Finally taper had started and I did a couple of short 3-5k runs and one last 15k the Sunday before race day. Taper mania had also entered my head. My right heel played up and my legs felt heavy. Everyone I met looked like they had a cold. All in my head of course. A sports massage loosen up my legs.
2 days out from race day I had a bad reaction after drinking my magnesium powder. Might have been nerves. I was in agony. Bali belly 2.0. It did resolve after 24hrs and now it was the day before race day.
And the time of the month.
Yep. That is my luck.
I was so nervous to do this marathon even though I had already completed a full one in 2010, in Sydney. Back then I was young and fearless. I took on any challenge without even second guessing myself or my abilities. Of course, I didn’t do nearly as much training that I ‘should have’ nor did I respect the distance I was about to conquer. I was blissfully ignorant and went all in with a ‘I can do it attitude’. And I did make it. It wasn’t pretty and it was painful. I cruised by 30k but at 33k my legs started to cramp and forced me to stop-stretch and walk. For the remaining 9k I walked/jogged/shuffled. It actually hurt my legs more to try to walk than it did to run. Somehow I did run across the finish line at 4hrs 47mins. I swore I would NEVER do another marathon again.
Fast forward until now.
Completing another marathon has been on my ‘list of things to do’ since that race. I wanted to have an enjoyable run and I wanted to do it in 4hrs. However, I never ended up ‘committing’ to train for another full as I was ‘too busy’. This was while I was still child free, and all parents know you have at least hundred more hours in your week pre-children. It wasn’t until I became a mother in 2014 my desire to complete another marathon came back, and in 2016 I decided it was my year!
I was aiming at Gold Coast Marathon in July and had already booked in the Great Ocean road half (23k) in May. My goal was set and training commenced. I trained alone for the GOR and completely smashed my own goals finishing the 23k hilly course in 2hrs 6mins. Then after it, I fell ill with colds and flus on repeat and I missed the GC race. I was guttered but just moved my goal and adjusted the plan. I also got myself a coach to hold myself accountable. I might add that all my runs I have done during the weeks have been pram running with our 2yr old toddler and 2 dogs in tow. Often I did not get any further than 30min on these runs (anywhere between 2-5k depending on the toddlers mood). She would simply not stay still long enough in the pram. Some days we didn’t even get further than our driveway. Rain, hail or shine, I would get out there, eyes on the goal. I was determined to stay on track. This didn’t mean I was always motivated. But I had a goal so I went anyway. And I can say that I never regretted I went. For anyone who does pram-running, it is a full body workout and it makes you feel like Super woman when running solo. On the weekends I was able to run alone as my husband could look after our little girl.
Toowoomba race day.
We have family in Toowoomba so we arrived Friday night for the race on Sunday.
The whole week leading up to the race I have been so anxious and nervous about my ability to really pull this off. The marathon scared the crap out of me. I had only managed short pram runs during the weeks no longer than 5k, and my long runs on weekends. I didn’t trust that I had it in me, I just could not back myself. My horrible 34k turned 32k last long run also played with my mind. I had so much self doubt that I almost made myself sick. I had posted online to keep myself accountable but now all I could think about was all the people I would let down for not finishing this race. It was a double edge sword and I regretted posting about my training.
I woke at 03.30am on race day and felt unusually calm. I managed to sleep quite well the night before. (And that included breastfeeding our toddler and waking to pee!). I had my breakfast and got dressed.
It was a warm morning and the sun was just about to rise as we lined up for a 5.30am start. All up there were 30 people running the full marathon. Good, ‘I/ll be in the top 30’ I said to myself quoting my coach’s word. My coach had told me I had to pace myself to last the whole way and that would be the hardest part in the start. I was NOT to run any faster than 5.50 pace and try lie on 6. Start pistol went off.
