Vancouver Marathon – 4:03:23 – So Close, Yet So Far Away

Sub 4 or cry didn’t turn out exactly how I hoped (although I did spend the last eight miles wanting to cry), but I can’t complain with a 17.5 minute PR.

Warning – this is a long one! Make sure you’re sitting somewhere comfortable!

We got to Vancouver Saturday afternoon and went to the expo to pick up our race packets. After a quick weave through the expo, we headed to the hotel to check in. I was surprisingly calm and relaxed, and the whole thing felt so surreal. Despite how much hard training and time I devoted to this race, I couldn’t believe I was about to run 26.2 miles the next day. I felt like I hadn’t run in a hundred years, even though I ran 20 miles two weeks prior and PR’d at my 5k the week before. It was a weird, disconcerting feeling.

Run Van!

We went to Thai food for dinner, and John and I watched Steve Prefontaine before going to bed. Of course, the nerves kicked once it was bedtime. My mind was racing with thoughts like:

Omg I’m running a marathon tomorrow? Holy crap! How the heck am I supposed to run that far? Is my alarm set? What if I don’t wake up???

Pretty normal marathon eve race jitters. I didn’t think too much of it. After a restless night of sleep, I woke up at 5 a.m., a few minutes before my alarm went off. It was go time.

I got out of bed and got my rice cooking. Quitting gluten threw a monkey wrench in my pre-run fuel, and white rice was the best thing I could think of to eat. We didn’t have a microwave or fridge in our hotel room, so I brought my handy dandy rice cooker to make fresh rice in the morning. It’s totally normal to travel with your rice cooker, right?

After eating as much as possible (nerves make it tough to eat), it was time to head to the start.

We got to the race a little after 7 a.m., early enough to see the half marathoners start. There were three times as many half marathoners as marathoners, so it was awesome to see them start. It definitely pumped us up!

We did the obligatory porta pottie stops and anxiously waited for the race to start. The time waiting for a marathon to start is so brutal; I was so anxious and wanted to start running!

There was a corral start, which was great because the start wasn’t crowded and we were surrounded by other people running a similar pace, so there was limited weaving. We spent the first few miles finding our pace and getting in a groove. There were rolling hills and declines, so it was a little tough to find our pace. Dad and I both thought our legs felt good, but our breathing was a little off. After a few miles, my breathing settled down.

Mile 1 – 9:11
Mile 2 – 8:35
Mile 3 -8:50
Mile 4 – 8:35
Mile 5 – 8:50

I spent the first miles saying “Dad, we’re going too fast.” To which he responded “OK, just keep saying that. We’ll slow down.” And then neither one of us would slow down…hmm honestly, it was tough to find our pace and keep it at 9. That is, until we came to the monster hill at mile 6. I knew there was a hill around the 10k point, but I didn’t realize it was going to be this long or steep. We had a little bit of a time cushion going into the hill, but the hill ate most of it up.

Mile 6 – 9:34
Mile 7 – 9:33
Mile 8 – 8:58
Mile 9 – 8:52
Mile 10 – 8:54

My feet started hurting around mile 10. I was annoyed that they already felt achy and sore, but I tried to ignore it.

Mile 11 – 8:51
Mile 12 -8:43
Mile 13 – 8:46

According to my watch, we crossed the halfway point at 1:57:xx, but we didn’t make it to the course 13.1 until 1:58.  I knew we had already run the course .1 long, and I anticipated that we’d pick up another .1 in the second half. Poo. The course had a lot of turns, so it was tough to run the tangents.

After crossing the halfway point, I looked over at Dad and he did not look good. He said we should walk and take a GU, but I reminded him that we had just eaten a GU a mile ago. I kept my pace and ran ahead but kept looking back to make sure he was there. After about a mile of this, I looked back and Dad said, “Run your race.” So I looked ahead and ran my race. My feet hurt, but I felt good otherwise.

We came to a hill around mile 14, and all I could think was Eff. Another hill? You’re killing me, Vancouver!

I brought my iPod with me in case I needed it in the later miles. I wanted to wait until mile 20, but I couldn’t wait anymore. I was running alone and the hill was breaking my spirit. Thankfully, once I popped in my ear buds and the sound of Katy Perry drowned out my breathing, my pace dropped and my mood elevated.

Mile 14 – 9:13
Mile 15 – 9:09
Mile 16 – 8:53

At mile 16, I told myself that I was strong and I was going to do this. I had a pretty good cushion and felt good about my race so far. Only three miles until I saw John and only 10 miles until the finish line.

Mile 17 – 8:56
Mile 18 – 9:23

There was a slight hill running over the Burrard Bridge. I ran over this bridge twice last year and don’t remember it being so horrible. But at this point in the race, it felt brutal and hard. I knew John was going to be at the end of the bridge, so I tried to keep running at my pace. I saw John at the end of the bridge and that boosted my spirit a little. I was still on pace for sub 4 and felt good about that, but I knew I was entering the really tough part and I was getting more and more tired.

Burrard Bridge

Mile 19 – 9:16
Mile 20 – 9:23

It was getting warm, so I started pouring a little water down my back at each water station. I was becoming a little delirious, so the cold water kinda shocked me back to reality. I was in the last 10k, the hardest part of the marathon. I told myself to hold onto a 9:20 pace. I had enough of a cushion that 9:20 pace should be enough (not sure if that mathematically works out, but I was too tired for math at this point).

