This made its way into my inbox Saturday morning: It seemed only fitting that I read this moments before leaving for my last long training before the marathon next weekend. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s less than a week away. I just stared at the words “Single Digit Countdown” for a good minute, realizing my 16 weeks of training are just about up and that the day I’ve been working towards these past three months is actually here. Flashbacks from the Detroit Free Press Marathon start line last year, when I ran my first half marathon, started flooding my thoughts. I remember that morning, and the drive there. I was freezing and I had to pee like a racehorse. There’s a church by the start where tons of runners were huddled in anticipation – both for the race and to clear the pipes one last time before hitting the road – a weird kind of energy floating through the air. I feel like it’s so much more intense this time around. For the half, I ran the distance on my own before race day so I was sure I could do it. This time around, the longest I’ve gone is 20 miles, and that’s not without its fair share of stumbles that only add to my anxiety as race day approaches. I know I will run it, and when that last 6.2 hits I know I’ll keep pushing regardless of my state at that point in time, but the thought of getting there, the possibility of having to stop to use the bathroom and the fear of bonking has me a bit on edge. One thing that’s out of my control is the weather. After reading through the email, signing up for the fun specs like Finisher Pix posting my pictures to Facebook on my behalf during the race and learning about the runner tracking app I can leave with my parents while I’m out there doing my thing, I immediately hopped over to The Weather Network to check out the forecast. I was pleased to see this: And I’m praying, crossing fingers, knocking on wood, and doing a few rain dances before bed every night that the forecast stays true to this. Dear God, I hope I’m not jinxing it! One thing I can somewhat control is nutrition before and during the run, but what I can’t control is how my tummy decides to react. I’m kind of panicking over what I’ll eat before and what I’ll use for fuel during, because Saturday was another not-so-awesome experience with the tummy. It wasn’t an emergency situation like usual, I was able to kind of just ignore it and keep going, but around mile 7 of my 12 miler, things weren’t feeling so great. By mile 9 my stomach was kind of hurting, and there was a heaviness about it that was just uncomfortable. Then I was just plain prairie-doggin’ it, if you know what I mean (I’d apologize for the TMI, but come on, between runners is anything ever really TMI? It’s more like, been there, done that, am I right?!). I reverted back to the Clif Bloks this time, and ate 1/2 a banana with PB2 beforehand. The trouble is I don’t know if it’s that or what I’m eating the day(s) before that’s contributing to my issues. Part of me thinks I just didn’t clear the pipes entirely before heading out. Could also be the coffee. Not knowing is not good at this point, though. I’m all out of the trial and error time, I should have a clear idea of what works and what doesn’t but I don’t and it’s beyond worrisome. I figured I could always look back to my first 20 miler, the one that went off without a hitch, and see if I can come up with a plan based on that. If the marathon can be like that first 20 mile training run, well that would just be the icing on the cake! Otherwise, I rather enjoyed my last long run. It was a bit nostalgic, kind of like that feeling you get at graduation, saying goodbye to one phase of your life as you excitedly, yet anxiously, move into the next. I used the power of positive thinking and did a lot of mental staging during my run, remembering the half marathon course from last year and then projecting further, designating certain portions of my run to different points of the marathon course. At mile 2 I imagined going up the bridge, and at mile 4 I was coming out of the tunnel. Mile 6, I was splitting off from the half-marathoners and making my way to Belle Isle. Mile 8, I was crossing the bridge to Belle Isle, Mile 10 I was turning back into downtown Detroit. And when I reached my street, with 0.2 of a mile left to go, I imagined the finish and I smiled – pictures are being taken, and a picture lasts forever so I better practice my “I’M A MARATHONER” face now! I have to admit I felt better after I did all that mental prep work, but there’s still that underlying fear of ‘what if’. And there are some things that are just out of my control, no matter how much I try to prepare. The fact is, a lot is being held up to luck at this point. Speaking of luck, our bib numbers were released this past Thursday and yours truly will be marathon runner #7649! Now, if you’re not familiar with the Ontario Lotto and Gaming Corporation, which you most likely wouldn’t be unless you’re a fellow Ontarian and of gambling age, then you have no idea why these numbers would be remotely significant or have anything to do with luck. Well, there are two lotto tickets you can buy here, one called Super 7 and the other called Lotto 649. Running a marathon in and of itself is a huge gamble, but the way I even got into running this particular marathon in the first place was a bit like taking my chances with a lottery win. I went into marathon training without being registered for a marathon, and with my goal marathon having been sold out. I reached out on Facebook and by a miracle snagged myself a spot in the full marathon. It was like winning the lottery! Lady luck smiled on me some more, as I continued to train with an injury that didn’t get aggravated and allowed me to stick with training. Win again! And now, going into race day, I’m hoping I’ll feel the sunshine of luck once again on race day. Everyone’s been asking me if I have a time I want to finish in, but honestly all I want is to run the whole distance without having to stop and to maintain a consistent pace throughout. Whether that means finishing in my estimated time of 4:30-4:45 or not, as long as I run the entire thing and, I’ll be blunt here, don’t need to take a poop halfway through, I’ll be one overly-exaggerated happy camper!
Finally, since it’s Thanksgiving for us Canadians, I thought I’d take a moment to be thankful for this whole experience. So much has transpired over the past sixteen weeks that has enriched my life in so many ways and made me a better person and a better runner. I give you “A Runner’s Thanks”
A Runner’s Thanks
1. I’m thankful for my feet and each of my toes, who remained in tact even after 20 miles of being rammed up into the front of my shoe for almost 4 hours and not giving me one black toe nail, not even once!
2. I’m thankful for my legs that kept pushing forward, and for feeling light in numbness when the going got tough, so that I could get my miles in and accomplish every long run.
3. I’m thankful for my heart, without you I wouldn’t exist let alone run. Literally.
4. I’m thankful for my chiropractor, who’s re-adjustments saved me and nursed Lefty back to almost-full health, and got me back to running the way all runners strive to run: pain free. And for the back cracking, oh man how I’m thankful for a good back cracking!
5. I’m thankful for making it home in time to avoid sharting all over myself on the runs that things didn’t settle quite right in my tummy. Horrifying images of the sharting marathonor flash before my eyes and somehow my bowls just understand – DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN! And they don’t, and I make it. Thankfully.
6. I’m thankful for the run itself. Whether it’s a good one or a bad one, on the road or through the trails, an easy jaunt or tough workout, no run has been without purpose. Whether it be to make me faster or just blow off steam, I always come out better because of it. I’ve gotten to see and explore parts of my town/city I never would have known existed, I’ve met amazing people and learned a lot about myself.
7. I’m thankful for YOU. Fellow runners, readers, humans. You know, you’re pretty awesome. I’m grateful that you’ve followed along my journey, that you’ve supported me, a total stranger. I’m thankful for the running community, and how they’re literally the greatest bunch of folks around.
8. I’m thankful for all of the carbs I’m about to eat today, in particular the stuffing and apple pie. I’m going to need it for race day! LET’S EAT!!!!!!!!!
If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, I hope it’s a beautiful day with lots of food, family and fun. If it’s a regular Monday, make it a marvelous one! And if you’re tapering, like I am, try not to lose your mind, although I know it’s easier said than done.
What’s something you wish you knew before your first marathon? Or, if you could travel back in time to that day, what would you tell yourself before the race that changed your life?