Monday, September 28, 2009

Marathon Redemption: Race Report

See also: I did it!


I had a pretty good sleep on Saturday night and woke up feeling excited. I had everything packed up and laid out so all I had to worry about was getting dressed and eating breakfast. I had a hard time getting my bagel down as the nerves settled in, but finished off about three quarters of it.

We hit the road around 5:20 and arrived downtown just after 6. We found parking easily and walked toward the starting area. There were already plenty of people around and we heard the announcer say that they were expecting a record 20,000 runners. Over the next hour, it got extremely chaotic and crowded!

We managed to run into some friends as well as almost everyone from my training group. It was nice to get lots of good luck hugs and pre-race encouragement!

Around 7 hubby wished me good luck and headed off for his warm-up routine. I lined up for bag check with some friends and waited almost 15 minutes. They only had two lines (Bibs 1-7000 and 7000+) and the lines were insane! By the time we got out of there, the lines were even longer and the race was starting in 15 minutes. I have no idea if/how those people made it through in time.

We headed to the starting corrals to line up and it was extremely congested as thousands of runners tried to squeeze through tiny openings in the fences. We could hardly see if we were going in the right corral. This race has not been like this in the past. With so many participants, they’re going to have to work on the starting area logistics.

We could already hear the National Anthem as we wormed our way into the corrals. We all got separated in the sea of runners, but somehow I managed to bump into another lady from my training group. It was nice to have someone to chat with for a couple minutes while we waited for the horn.

And before long, the race had begun! We barely moved at first, but I finally crossed the line after about 7 minutes (it has never taken longer than 1 or 2 minutes in the past).


My plan was to maintain my ‘happy pace’ (6:00/KM = 9:39/mi) for at least the first half and take short walk breaks at most water stations. Despite having A, B and C time goals, my primary goal for this race was to feel better than I did last year.

Once we got moving, I realized that it was a much more warm and humid day than anticipated. It’s no secret that I don’t do well with the heat, but I was determined not to let it ruin my race. There was nothing I could do but hydrate, hydrate, hydrate so that’s what I did.

I mentioned previously that I had decided to use my 10-oz Nathan Sprint handheld, which was the best decision. I didn’t have to worry about the nuisance of my fuel belt and the handheld didn’t bother me one bit throughout the entire race. I had a constant source of water (necessary!) and had no issues quickly refilling at water stations when needed. I also wore my new SPI-belt to carry gels. I had 6 crammed into it and I hardly noticed it.

I didn’t have a precise game plan for gels, but I took a total of 5 or 6, taking one every 45 minutes or so and timing them with walk breaks. I also took 2 eload electrolyte capsules every hour.

Coach gave me two pieces of valuable advice last week, which I concentrated on for the initial kilometres: (1) Don’t waste energy weaving around people, and (2) Stay in the present. I used the first few kilometres to relax, settle my nerves and practice staying in the present. It was pretty overwhelming to start running and realize that I had 40K to go, so I constantly reminded myself not to look too far ahead.

Around 3 or 4K I got to see a bunch of people from my training group who had come down just to spectate and support us. They called out my name and it was a pleasant surprise to see them so early in the race. Just minutes later, I spotted coach who snapped my picture and told me I had a “Great start!”

My Garmin had trouble keeping a strong signal (which was expected) early in the race with the skyscrapers of downtown as well as a short leg where we ran beneath a highway overpass. By about 5K, it was already off by ~200m, so I tried not to look at it too much and only used it to monitor my pace occasionally. Mostly I was concerned about getting caught up in the early-race adrenaline and going too fast.

My ‘happy pace’ wasn’t quite as comfortable as I would have liked (I blamed it on the humidity), so I was slightly slower than planned, but didn’t worry about it. I concentrated on feeling good and staying comfortable so if that meant I was slightly behind on pace, so be it. I knew I still had a long way to run.

At about 8K (I think?) we got to see the lead runners heading back in the opposite direction. They would be at about 16K at this point. (Wow!) This always gives me such a rush and is one of my favourite parts of this event. What a thrill to be racing among such amazing athletes from all over the world. [The male and female winners went on to set new course records of 2:08:31 and 2:28:31 respectively, 2:08:31 also being a new record for a marathon run on Canadian soil.]

