"Are you ready? Do you have water? Are we sure on the game plan?."
It is funny when you talk to marathoners … and I see it all the time with the clinics that I teach at the Running Room. Every one of them has their own story on why they are completing a marathon. This is mine, which began five months ago when I became manager of the Running Room.
For those of you who know me, I am not the most organized person in the world so when the marathon clinic started, we had no instructor. Well as manager, it was my responsibility to ensure that the clinic would proceed “sans instructor”. In other words, it would be me who would lead those marathon clinic participants into their own conquests of the marathon that they chose to participate in. Deep down, I was ready to conquer another marathon, after all I hadn’t completed one in four years …
What conquest would be my choosing? I chose the Toronto Marathon 2006. I set the date and calculated back the necessary training needed to accomplish this goal. The training through the summer really tested the marathon group as they began to run longer and longer distances each with the anticipation that they were taking one step closer to accomplishing their dream.
This story is not about the training that was used to conquer the marathon, but the marathon itself …
Having arrived in Toronto on Friday, I set myself up in the hotel, and made sure that I had everything that I needed to run on Sunday. I used the hotel chair as a mannequin to make sure the clothing was going to be right for the weather. 15 degrees, what perfect running weather!
What to do in a busy city on Saturday, when you should be resting your legs … Maple Leafs game, Argonauts Game … nobody could plan their social calendar to accommodate me … HOW RUDE! Well I decided to walk around the Eaton Centre allowing my legs not to seize up and to get them some exercise … all in anticipation of the next day.
I awoke to the alarm clock, ready still not knowing how I felt about this marathon, and I believe it was this feeling that got me to the end … More on that later …
I got dressed, and took all of my suitcases down to my parent’s room. They had traveled to Toronto to watch me complete this “run”. I really wished I brought my timing chip with me. Back up to the hotel room to get the timing chip, and look I forgot my racing sunglasses … Can’t forget those …
I come down into the hotel lobby to meet my friends who will be running the race with me … Idle chit chat as we wait for the final member of our group to arrive. Are you ready? Do you have water? Are we sure on the game plan? Where is Luvy? (You must know Luvy as the only one who would be late for the get together … but this is also Luvy who the whole marathon group would wait for to ensure that she shows up so we have some entertainment as part of our long distance training runs).
The decision has been made to leave without her. Maybe we will see her at the start line, so let’s go and get on the bus … What! there is a line to get on the bus … I still haven’t be able to answer that question … How are you feeling for this “run”. The bus arrives and we get on … and are lucky enough to ride along a piece of the course known as “Hog’s Hallow” the hill that will make or break you for the marathon. We have heard about this hill all the way back in Ottawa …
We finally get to the starting area, and are fortunate to see the half marathon start. What a sight, as they all passed the starting line getting ready to run for their own accomplishments. You know running is the only sport where you can each run your own race and still be part of a group. They don’t call it “Loneliness of a long distance runner for nothing”
Time for some final stretching, during those long training runs we didn’t stretch … and time for those last minute pictures … I am really glad that I took my camera with me, as this would be the memories I wanted to retain as I would go through this event.
The race started, and as the gun was going off somebody asked me how I felt, and I still didn’t know the answer to the question.
Let’s start the marathon really easy, planning to run a easy 6:15 – 6:20 pace for the first half … Hey look there is kilometer 1 … kilometer 2 … kilometer 3 … another picture as we climb out of the valley. We then turn north on a road, and I must admit the Toronto police are doing a really good job with the crowd control …
Hey who is that up ahead, now you must realize that when you run with somebody for as long as we did training for that event, you really get to know a lot about each of your running partners. There is some information that I wouldn’t tell my closest friend, that we discuss while we are on the road. I think it is Luvy, it can’t be … wait it is … no, as if I am going to find Luvy in the middle of 1500 runners. It has to be, her coat, her camelback … it is … Off goes the iPod, and we run together … I finally get the story on why she didn’t make the hotel start, and boy was I wrong … Kilometer 10 … Kilometer 11 … keeping energy for Hog’s Hollow … Turn south onto Yonge Street, and we would be here for a while …
There are Mom and Dad, I was really glad that they made the trip down for this event; I couldn’t have done it without their support throughout this whole training. Mom consistently asking, “Is your knee alright, should you be doing this …” Yes, Mom, I love her for worrying as much as she does …
Hey there is the start line … not much further to the “Hill” … Last picture, time to be serious … alright I will be honest, I forgot to pack extra batteries … and there is the “Hill”. Don’t worry, Luvy, I will meet you at the top, I just need an extra rest, and that is the real reason why I charge up the hills in training. Unfortunately, in training everybody comes with me, so there is no resting at the top. As I charge up Hog’s Hollow, I notice something, that the Running Room philosophy of hills being flat is so true … just pretend it is flats and you will be able to get to the top without too much trouble.
At the top, I felt great … and unfortunately for Luvy I kept on going, trying to keep the momentum that I generated up the hill. Now the rumor is that my dad tried to catch me to get a second picture, but couldn’t because I was moving as quick as I was, and I don’t know if this is true, but it definitely made me feel better.
Kilometer 25 … Kilometer 27 … I had better make sure that Luvy is alright … good my parents are right up here … I will have them wait to make sure that Luvy is alright … just wait that means they won’t be at Kilometer 37 where I know that I will need them … Decisions … definitely not a good time in the middle of a marathon. Oh well, I am feeling good so let’s have them wait for Luvy and I will see them at the finish line … how strong am I.
Kilometer 30 and I have now run the furthest that I did in all of the training, the rest they say will be a mental test … Kilometer 33, where are the medics that are promised … Kilometer 35 … I am going to walk a bit, which wasn’t in the plan, but the knee is acting up a bit … Kilometer 39, time to turn on to University Avenue for the final “descent” up to Queen’s Park … Wait there it is … that is the “Finish Line” of course we can do this.
There is the entrance to Queen’s Park, now not having scouted the route as I normally do, where is the finish line, when can I start my kick, so many questions, so little distance to the finish line … Hey there is Pat from the clinic, and he says it is not much further, so now starts the final kick … and you know he is right, just around the next corner is the finish line … 4:30:14 and I cross the finish line. A perfect race except for the 15 seconds! You see my goal was to complete the marathon in under 4:30.
Well I did it, I finished Toronto 2006! I still noticed the look on some of the citizens of Toronto who happened to be at a corner, with that look on their faces saying why are you doing this. Well I will tell you Mr. Toronto Citizen … I am doing this for the friendships that you develop as each of you is out there training while living the dream of the loneliness of the long distance runner …
So what is the next target … New York 2007, Disney 2008 … Who knows but I know that the training for that marathon will also have so many memories … Time to go plan for the next one …
Bruce Moquin, Ottawa, Ontario, November 2006
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