.”
We lined up, and instead of a horn, they used a cannon shot, which was quite unique and fun especially with the pirate theme everywhere. I got into second pretty much right away with another guy (who also took off from the start). There was another guy in the lead, and then he slowly got further and further ahead of us. I kept up with the other guy in second for several minutes, and it was probably the longest that I ever stayed with side by side with another runner. I was asking myself if this was annoying him, although I turned the question onto myself, and answered that I wouldn’t/shouldn’t be annoyed either. Near the turnaround point, I threw off my running buff (which was around my neck), as it was not only annoying, but also even somewhat obstructing my breathing. Eventually, my pace got me ahead of him, and I was in second place solo for a moment until I heard another runner coming up from my left side. I thought it was the original runner I was side by side with, but it was another guy, who said something about the other runner but couldn’t hear him clearly through my music. He got ahead of me, and then a woman caught up and passed me as well. I don’t look behind when running, so I wasn’t sure how close fifth place was. While I drank lots of water the whole day, I stopped before 5:00 p.m., and probably because of the running buff as well, I felt my throat dry up on me. I was coughing for a bit, but given it was a 5K, I decided to keep up the good pace.
Running back to Fisherman’s Cove, I saw several friends, giving quick waves and smiles as they were making their way to the halfway point. Soon I was at finish line, and immediately was high-fived/congratulated by the three faster runners. I went to receive my medal, then not sure how far behind Erica was, I started my Facebook Live video and entertained whoever was watching. I also filmed several runners crossing the finish live and cheered them on. Soon enough, Erica crossed, and I went over to congratulate her on the new 5K PB (although she expressed hoping to have finished in under 24 minutes). We went over the tables for water and bananas, and I congratulated several friends that I was able to spot in the massively large crowd. Erica then rang the PB bell (which I think is also unique to Maritime Race Weekend). We finalized plans for the morning (I was pooling with her as my girlfriend needed the car to teach class) and went our separate ways. Once back, I broke the marathon rule of not experimenting with something; I had lasagna for supper with my vegetables and smoothie. I didn’t have time to stop by a grocery store and wanted good carbs but nothing with too much sodium.
The next morning I had my usual breakfast and two litres of water. Erica then picked me up and we went to Fisherman’s Cove. My throat was still somewhat dry from the night before. She loan me her water belt for the marathon, and breaking the marathon rule of not experimenting, I decided to use it. I packed energy gels into the water belt pouch (breaking the rule again, as I never ran and consumed them before). As we were early (which got us great parking), we were talking about our running apps, and she convinced me to use Runkeeper instead. Breaking the rule again, as I wanted to know my kilometres and pace, I decided to use it for the marathon (without having experimented with it before). Throughout the marathon, I found it to be both very useful (as the tracking kept me informed) and super annoying (as Erica set it to update me ever half kilometre, which I didn’t need).
We got in the massive lineup to head to the restroom one last time before the race started, spotting various friends here and there. Once done, we tried to get into the lineup. When the warm up began, we were barely able to do anything, so I just sort of hopped up and down to get whatever warm up I could. Missing my shades for a while, Erica also loan me her sunglasses.
Once the cannon fired, we were off, and I immediately started telling myself, “Pace! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take it easy.” I caught up with Erica and we exchanged a high-five, as we wouldn’t be seeing each other for hours (she was also going to greet me after the finish).
The hills started early, and I knew about this. But alas; I was just excited and happy that I was doing my first marathon, hills or not. Around ten or so kilometres, I needed to use the bathroom. Remembering Epic Canadian, while I was barely able to do a half marathon while holding it, a full marathon was out of the question. I knew I had to go. The portable restrooms were spread out once every three kilometres, so I knew the next one wasn’t far (Runkeeper was very helpful, but so annoying with the 500 metre updates). Once I was able to go, I went to the nearby water station and drank some Gatorade. I also learned, from Cobequid, to not run (even slowly) and drink Gatorade, as you end up spilling some on yourself and you get a bit sticky (which I can’t stand).
A big thing that was on my mind for months in leading up the marathon was finishing it in a Boston qualifier (at 3:10:00 for my age and gender). Either overestimating my own abilities or simply underestimating the race, with the kilometres, time, and pace updates, I started realizing that I wasn’t going to qualify on this marathon. I listened to how I was falling behind, and how my pace was becoming longer. But I wasn’t being hard on myself at all; it was my first marathon and I never even ran above a half marathon until now.
One special thing that I liked about Maritime Race Weekend was that, for those doing the full marathon, a custom sign was made and planted for you just after the halfway point. When I got to that sign spot, I tried to find my own, but as the wind must have tiled several signs over, I actually didn’t get to see mine in-person, and I didn’t want to stop to search for it. Nevertheless, I did see it online, and so after I left the sign spot, I imagined reading it again. What made the sign extra special for me was that it was written in Mi’kmaw “Wel-lukwen Jarvis Siewi attakna’sik,” which translates to “You are doing good/great. Keep working hard.” Knowing that Maritime Race went out of their way to make me a Mi’kmaw sign really meant a lot to me.
After the sign spot, I decided that it was time to try out the energy gels for the first time ever. Although a tad bit warmer than I would’ve liked (probably due to my body heat and the warm weather), they were so great for the run. I ensured that they went down well with a quick bottle of water from my belt. I held onto the packaging (as I hate to litter) until I came across another garbage can by a water station. Another first for me on this race were Skittles. At one water station, a young girl held out a spoonful. Given I like to chow down on them at a movie, I had a few. The sugar was a nice and different kick of energy.
Although I’ve written about being alone a lot during Epic Canadian in the half marathon, to no surprise I was alone even more so in the full marathon. The occasional passing car would beep or wave for encouragement, and sometimes, another runner would catch up and move ahead of me.