Mile 21 – 9:32

I read in a blog that one way to distract yourself in the final 10k of a marathon is to dedicate each mile to a mantra or reason why you will meet your goal. I tried doing this, and my first idea was to think of all the things that are harder than a marathon. My first thought was that an Ironman is way harder than marathon. Well at least I’m not doing an Ironman. That’s super hard!  But then I couldn’t think of anything else that was harder or more painful than a marathon. In that moment, running a marathon was the second hardest thing in the entire world, and I was right in the middle of it. Ha, I’m such a drama queen!

I was so tired and this mantra depressed me. At this point, my situation felt desperate. I still had so much farther to go, and I just wanted to curl up on the side of the street and cry.

Mile 22 – 9:43

My cushion was gone at this point. I knew a sub 4 probably wasn’t going to happen, but I could get the sub 4:10 and a big PR. I walked through every water station, and I took a few walk breaks in the middle of miles. My feet were throbbing, my left leg felt like lead, and I was mentally exhausted.

We were running on the seawall at this point. The seawall is gorgeous, and in fact, the last 10 miles of the course were really pretty along the water. I tried a few times to look up and appreciate it, but I didn’t have the energy. I had such tunnel vision that I could have been in the middle of Saudi Arabia and wouldn’t have known any better.

Although the seawall is beautiful, it started pissing me off toward the end. It is a curvy trail and was impossible to run the tangents, so I knew I was picking up more distance on the course. You can also see pretty far ahead, and it was discouraging to see how much farther I had to go. All I could think was Get me off this damn Seawall!!!

Mile 23 – 9:33

Once I hit 23.1, I thought only 5k to go! I willed myself to keep moving and not to start sobbing. I was low on energy and ate extra GU, but I was worried about upsetting my stomach. My body was in a delicate state, and I was worried about doing anything to upset it further.

Mile 24 – 9:51
Mile 25 – 9:47

Around mile 25, “Shake it Out” played on my iPod, and the line “It’s always darkest before the dawn” really struck me. Florence must be a marathoner, because things were feeling pretty dark. But I knew my dawn was coming — I just needed to keep pushing forward, keep shaking it out.

Part of mile 25-26 was on an incline. I knew this going into the run, but honestly, how mean-spirited is it to put an incline at the end of the marathon?

Mile 26 – 10:20

Boo, I almost made it the entire race without any 10 minute miles.

Last .51 – 8:21

I have no idea how I managed to pick up the pace. I took out my ear buds and tried to soak it in, but I wanted it to be over. I somehow got a kick and was able to “sprint” it into the finish.

The most beautiful sight I have ever seen

I was slightly delirious when I crossed the finish line and kinda stood there a little past the finish line. I wanted to let out everything I had been holding in for the last eight miles; I wanted to cry out of pain and happiness that it was over. Instead, a volunteer touched my shoulder, and I immediately told him I was fine (one of my goals for the race was to not end up in the medical tent). And he said that I couldn’t stand there because I was blocking the way.

I hobbled over to get my medal and tried to find somewhere to sit. I know sitting is terrible after a marathon and it’s better to walk around, but I couldn’t do it. I needed to sit down and try to process everything.

I was thankful it was over, but I was disappointed that I hadn’t held it together a little better toward the end. I was worried about Dad. I wanted John to find me so I could drink my muscle milk and tell him how hard that was. Dad finished five minutes after me, and I was really proud of him for maintaining his pace as well as he did after feeling so tired at the halfway point.

It was his 20th marathon. That’s a lot of marathons!

I laughed out loud when I saw this one. John made me take off my hat for this picture, and my hair says it all. I was FRAZZLED!

My third marathon is now done. I’m incredibly proud of how I approached my training, how hard I pushed myself, and how dedicated I was to this goal. I shaved almost 18 minutes off my PR, which is HUGE. I found myself as a runner, and I learned that I can be more than a “middle of the pack” runner. I learned that I want to excel in this sport and that a BQ is possible if I work my butt off.

I’m really proud of this race and happy that I’m now 18 minutes closer to my BQ goal. But this race left me feeling hungry. I know I’m better than a 4:03 marathoner, and I know that I’m capable of sub 4 and better. I’m not committing to another marathon for a couple more months, but I have a feeling marathon #4 will happen sooner rather than later.  And I will break 4 hours in marathon #4.

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4 thoughts on “Vancouver Marathon – 4:03:23 – So Close, Yet So Far Away

  1. Hi Megan, saw your post on the BMO FB page. Congrats on a great race and PR! My splits were practically identical to yours- 1:57 at half and I had the sub 3 in the bag until mile 22 or so. Damn that seawall! I finished in 4:04. Still very happy though, but sure leaves more to be desired! Congrats again!

  2. Thanks, Jenny! I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get my sub 4, but I’m going to use it as motivation to work even harder in my next training cycle.

    Congratulations to you! Hope you get your sub 4 at the next marathon!

  3. Hello! I came across your page through Ali on the Run. I ran the BMO Vancouver Mary this year in May and it was WARM! It was my first marathon. I trained in Ohio all winter so, 60+ degree weather and no cloud coverage was pretty tough. I feel like my experience was identical to yours, the bottoms of my feet started killing my right after the halfway point, something that never happened in training! Great experience though, I managed to finish in 4:12, although I delirilosuly thought I could do right around 4 hours. What made you decide to do Vancouver?

    • Congrats on finishing your first marathon!

      Vancouver was my first marathon in 2011, and I picked it mostly for timing reasons. I wanted to give myself an entire year to train (I could barely run three miles when I decided to run a marathon), and it lined up perfectly with my schedule. Also, my dad had run it several times in the past, and he said it was a beautiful course. Since I ran it in 2011 and had a positive experience, it was a no-brainer to run it again in 2012.

      I’m the same way with my feet — I don’t understand it! They always start hurting right around the halfway point in a marathon, but they never hurt during my long training runs. It’s so annoying!

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