Finally did the big one! I can now check Marathon off my bucket list ✓Yesterday’s Melbourne Marathon was a totally new experience, as I’d only ever completed 10k and Half Marathon race before this. But running and cycling for the past five years had me itching to push myself to that elusive 42.195km mark. I’d heard all kinds of stories about what it’s like, and Sunday I found out first-hand, finishing with a net time of 04:10:33. Today, I’m the sorest I’ve ever been, but mentally stronger than ever.
For anyone interested, I’ll go into detail…
The idea of running a marathon seemed like an insurmountable distance not all that long ago. Starting out with a short track near my house in Toronto, I worked my way up to double digits, then doubled that to 20km, eventually surpassing 30km on several occasions. Since moving to Melbourne, I’ve been participating in run clubs with people of all experience levels, including Nike Run Club from the day I arrived here. Some absolute legends!
Fast forward almost three years, and I was finally ready to do this! Going into it, my primary goal was to finish. I looked at it as if it were 4 x 10K runs with a bit extra on top (I’d discover this wasn’t quite the case). I could visualise the distance and trace nearly every step of the course in my head. My second goal was to finish in under 4 hours. A realistic objective, that meant going at a slightly slower pace than my usual – but this was an unfamiliar distance.
The lead up to the race was pure anticipation. Despite not being able to train to the extent I’d hope because of nagging IT band syndrome (runner’s knee), I’d still got my number of clicks in from biking. I felt healthy and confident, reassuring myself by recounting the episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ where Barney proves when it comes to running a marathon “You don’t train for a marathon – you just run it.”
Of the 30,000+ participants, 6000 of them were taking part in the marathon. At 7am, the sun had just come out and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky – perfect running weather! There was a sea of people awaiting the gun shot to signal the start of the race. It took about 15 mins to break free from the crowd and find the respective pacers, each wearing a large visible sign awkwardly strapped to their backs.
The first 10km I was buzzing with fresh legs and pumped up from a bangin’ playlist I’d compiled out of tracks from my all-time favourite albums-to-run-to including the likes of Todd Terje, Drake, Brian Ellis, Chromeo, Pomo, Moodymann, Omar-S, Ron Trent and Jex Opolis to name a bunch.
Reaching 21km felt like a breeze, despite not hitting that mark prior since Chicago back in May. By this time, I was settling into my run with the sun now blazing down with the ocean at the side of me. It was at the half-way point that I kicked it into high gear and tried to gain as much time as possible, even surpassing the 4hr 00 pace group I’d mostly been running with up until now.
From here, the next figure in my head was the 30km sign. It was a number I’d reached just a handful of times before, with 32km being the magic number as it was the extent of my previous running experience. Anything after that was pure uncharted territory. As I rounded up St. Kilda, the numbers ‘30’ appeared behind a giant glowing sun like some mystical desert road sign. By the time 32km rolled around I was overjoyed I’d broken new ground, but unsure what to expect from here to the finish.
Then I hit 35km. It didn’t sound so bad when my running app notified me it was only 10km to the finish line. But once I hit that dreaded ‘wall’ I’d heard about from countless distance runners, “8 kilometres remaining” felt like an eternity away. Someone had told me “It’s not until you’re well into the 30s that things get weird…” And they couldn’t have been more right. The best way I can describe this point (as someone new to this, at least) is that it’s at this point where your body and brain stop working in unison. Mentally, you’re super focused on finishing and can visualise how close you are. But physically, your body has had enough and wants to shut it down with every additional pounding stride. This was also the point in my run where my brand new wireless headphone conked out on me. No more music. Just the soundtrack of feet hitting the pavement and the ominous groans of runners passing and others behind left behind for dead. I couldn’t actually determine if more people were passing me than I was passing.
Then I crossed the Yarra River, basically hoppling over the Princes Bridge. The final destination – the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in sight. 2km to go! Then WHAM! my right hamstring seized up. I’d never truly pulled or torn a muscle before, so I thought this was it. What a cruel way to go out. I let out some profanities and winced in pain, until one of the many incredible spectators came up to me and handed me a cold Coca-Cola. He said the sugar would take to the end. Then the muscle loosened back up and I was back on my way until WHAM! now my left hamstring, the exact same thing. Again, agonising in pain wondering how I’d finish, I hoped it would go the same way as the other had. Determined to finish as close to 4hrs as possible, even though I’d run out of gas, that famous adrenaline rush runners speak so fondly about near the end of the race kicked in. And I was off! I felt like a man possessed. This was the final leg on my last legs. I turned the corner and pulled into the MCG and onto the running path, finish line in sight. As the millennial that I am, I wanted to capture the moment on my phone rather than simply crossing in a picture-perfect pose, arms outstretched.
It was over. FINALLY! The gruelling pain and agony. Now I could bask in the glory and feeling of self-accomplishment. I knew I could do it. Another thing I’d read about was the euphoria experienced after completing a marathon. This was like nothing I’d been hit with before. The amount of endorphins and adrenaline your body is producing at this point is overwhelming. Everyone is suddenly your best friend and it’s hard not to hug the person next to you or high-five that person you saw struggling alongside you.