On Sunday 10 April 2016, I completed my third marathon. I was not going to run the marathon this year, after running my first marathon one year ago (Canberra), as well as the Melbourne Marathon in Oct 15. I was not sure if I would run ‘a full’ again, not because I did not enjoy the challenge of the 42.2km, but as a full-time working mum (with a beautiful 5 year old son), a hubby that works long hours, and in the process of building a new house, just thinking about the commitment and training required to make the start line was just a little daunting and overwhelming… But for me running is my therapy – it is ‘me time’, time to improve my physical fitness, and time to build my mental strength.
I have always been the ‘sporty type’, playing state hockey as a junior and generally keeping fit, but I had never run ‘a race’ until a few years ago. It was a life-changing event that started my running journey. A little over 4 years ago, with a gorgeous 14 month old (bias mum), I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I was 34 years old at the time, and I was about to embark on the biggest challenge of my life. After completing treatment – surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, I started running – firstly to get my fitness back, and secondly to counteract the side-effects of hormone therapy (which I still struggle with to this day). So my first ‘race’ was to run for a cause – the 12km City to Bay (Adelaide) FunRun in Sep 13 (8 months after finishing treatment), where I raised over $3000 for the Breast Cancer Network of Australia. Inspired by the generosity and support from my family and friends, my pleasure of running took off! A 14km event was followed by a series of half marathons, and finally a full marathon (or three).
In the lead up to this years Canberra marathon, I started running with an amazing group of local runners (a number of RMAers, plus hubbies, and some other friends). For many, this was going to be their first half or full marathon, and the thought of supporting and helping others to achieve their running goals was something I wanted to be part of, and of course my competitive nature meant I had a goal in mind too. By far, this was the most enjoyable build up to an event I have been part of, and before I knew it, race day was here!
After a relatively good night sleep (surprising given my nervousness the day before), I was up at 4:30am, feeling good, and going though my pre-race routine. It was a spectacular Canberra morning, a little crisp (hinting at the Canberra winter around the corner), no wind, and promising to give us some sunshine in an hour or so time. I arrived nice and early to ensure I had time for at least 3 circuits of the toilets (I did not want an unexpected mid-race stop), met up with some RMA girls, and my other running friends, where we chatted with nervous excitement and took a moment to reflect on our journey to reach the start line (an achievement in itself!). The mandatory pre-race photo, a quick check that my Garmin had located a satellite, an adjustment of my hydration belt, and before I knew it I was waiting for starters gun…
BANG! We were on our way. The first few kms took us around Parliament House and many of Canberra’s iconic (if not, bureaucratic) buildings. In a strange way, the Canberra marathon (and other Australian Running Festival events) is like parliament house – an example of democracy, where everyone who participates is as important as the elites who win. It is a friendly and inclusive event and one of my favorites!
My strategy was simple for this one, I was aiming for a sub 4:15, so I started out with the 4 hour pacers in sight, accepting that they would slowly move away from me as the race went on, but the challenge was to stay in front of the 4:15 pacer! Through 1-10km I was feeling good, on pace, enjoying the atmosphere, and waving to familiar faces cheering me from the side. I had decided not to run with my friends, as this was ‘me time’ and I was determined to run my own race.
As I ran over Kings Bridge towards Russell, I reflected on my many lunch time and Sunday morning training runs around Lake Burley Griffin, and felt confident I had done enough training to achieve my goal. Through 12-16km I felt good and was settling in. Towards 17km I looked up and saw my hubby and 5 year old son Max on the side. Max was shouting “Go Mum! Good job Mum!” It was such a boost, but I was not expecting to see them so soon, and I felt some tears welling up, thank goodness you keep moving in a race and I reigned in my emotions.
I saw them again at 21km (the original plan), and Max handed me two new water bottles for my hydration belt. A quick hello as a grabbed them and ran past, and I continued on my way. I was still in sight of the 4 hour pacer and things were going to plan. But as I ran the Black Mountain Peninsular, out and back loop, I suddenly remembered how deceptively hilly the Canberra Marathon is. I was starting to feel tired and I had a LONG way to go! I had a mini moment of panic, and decided it was time for another gel and my music. This helped and I regained my composer and rhythm.
At 26km I saw a friend up ahead, he was walking so I ran up to him and encouraged him to run with me. It worked and he stayed with me of another few kms before dropping back again (he told me later he was thinking of a DNF prior to me seeing him, and although not his greatest day out, he finished – that made me proud).
Between 28-34km it was hilly and hard, my legs were hurting and the 4 hour pacer had slipped out of view. My head was playing tricks on me, and I starting to question if I would get to the end still running. I was surprised to pass another two friends that were really struggling, and in a strange way that gave me a boost that I was ok and just need some mental toughness to kick in. This was helped again by seeing my hubby and son at the 34km and 37km turn point – Max handed me new water bottles at 37km and although hurting and knew I could finish!
My pace had now dropped by an extra 30sec per km, and as I pasted the 40km mark the 4:15 pacer ran up beside me… This was it, head down, grit teeth and achieve my goal. The cheering from the crowd gave me a boost as I ran up King Edward Terrace. As I ran towards the finish line, I was in front of the 4:15 pacer, and I saw my hubby and Max. I shouted out to Max “run with me Max” and with that he ran onto the course, held my hand, and we ran over the finish line together – a very special moment I cherish forever – what running mums is all about! (oh, and I achieved my goal and a PB, 4:13:32).