Shortly after, I got see hubby run by as he flew through the half marathon. He was easy to spot in his fluorescent yellow but I had to yell out a couple times to get his attention. It was good to see him and make sure he was okay. (He was having a lot of issues with his left leg last week.)

10K split: 1:02

I decided to turn on my iPod at this point and enjoyed listening to many of my favourite songs. One of my biggest regrets from my first marathon was not having music and I found it made a big difference in keeping my spirits up this time around.

At 12K we hit the turn-around and it was a good feeling to be on the ‘other’ side. We were running along the lake shore all the way until the half and full split around 17K. I remember feeling like I was joining a special club when I ran under the big MARATHON arch last year for the first time. This year I was already a part of the ‘club’ but it was still an exhilarating and empowering feeling to veer off with my fellow marathoners as the half’ers headed toward the finish. This is where the real fun begins. I thought to myself, “Here we go!”

The crowd thinned out significantly, with only about 3000 runners in the full marathon. I finally had room to breathe!

The next few kilometres ticked by easily. I knew I would be seeing some smiling faces from my training group around the half way point. Sure enough, I heard my name and saw a line of familiar faces. There must have been 8 or 9 of them and I grabbed some high-fives as they snapped my photo. This gave me a great boost and I felt euphoric as I made my way toward the half-way mark.

21.1K/13.1mi in 2:10 – interestingly, my exact half marathon split from marathon # 1. Only this time, I felt good. Last year, I already knew I was in trouble at this point.


Around 22K I got to see hubby for the first time. He hopped in the car after finishing the half in 1:33 and made it to this point with time to spare. I was happy to see him and asked him to get some oranges ready for the next time I would see him, 2K later.

This stretch took us along an out and back where I got to see several people from my training group. It was a welcome distraction because this leg of the route was bor-ing! I saw hubby and got my oranges at 24K before heading along an even more boring stretch of road. It was an industrial area and rather desolate. There wasn’t much to see and it wouldn’t improve for 6K or so.

My memory is a little foggy, but I believe it was during this section when I ran into Kenny from A Whole Lot of Soles. He was out adding on some mileage after his half marathon and kept me company for a little while. This was actually the first time we have had the opportunity to have a conversation in person, after communication back and forth via our blogs and Twitter for well over a year. Kenny shared some encouraging words and sent me on my way.

I finally made it out of this dreadful section of the route and headed toward the famous “Beaches” area of Toronto. This was a significant improvement over last year. We no longer had a 5K out and back along the Leslie Street Spit (which I hated last year) and instead ran along Queen Street through lively neighbourhoods hopping with spectators, the general public out for brunch and some of the best organized cheering sections. There were a few good hills (which we had to go up and down twice, being an out and back) but they didn’t bother me much.

I celebrated at the 30K marker where my time was only one minute slower than the 30K race I completed in August, and I felt much stronger. I saw hubby again at this time and took some more oranges, which I shared with a couple of runners who were nearby.

30K split: 3:06

My pace had slowed gradually, but I still felt pretty good. I resisted the urge to take any unplanned walks and stuck to my brief breaks through the water stations.

I saw many of my friends again during this stretch and sharing some high-fives and smiles made me feel really good. In particular, I was excited to see two girls from my pace group who were running their first marathon, way ahead of me and looking strong. I was so happy for them!

I soon passed the 32K mark (20 miles) and knew it was just 10K to go. I felt good, but didn’t think I could pick up the pace. I just tried to hold it steady and not slow down as my legs got tired. Mentally, I was feeling really strong. I knew I wasn’t going to make my B goal, but I was okay with that. I also knew a PR was well within reach and nothing was going to stop me now.

The final turn-around was at 33K and many volunteers and spectators pointed out that we were “On the way home!” It was a straight stretch back into the city toward the finish line. I saw hubby one more time around 34K where he told me he’d see me at the finish. This was it! Time to leave it all on the road.

I was undoubtedly tired, but not compared to last year. I had completed training runs feeling like this, so I knew I had it in the bag. I just kept running, counting down the kilometres one at a time and knowing that each one was bringing me closer to the big finish.

