It has been five days since my last marathon. Part of me still can’t fathom that I have the determination to run a marathon but here I sit, tapping away the words that will describe the race that was my second ever marathon. My immediate thoughts, when I think back to those four hours, are muddled by the gorgeous few days that came after it. My mind is awash of images of autumn leaves on vines, the damp, sweet smell of earth, the feeling of crisp, clean air around you and moving in your lungs. The feeling of peace and happiness that comes from being in the country, outside, laughing with family and friends, meeting new people and enjoying the preciousness of time together. Big, raucous dinners, quiet moments at a cellar door as you savour a deep shiraz. My romantic dream of running the Barossa Marathon came to fruition, like many of the big reds that aided my recovery, and I am left with magical memories even if it didn’t go to plan. My regular readers will know that my training was immaculate. I followed a training plan and pretty much nailed it. All the tempos, speedwork and long runs. Plenty of km’s in the legs and all at the right kind of pace. I became really excited and laid out a plan for my splits with my coach (aka my little brother). I started to believe that I could get a sub 4 hour time. The day we left for the Barossa I kept whispering to my husband, “42.2”. I was beside myself with excitement, like a little kid waiting for a dear friend to come for a play, or waiting for that ice cream that a parent had promised. My insides were a delightful flutter of nerves and excitement and I couldn’t wait to get out there and see what I could do knowing that I could not have prepared any better. Such a culmination of events that had transpired to make everything perfect for me in the lead up to the race. I had even gone so far as to give up alcohol, significantly reduce my caffeine and cut back sugar a month before to give myself the best chance for a great race. You know what they say about the best laid plans….. And some of you know what they say about marathons. I learnt a lot last Sunday morning. I learnt a lot about myself, about my mental strength, my physical capabilities, and the truth about running a marathon. My first marathon had not prepared me at all, thank goodness my long training runs had. We were lucky enough to have absolutely perfect race conditions. Not too cold at the start and it didn’t get too warm as the race went on. What was absolutely delightful about this marathon is that I got to run most of it with my friend Jarrod Mast. Here we are at the start line with the compulsory selfie. We hung at the back of the small field. Jarrod had said that he would run a sub 4 hour with me, knowing what my pace plan was going to be. Of course we had the agreement that at any stage the other could go on their own depending on how they felt. I thought that he would be leaving me behind at some point as he is a very seasoned runner with two Comrades under his belt. Unbeknownst to me until after the race, he knew when he hit the 18k mark that he wasn’t going to be making a sub 4 hour time. Marathons are funny things. You can’t really “bank” time. The faster you go at the beginning often means the slower you go at the end, so Jarrod knowing early on that he wasn’t on pace means that he sacrificed getting the best time he could on the day in order to run with me. There are not enough words of gratitude to express how I feel – thanks mate. We ran at least 28k together until we slowly and painstakingly parted ways as I crept further forward, yelling words of encouragement at each turn around when we saw each other. Those 28ks were brilliant. We chatted, laughed, learnt more about each other. Jarrod seemed to know half the field so we gave our regards to many others on the way. We bumped into one of my travelling companions as she did the 10k and our course overlapped. Coming in for the half way mark on the two lap course was also spectacular. My family and friends were waiting to see me, my kids with their snake lollies being handed out to the crowd of runners. (One for you, one for me…). It fired me up and I was ready to tackle the second half. We had been doing well up until this point – not perfectly hitting my splits but close enough so we were only a couple of minutes behind time. Jarrod and I checked in with each other about how we were feeling. I said I felt like I had only run 12k at this time. He laughed and said he could feel all 21.1. Oh, ok. We kept cruising for a while but I could slowly feel the pace draining out of my legs. We were slowing up to 6min/km pace and we were only at the 27km mark. What was happening? Jarrod’s reply was it was likely to be heart rate. Damm it. Damm those gels that you have to take while running and all their caffeine. Perhaps I had been a bit silly to reduce my tolerance. This is when I slowly started inching away from Jarrod after a slower stop at a drink station for him. By the 33k mark I knew my time goal was slipping away from me. I text my husband to let him know I was doing it tough. He sent me a magnificent reply. “You’ve got this. No f*ing around.” Followed up with, “Not long to go. You have a lifetime to reflect. Go hard.” I decided to not let the knowledge of my missed time goal upset me and to remember why I was out there. I love running. Truly. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always fun, but it makes me feel good regardless. I took in the gorgeous scenery and smiled to myself. I was running a marathon! I really started to hurt at the 36k mark and I just thought to myself, “are you doing the best you can in this moment? Can you go any faster?” I made sure I kept doing my best in every moment. Running as fast as I could (which was pretty slow) and staying focussed on the present moment. This is the time when you realise what a marathon is truly about, for you. This is what makes it an accomplishment, a personal achievement, something to admire about yourself. That time when you do not give up, give in, or allow yourself to be swallowed up. I looked up at the autumn sky, I looked across the rows of grape vines, I felt the road beneath my feet. I filled myself up with gratitude for being able to run a marathon. I tipped my hat to all my training, those long runs in the wind and the rain, and kept on going, counting down the kilometres. I was going to get to see my family soon. The end of the course had a couple of corners and I wasn’t sure where my family and friends would be. I could see one looming in the distance and kept on plodding, getting agonisingly closer and closer to its edge. As I turned the third last corner I heard a yell, “there she is!” and saw my children frantically waving their pom poms and cheering. I could hear my husband yelling “you’ve got this”. One of my friends had his video camera going and the other was snapping shots like a crazy lady. I suddenly felt rejuvenated after kilometre after kilometre of mental push and pull. I ran to my family full of elation and encouraged my kids and their friends to run with me. The last couple of hundred metres were spectacular as I was flanked by my daughter and my friend’s daughter with my son running just behind. So nice to run a small, community marathon which meant that they could cross the finish line with me. It is a moment I will cherish forever. So, I didn’t get my time goal of 3:59:59. Who cares. I ended up with a seven minute PB of 4:10:51. I trained for and ran another marathon and I got to share that with those most precious to me.
These are the moments.