I’ve never been what I would consider a real runner, so sitting here writing a race recap after completing my second marathon is still quite surreal.

In high school you would only ever find me participating in the 100m run on sports day because that was compulsory for everyone to do. Even then I always tried to get in the last heat to ensure no one was actually “racing”.

Obviously something has since changed…

Fast forward a number of years and I found myself happily married with two kids, the youngest of which was 3months old and I was looking for the best way to regain my pre-children fitness. I had engaged in the act of going for sporadic runs over the years – 3-5km here and there with absolutely no consistency, no idea about pace and definitely no goals. During my last pregnancy my husband had purchased a rather expensive treadmill for our house and for reasons that I cant entirely recall I decided to start using it as a means to getting fit. Long story short I started running further, signed up for Parkrun and fell in love with running – it made me feel strong and my competitive streak was being engaged as I constantly tried to improve but without the pressure of having to “win races”.

One thing led to another and after a surprising finishing time of 56:07 in my first ever 10km event about one month later I was hooked. Then a friend added me to the RMA group and suddenly I was inspired. I toyed with the idea of running further and it seemed logical that the next step was a half marathon. Before I even got to my first half marathon I found myself also signing up to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, because, why not??? I had 6months to train so I got myself a program and got started.

The training was intense – lots of hours of running that I was trying to slot in and around a busy medical career, a husband who is also a doctor, two young children and still trying to find time to eat and sleep. But, I honestly enjoyed it! Watching my paces improve, feeling stronger on the long runs instead of struggling and meeting so many amazing women who were striving for equally challenging goals.

I got through the training relatively unscathed – no major injuries or set backs and on the morning of GCAM I was ready. I’d tapered well, I felt strong and set myself a huge goal of doing my first marathon in sub-4hrs. Walking to the start line I noted a pain in my outer abdominal muscles that id never had before – it was like a stitch but much more intense and seemed to radiate out to my whole abdomen. I put it down to nerves, figured it would go away and started the race. Well, the pain didn’t go away. In fact, it only got worse! I managed to stay on pace for the first 2hours but was in tears and had to admit to my very stubborn inner voice that if I didn’t slow down I would end up having to pull out, and then there would be no crossing the finish line and no medal to commemorate those 6months of sacrifice.

So, I admitted defeat and slowed down. And slowed down some more, and then found myself doing a walk/shuffle routine whilst trying to calculate if this 42.2km would ever actually end. Eventually, with the most amazing support from my husband, the RMA community and one lady in particular who hobbled 10km with me I made it to the finish shute vowing to never ever attempt that again. I faked some smiles and celebratory hand waves so I would get some decent pics (I had preordered them so needed to make sure at least a few were worthy of the cost). I crossed the line in 4:53 and was absolutely gutted. I cried all afternoon and wanted to just erase the whole experience.

The very next day, still feeling sorry for myself, and still dealing with this ongoing abdominal pain my husband suggested I should try to run another marathon. He knew I was bitterly disappointed but I honestly wasn’t sure I was prepared to go through that experience again. I mentioned that the Brisbane Marathon was only 4weeks away and if I was to contemplate another one, it would make sense to just back it up whilst I was still technically race fit. However, in that 4weeks I had 3 trips booked including an overseas wedding and didn’t see how I could possibly log enough kilometres to maintain my fitness. Fortunately for me, my stubborn side won out and I knew I would just have to make the time to keep up some level of training.

I still had abdominal pain for 2weeks after GCAM but after scans and tests excluded anything needing treatment, and when it was no longer affecting my running I bit the bullet and registered for the Brisbane Marathon. Unlike GCAM who I told everyone about, I kept this relatively quiet as I was afraid of another disappointment.

The morning of the Brisbane Marathon was very different – I wasn’t nervous or even particularly excited. I had set the goal of 4:15 as I knew it was a much tougher course than GCAM and I wanted to enjoy the experience instead of fixating on the numbers on the screen of my Garmin. The atmosphere was completely different as well once I was standing waiting to start – there was a calm in the air and it just felt like I was going out for another Sunday long run.

The run itself was amazing and I was smiling almost the entire way. Despite some very narrow points on course that led to bottlenecking and slowed paces, and despite the numerous hills and elevation points I managed to average 4hr pace for almost 30km. The last 12km however were a bit tough – particularly around the 35km mark when I was convinced I had a hole in my left shoe as there was a collection of rocks accumulating under my foot and making me subsequently compensate with unbalanced strides and trying to avoid any prolonged pressure on my left foot.

I made it through the finish line in 4:09 and was absolutely thrilled. Id finished what I had set out to do – complete a marathon and enjoy the experience. After quickly grabbing my medal, a few obligatory selfies and a powerade I made my way over to the RMA tent for a glorious massage. I took my shoe off to discover there was no hole, but instead a sachet of silica gel balls (the ones that come in all new shoe boxes) had exploded and that was what I had run the last 7km on. I blame my 17month old – the sachet hadn’t been there in the previous 700km I’d run in those shoes…

So, to wrap it up (and because I love dotpoints and lists) here is what I have learnt

  1. If you are determined, and willing to put in the hard work, you can run a marathon and it can be enjoyable
  2. Not all runs go to plan. Every runner will have bad days. How you deal with that is what will determine your success or failure
  3. It takes a village to be a marathoner – surround yourself with people who understand your passion and who will motivate you
  4. People who say “I’m never running another marathon in my life” might mean it at the time, but they may also back it up 4weeks later and do a 44minPB
  5. Always always always check your shoes are empty before you put them on – running on “rocks” for the last 7km of a marathon is rather unpleasant!

Cindy Aubrey