The sun decided to come out, which was not a welcome surprise, but I wasn’t letting it get to me. It didn’t matter what happened now. I was almost finished!

35K split: 3:39

It was getting more and more tempting to walk, but I stuck to the 36, 38 and 40K aid stations where I was guzzling water and Gatorade, and dumping water on my head.

At about 39K, I spotted coach up ahead running with one of the guys from my group. They were probably 100 metres ahead of me and it took everything in me to catch up. I definitely didn’t have much of a sprint in me, so I called his name a couple times until he heard me and slowed so I could catch up. I was so happy to find some familiar faces. Coach chatted away and kept me distracted, encouraging me to just keep going. As we passed the 40K marker, he reminded me to pose for a photographer and we celebrated being “into the 40’s!”

Moments later I spotted some others from my group, and one of the ladies jumped in to run with me. She offered to carry my handheld and did a great job of distracting me from how exhausted I was. She stuck with me until the final turn toward the finish line where she sent me on my way for the big finish.

They had signs from 800m to go. It’s amazing how long 800 metres can seem! The crowds were crazy and I was flooded with emotions as it finally sunk in that I was seriously almost there. I got to see Kenny again as well as Marky Mark, which was awesome.

Pretty soon I saw hubby as well as Sarah and her hubby who screamed my name. I waved to everyone and tried to look good as I crossed the line. I found out later that there was a live feed of the finish available online and many people got to see my cross the line. Apparently, it did look good. :)

I did it!

Official time: 4:33:15
Chip time: 4:26:02
6:18/KM = 10:08/mi
Overall: 1841/2918
Gender: 543/1089
F25-29: 81/148

In many ways, completing my second marathon was even more satisfying than my first. I achieved a 16 minute PR and felt way stronger from beginning to end. There was never a moment where I felt like I hit the wall. Yes, I gradually tired, which is to be expected after 4+ hours of running. But this time, I kept running and didn’t once consider stopping.

Since my half marathon split was identical to my first marathon, I ran the second half 16 minutes faster than I did last time AND felt better doing it. This is ultimately what I was hoping to achieve with my Marathon Redemption.


It was amazing to meet up with all of my friends and family after the race, many who had run themselves and others who had just come out for support. There are no words to describe how good it felt to have so many people rooting for me, both in person and from afar.

After hobbling to the washroom to change into fresh clothes, we took some photos and headed out for a yummy lunch. Last year all I wanted to do was go home and crash after my race and could barely eat all day. I think this is another testament to how much better I was able to handle the distance this time around.

I’m definitely stiff today and pretty much everything hurts, but I embrace the pain as a constant reminder of what I accomplished yesterday.


More Photos


Lindsay said...

hooray! congrats again marlene :) awesome race report and even better job running it! that 2nd half improvement from last time is huge! very cool to see and i can only imagine how elated you are. soak it in and rest up - you definitely deserve it!

I Run for Fun said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Great race and an awesome report. Killer PR too! You were so strong and ran a beautiful race.

Jen Feeny said...

I'm not gonna lie... I'm crying at my desk right now. I'm so happy for you! CONGRATS GIRL! I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DO IT!!!
Redemption is yours and you look good in it!

Marci said...

Wow!! I really enjoyed reading that!! You did so great Marlene, and what a strong race you ran!! Congrats again!

Aron said...

CONGRATSSSSSSS!!! you did soooo amazing and redemption was definitely yours!!! all your hard training paid off. now definitely embrace the pain :) just a reminder of how awesome you did yesterday! yayyyyy so happy for you!

IzzyBubbles said...

CONGRATULATIONS!! You are awesome and a true inspiration. I'm so happy for you!!! It sounds like you had an amazing race and I'm so glad it seems like you enjoyed it a lot more than you did your first marathon. Well done! I hope I can say the same about my attempt at marathon redemption next April! :)

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

AMAZING!! I felt like I was there with you every step...great great race report. I want to join a running group after reading this post, the support and teamwork would be WONDERFUL.

CONGRATS!! 16 minutes is a huge chunk of time... WOWZERS!! I bet the pictures are GREAT!!