EVERYONE took off in a bang. Except me. Straight away I was last man standing. I thought to myself “well this is SHIT” – and thought about speeding up too, feeling a 6k pace was ‘waaay to slow’ but I kept at it and tried to enjoy my surroundings.
After 5mins I could not see anyone in front of me. Great. I thought; “Everyone keeps telling me how it doesn’t matter if you are last. Until you are last”.
I tried to shake my negative thoughts. The Toowoomba marathon was 4 laps around the University of Southern Qld (USQ) and I knew that by lap 3 I’d be over it too. Lap 1 went pretty fast and I was on point time wise. It was a small crowd at the start/finish with a few tents and stuff, the rest of the course was empty, apart from 3 drink stations and 2 cops at a road block. Those were literally the only humans I would run past.
There was one busy street where you ran against traffic at a small incline. Then there were cows, sheep and horses. The last 3k of the loop was the loneliest and the hilliest. After 20k I was still last but by this time the half marathon had also started as well as the 10k. So for an hour between lap 2 and 3 there were actually people on the course, not many, but a few. That was nice. After 25k I passed my first marathoner – I was not last anymore. This is not a big deal, everyone is a champion in my eyes, but it did something for my ego passing someone who initially had taken off so fast at the start. Then I passed a few more runners. I could now see that my coach preserved race pace was ‘working’ for me. I still felt strong.
After the first lap when I crossed the start/finish area (at 12k) there was a RMA lady I never met in my life before who ran with me for about 1k. She asked how I was going and how I felt. She gave me a pep talk and a huge boost to keep going. This was Monique. She has been injured and wasn’t suppose to be running, but ran with me for that kilometre each time I finished one lap. I was looking forward to see her at 22k and later on at 32k. I told her at 32k that “she had no idea how much this little pep talk means to me” – I had been running basically all alone so far and finally only had one more lap to go. What a champion!
The sun was well and truly up by now and it was a scorcher of a day. It was not much shade on this course and by the last lap most shaded parts were now sunny. The wind had also picked up but it worked in my favour cooling me down.
My fuelling strategy was to take one Endura gel every 45mins and it worked out to be roughly at 8k, 16k, 24k and 32k. For the last lap I had left a small bottle of coke on the drink table. After 4 gels I just wanted to vomit. They are so thick and gluggy I was dreaming about my cold coke waiting for me!
As promised, Monique and the Coke were waiting for me as I ran past the 32k start/finish area.
Monique kept pep talking me and I asked her if she would still be there for the last lap. She said she had to leave and wouldn’t be there. I said thank you for all the positive energy she had given me and it made me so emotional that a stranger would be so nice. I tried to visualise the final lap and finish line with my husband and toddler waiting for me and I kept going.
The dreaded 33k mark was coming up and this was a mental block for me. 1, because this was where my body shut down at Sydney marathon and 2, I never managed to get pass 32k in training.
It was me and the cows under a roasting sun. I tried to not look at my watch but kept looking to keep my pace between 05.50 and 06.00. I was getting tired now. At 34k my paced slowed down to 06.07 pace. It’s not a lot but it annoyed me. I was on the long small inclined street (West street) running against traffic.
I was passing cars and some morning walkers thinking these people must think I’m nuts ‘running alone in this heat’. I was getting close to passing the 35k mark and this was right before the entrance to USQ when I pass a lady in an RMA shirt. She asked me how I was going and I think I said ‘I’m struggling a bit’. My pace was over 6.00 and it was hot, my legs felt heavy, and all I wanted to do was walk. I just wanted to walk for a bit, but had my Sydney race in my head where once I started walking I didn’t manage to start running again so that was not an option for me.
This RMA lady, who I have never met in my life quickly turned around and started running with me. She asked me how I was going and started telling me ‘You’ve got this’. She reminded me how strong I was and that I can do this’. I didn’t believe her at that point. I thought she would just run up until the USQ entrance but she kept running. I was confused. I asked her if she already run the half marathon or what she was doing. “Nope” she said. “I could see that you needed someone, so I’m going to run with you. You’ve got this”. My eyes started to water. I could not believe what she said. I was so thankful and so emotional. I wanted to cry. I cried a little. I was so lonely and I was so close to ‘give up and walk’ and here she was.