Throughout the entire marathon, I thought about a lot of things; qualifying for Boston (and how it was more and more likely that I wasn’t going to), various marathon records and statistics, how I was fortunate to have people waiting for me at the finish line (and how I didn’t want to keep them waiting), family, friends, the LesMills classes that I instruct (and how I love to tell participants that BODYATTACK™ is a part of my training), the 5K that I won last month, growing up in We’koqma’q, Clint and how much he has inspired me, how the run was indeed challenging and hard, yet I would finish it, wondering if I would see any Samoyeds or Shelties, thinking/hoping that my marathon would somehow inspire others for their health and fitness goals, Halloween, how the app voice has went from beyond annoying to a point that I cannot describe (it was the same jokes circulated over 80 times), future races, and of course, finishing my first marathon.
Eventually, I started recognizing areas near the start of the race. Reading signs and getting updates on the app, I was getting closer and closer to the 40 plus kilometre mark. On my playlist, themes from John Williams’ Superman and Bobby Roode’s Glorious played, causing me to smile and lifting my motivation, despite how tired I was as I picked up the pace a tad little bit. The day was still gorgeous, and when I went around the second last u-turn, I kept thinking about the Sunset 5K from the night before, and how I wish I had the ability to pull off the same speed until the finish line. I slowed down for the last water station for a final Gatorade, and then knew it was time to start picking up speed. I was going to finish above four hours, but I love finishing a race with a blast of energy.
Approaching Fisherman’s Cove, I immediately saw and recognized my girlfriend Kerri. She smiled and cheered for me, and then started waving the Mi’kmaw flag. At first I thought about just smiling and running by (as my plan was to wear it after I finished the race), but then I saw that she was trying to hand me the flag. I thought about how beautiful, inspirational, and great it would be to cross the finish line with the flag over my shoulders and back. So I took the flag, corrected it, wrapped it around, then I picked up my speed even more. But suddenly, as I started my final dash, something happened to my right hamstring; a knot. I could feel my muscles freaking out. I don’t think that I ever had such a feeling before, either from prior runs, weight training, and or teaching a class. I could start to feel myself limping. But I was running fast for the finish, and immediately thought that, regardless of what, exactly, was happening to my hamstring, I’m finishing this with some speed. I need to do this, and for the first time ever, albeit the very short distance, I ran with pain to the finish.
The announcer congratulated me as I crossed the finish line with the Mi’kmaw flag. I cannot express how much that meant to me. Dashing to the finish line with what energy I had left in my body with the Mi’kmaw flag around me was one of the most incredible feelings that I have ever experienced (afterwards, the announcer apologized to me for not pointing out the flag to the crowd. I thanked him for reaching out, and said I may do it again at my next marathon). I didn’t stop and only slowed down to a fast walk. I went over to receive my medals, limping along the way. The pirate placed my finisher’s medals over my head, congratulated me, and I thanked him. I somewhat staggered towards the wooden walkway to my supporters. While I was having some pain from the knotted muscle, I wasn’t exactly in pain. I suspected that the adrenalin flowing through my system neutralized the pain that I should have been feeling in my hamstring. The first person to greet me was Erica (who filmed my finish), and I gave her an exhausted hug, followed by Kerri’s parents. Then my mother (wearing a We’koqma’q NSMSG shirt) was next. She spoke to me in Mi’kmaw, congratulating me for my marathon but simultaneously feeling sorry for what I just put myself through. I replied in Mi’kmaw, saying that I was done for the day and that I was tired. Then Kerri was next. We embraced as she also congratulated me, and I thanked her for handing me the flag so that I could finish the race with it. She passed me my prepared post-race drinks and I chugged them down. I explained to them the hamstring issue, and how I never felt such a thing before. Out of 89 participants, I finished twenty-first at 4:06:42.
Then me, Kerri, and Erica walked to the vendor booths so I can grab some food. Erica and I took our post-race selfie before she left, and I spotted a small portable pool filled with cold water that other runners had their feet in. I joined them as Kerri went to get my sandals from the car. Chatting with the other runners who were from various places while I ate my bananas, bagels, and small oranges, they congratulated me, as it was my first marathon. I thanked them and we all shared running stories. Soon Kerri returned. I said farewell to the other runners in the pool and went over to ring the PB bell (as it’s still a PB for my marathon, despite being my first and so far only one).
We all planned to meet at a restaurant in Dartmouth and I said that I’d be a little late, as I wanted to drop in a GoodLife to shower up. Walking in, a fellow associate (who knew that I just did a marathon) congratulated me, and asked if I was here to workout, to which I smiled and shook my head. I synched my MyZone results (which had an incredible 3,500 plus calorie burn). I showered then went to the restaurant to join our families. Given I ate quite a bit right after the race, I didn’t have a large lunch (by my own standards anyway). We all enjoyed our each other’s company, talked for a bit, then Kerri and I left as I had a massage appointment that afternoon. I informed my massage therapist of what happened to my right hamstring, and she noted that it was definitely much more tender than the left. Afterwards, Kerri dropped me off at the condo as I went to go relax in an Epsom salt bath.
The next day, much like after my 100,000 FitBit steps challenge, was spent mostly resting up. My shins and feet were sorer on Sunday than immediately after the race. While I racked up over 40,000 steps in the marathon, I barely walked 4,000 that Sunday.
My first marathon, like anyone else’s, was a multitude of experiences; pride, exhaustion, humbleness, patience, persistence, stubbornness. But I think my BODYATTACK™ mentor (an experienced runner herself) summarized it up for me in a congratulatory email she sent to me later in the day describing a marathon; horrible, but wonderful.
Obviously I will do more marathons, here and abroad. I’m excited to beat my PB, and to one day, qualify for the Boston Marathon.