EndorphinBuzz said...

Congrats Marlene. I knew you would prevail!!! I like the report and you convinced me to seek my own redemption!

They really ought to stagger the starts and let the marathoners go first. It would make for a fuller finish too with both marathoners and half finishing together.

Anonymous said...

i just got such goosebumps from reading that. You are incredible- I am so proud of you, girl. You inspire me to train so hard.

Jess said...

Great report and congrats again! You ran an awesome marathon! When's the next one? :)

ShoreTurtle said...

Great race report. You definitely ran a smart race. You should feel great about running 16 minutes faster than last year in the second half. That shows how much stronger your are. Congrats!

Mark said...

A wonderful race report! And I am so happy for you, Marlene. You worked so hard and you so deserve this awesome PR!! Well done, my friend, redemption!!! Congratulations!!:)

Denise said...

ROCK STAR!!! I'm sooo proud of you!! You did amazing. You finished so strong, which says so much about you and your training. Way to go!! Can't wait to see the pics.

Mel-2nd Chances said...

looking forward to the pics!! Sorry i couldn't make it down there to cheer you in person, but I was cheering you on at home! 16 min PR is huge!! You're awesome :)

Road Warrior said...

Congratulations, Marlene. You certainly hit "redemption" status. I think the fact that you were so much more lucid and together this year is an indication of how much better trained you were.

Looking forward to seeing the pics!

Irish Cream said...

Congrats again, Marlene! Seriously, I am SO proud of you, girl! As everyone else has said, a 16 minute improvement in the second half is just HUGE! That just proves how smart and strong of a race you ran! OOOh, I am SO inspired by you! You're awesome!

Marky Mark said...

Great job on a humid day and it's very impressive that you shaved all that time off the second half. Clearly you're much stronger. It also tells me that you would have had an easier first half with a separate start for the full, like they have in other races including Toronto and Hamilton.

I've also participated in Scotia each of the last three years and for a full I like that it comes first, which allows you to defer if you're sick or the weather doesn't cooperate. But in a way it isn't the ideal race for a full. Also, I wonder if they can get rid of the port area and add more Queen.

Congrats again!

Marathonman101108 said...

GREAT race and a great race report! Congrats on smashing your previous, 16 minutes!!

Badgergirl said...

16 minutes? That's a lot of minutes to shave off! Congrats on a great race! Looking forward to seeing pics!

No Longer Using said...

GREAT RECAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you are SO STRONG. both the race and how you PRed and ran and felt and afterward. i enjoyed how you included the advice your coach gave you. i bookmark things like that for myself, i repeat words of wisdom in my head and they really help!!!!

CONGRATS AGAIN! pics...!!!

Boris T said...

Congrats on the PR and by 16min. Also looks like you were comfortable at that pace you had. getting to the 30k mark only one min slower then your 30k previous time is a great indicator of where your fitness is at.

yumke said...

Great race report and congrats! I know we don't like to blame weather too much, but I do think it always has an impact when you're dealing with warm and humid conditions. Can't wait to hear about what's next!

Erika said...

Way to go!!! Great race and wonderful race report! You rock!

MCM Mama

Jenn said...

i was there at the 6km mark (and 18km for the halfers) with a sign that said "You Kick Assphalt" - totally missed you though!

Felice Devine said...

Congrats, congrats, congrats! So awesome! Can't wait for the pics :-)

Jamie said...

Congrats on running a stellar race and an awesome PR! You did AWESOME! Rest up and enjoy your time off :) looking forward to the pics!

ShirleyPerly said...


Wow, a 16 minute PR is HUGE and to do so in less than ideal conditions too is a testament to how well you trained and how much fitter you are. Well done and I too look forward to seeing the pics!

Anonymous said...

!!! CONGRATS Marlene!! Wow, I don't know how you had the energy (and Memory!) to write this entire report - honestly feel like we were right there with you, running each kilometer. :)

"I had completed training runs feeling like this, so I knew I had it in the bag." - that is the mental training at it's BEST. You did all the right things, had some Amazing support (wow, what a training group!), and isn't it fun to see other bloggers?? I always get a kick out of it, like Heyyy you're a real person too! Haha i don't know, it's fun :)

I'm So so happy for you!! So, ready for the next one - Seattle in June?? ;)

Anonymous said...