Zoe is her name. Zoe is a fellow RMA that told me she had just been here to cheer on some park runners, but she slept in so she even missed a few of her friends running, but here she was on her way home when I, a complete stranger ran past, in my RMA shirt and now she is running with me telling me I can do this. She said she will run the remaining lap. That is 7k.
She rang her husband and told him to keep her breakfast warm because she “was helping a fellow RMA who needed her”. I could not believe it! I now all the sudden had a personal cheerleader running next to me! Unbelievable!.
The flags outside the USQ has an add saying “Unleash your Fearless” – suitable statement. I tried to unleash mine. Zoe kept running and talking. She said she is doing the Blackall 100 in 2wks, running 50k. “Wow I thought, I scored myself a personal Ultra marathoner!”. She kept my mind busy from even trying to think negative thoughts. At 36k I saw my husband doing a drive by in our car. He was cheering us on thinking Zoe was in this race also. Then we turned to the ‘lonely hot corner with the last hills’.
I had completely forgot to check my watch and we now passing 37k. Less than a parkrun to go. 39k and the hills were done and we passed the last water station. I had to stop to drink and I thought ‘come on legs’ and they kept running. I kept pushing.
We passed 40k and was at the last long stretch with no shade and full of wooly sheep. My right quad did a cramp spasm for 2 seconds. I hit it with my coke bottle. I was thinking “NOT NOW legs”. I knew I might have not drank enough water for this heat. I swore loud. Another spasm hugged my quad. Then my quad and groin cramped for a second. Zoe asked if I was ok, I said “my legs are cramping”. She said “you got this”.
I was swearing and saying the F word and still doubting I had it in me. Zoe kept pep talking me saying I was strong and reminded me I can do it. I thought for myself, ‘I didn’t come this far to only come this far’. (Or maybe Zoe said it, I can’t remember now). I kept pushing, I kept digging deeper. Leg cramped on/off for a few more minutes, I kept swearing and hitting it.
Then I could see the police man up the road for the last road block, it was 1k to go when we passed him. I didn’t think I had one more kilometre in me. The wind was harsh and against us. It was like running into a storm. I kept looking at my watch. My pace was on point but it was like nothing was moving fast enough.
500m to go. I could finally see the finish area. This was honestly the longest 500m of my life. It was like I was stuck on a treadmill. FINALLY I could see my husband and our little daughter, she screamed ‘mummy!’ and I waved like a crazy person with tears in my eyes. I sped up to run through the finish Shute and Zoe shouted “Go Go Go!”. I ran past the finish line at 4hrs 11mins and 32seconds.
I did it! I made it! I smashed my personal goal!
I was so happy and overwhelmed I made it under my dream goal time (4hr.12mins.) and I was exhausted. I saw my little girl run up to me and my husband came after to congratulate me saying how proud he was. Zoe came up and I just hugged her. I told my husband about this complete random act of kindness from a complete stranger and he just said “what a legend”.
He could not be more right. The power of a community. If none of us had not been wearing the RMA shirt, I doubt that this would have ever happened. It would have been ‘just a passing comment’ and I may have not finished on time. I was struggling so hard and the universe sent me help. I am forever grateful to be a part of this great positive running community that RMA is and the spirit it promotes. I am so thankful I found it after I become a mother and was looking for support. I love what RMA stands for and how inspirational and motivational it is. It has had a huge impact on me as a person and as a runner. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you
So I have proven to myself that I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to. With some determination, dedication and support from my husband and family, and complete strangers, anything is POSSIBLE. I have unleased my Fearless. I have conquered. I am strong and I am able. I am a Running Mum.
We are RMA