I started running in January last year when my daughter was 5 months old. I’d had gestational diabetes during pregnancy and was warned to stay active if I didn’t want to end up with Type 2. Inspired by two of my sisters, I decided to try running. It was ideal as I could literally start exercising the second I left the door (well, as soon as my Garmin had located a satellite!).

After a few months, I found myself being talked into completing the Asics half marathon at the Gold Coast in July. I did it and loved it.

By the end of the year I made the decision to train for a marathon and chose Canberra because I’d have the support of my sisters who live there. I wasn’t sure if I could really do this but downloaded a 19 week training program and got to it. I had the company of some lovely running mums in my local area that I had met through RMA. My training mostly went to plan. I found myself skipping a few runs here and there if I was sick or sleep deprived, or just otherwise not feeling it (as anyone with a toddler will understand).

The longest training run on my program was 32km three weeks out from race day. I signed up to the Brisbane Twilight half marathon and planned to tack on 11km beforehand. The run was awful. I started just after 3pm, the hottest part of the day. I reached the half marathon start dehydrated and with 30 minutes to kill. Starting the half marathon, my legs felt like lead. I wanted to quit after the first 5km but just told myself to take it slowly and get it done. And it was slow. By the end my body ached and my confidence was shattered. That run gave me mental toughness however, and I had to focus on that to even attempt the marathon.

Marathon day! The day started early with coffee and toast. I was nervous but kept telling myself that this is just another run and I had trained hard to be here. My sisters and I drove in to the event. We located the well-hidden bathrooms and lined up, where we met and chatted with another RMA, Donna, who’d be running the marathon.

I lined up. Posed for the obligatory start line photos, and was off.

From the very start, I had in my mind that I needed to be in the moment, appreciating what I was achieving and enjoying my surroundings.

Conditions were cool—a huge relief after all the training in humid Brisbane I’d done. The course was gorgeous, passing some Canberra landmarks before circling Lake Burley Griffin. It was far from the “virtually flat” I was expecting though. I’d describe it more as rolling hills!

I was wary of not going out too fast and took the first 5-6km slowly with the mantra “this is my run, this is my run”. After getting in to a groove I felt fantastic. I had my hydration vest on with a litre of Gatorade and didn’t need the drink stations for the first half, apart for some water stops after taking a gel. I saw my sister waiting for me at the 17km mark and then again at 21km. At this stage I was feeling amazing, running at about 6 minutes per km. I even yelled to her as I passed “I feel great, I don’t know if I’m going too fast?”… Well, I can now tell you that the answer to that question in the first three quarters of a marathon is always yes!

By 33km I really started feeling it and slowed down quite a bit. I put my ear phones in and actually laughed out loud when Salt-N-Pepa’s Push It started playing. Things were starting to hurt and I now know why people say the race begins after 30km.

Somewhere after the 38km mark as I was running up (yet another) hill, my right hip clicked and I felt a pain which made me stop and walk. As soon as I did, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. I could now barely walk, let alone run. I limped along for about half a kilometre before forcing myself to start jogging. Weirdly, the pain became bearable once I got moving.

I pushed on and took out my earphones as spectators were starting to gather along the course. Robert de Castella was watching at the 40km mark. He spoke a few words of encouragement and I gave him a thumbs up. By this stage I was just telling myself to keep going as I had nearly done it.

My other sister who had completed the half was waiting for me close to the finish and said she’d run with me to the end. That set me off and I was in tears. We rounded into the finish chute and I was so happy to have done it. It was a great feeling, which continues now.

To anyone who is thinking of running a marathon, or any race that they think is beyond them, give it a go. You will gain so much from it and will most likely surprise yourself.