Great job! Can't wait to see the pictures!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic race report. What a huge PR!!! Great job out there. Well done.

RunningLaur said...

Woo redemption. You were so much stronger this time! Amazing!

{will run for margaritas} said...

YAY!!!! CONGRATS!! You ran an awesome race and a PR!!! I bet you feel awesome! Congrats again, you deserve it after all of your hard training!!

Unknown said...

Way to knock it out of the ball park! a PR and you felt good. Redemption for sure!

Laura said...

Your race report was inspiring to me. You made it sound so easy. It seems like you felt strong the whole way. I hope that's the way I feel when I run a full marathon. Congras on an awesome PR!

RunToTheFinish said...

16 minutes that is redemption indeed. Seriously though I don't know how seeing the leaders being twice as far ahead motivates you, it totally deflates me!

Oh don't forget to stop by for some salsa to heal those legs

Heather said...

Yay, congratulations! You did such an awesome job. I loved reading your race report.

B.o.B. said...

Awesome report girl. I hope you are still basking in the PR marathon glow. You stuck to your plan and it paid off!!! Congrats again!!!

AddictedToEndorphins said...

you looked AMAZING when I saw you!:) Congrats on an awesome race. Now rest up. you deserve it.

Can't wait for the pictures

Cindy said...

WOW!CONGRATS!! a 16 minute pr is outrageously good! i'm so happy for you! it sounds like a smartly run race. good job! enjoy the post race celebrating!

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

No pictures yet.. Hmm I should go check FB maybe they are on there??

Gotta Run..... said...

holy cow.... a 16 minute PR... now that is being smart and sticking to your plan.

Can't wait to see the pics!!


X-Country2 said...

I was SO looking forward to reading this. CONGRATS!!

Ashley said...

NICE WORK!!!!! Can't wait to see the pics!!! :)

Lisa said...

Congratulations! Way to go staying strong all the way to the finish!

N.D. said...

Yay! great job!! :)

J said...

Great job Marlene! You did fantastic and are such an inspiration to me! Congrats on your second marathon and the 16 minute PR! I felt like i was there at the marathon with you while reading this! Can't wait to see the pictures!

macnic said...

AMAZING! You are such a super star! I am so happy to read your wonderful report and hear about your PR! Way to go!

Nicole said...

Congrats Marlene! I'm so happy for you! I loved the race report, I really felt like I was there with you! I can only *hope* to feel as great as you. True inspiration and a lot of hardwork that paid off!!

Unknown said...

Congratulations!! What an accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Your race report is very inspiring - I felt like I was there. Redemption...yes, I think you can check that off your list. :)

Laurel said...

Woooooo!!! Awesome job and GREAT report. I felt like I was there running it with you :) All your hard work paid off! Enjoy your rest and I can't wait to see the pictures.

joyRuN said...



Excellent race report. Glad to hear the handheld worked out for you throughout the marathon too.

Being Robinson said...

ohhh goodness. i wanted to read this all fully and carefully so i hadn't gotten to it yet this week. but AMAZING! yaya, it gave me chills and made me cry a little. you are awesome. good for you, it gives me hope for my next marathon and redemption. i can't handle humidity either, it is evil! congrats, you did so great!

Robin said...

Congratulations! Great race report.

Dori said...

Marlene, congratulations on your fabulous marathon! This was a great race report. A 16 minute PR is HUGE! :-)

I made a mental note to make sure to bring my iPod to New York. Thanks for the tip.

Yooky said...

congrats on a GREAT race!! i found your blog by chance and absolutely loved reading about your latest experience...definitely motivating for a 1st time marathoner like myself!

Runner Leana said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to read your race report! Congratulations on a very well executed race!! I'm so glad you got your redemption Marlene. With all the hard work you put in you definitely earned it. I'm so proud of you! Now what's next? :)

Unknown said...

I'm sorry I'm just now reading this, but a HUGE congratulations!! This report was so fun to read, I felt like I was right there with you. Way to go, you did so great, nice PR!!