Yesterday, I rode from White Rock down to Bellingham, WA with a couple friends. Bored of some of the local rides, two friends were heading down to Chuckanut Drive / Larabee State Park to recon a 50k trail run so we took the opportunity to do a point-to-point ride across the border. It was a great ride - lots of long stretches with wide shoulders. The last section, just south of Fairhaven, is particularly scenic as it meanders up Chuckanut Drive with gorgeous panoramic vistas over Bellingham Bay. Though rain threatened for most of the ride, sun eventually prevailed as we pulled into the parking lot for a quick change and short 5k run brick.
What struck me as I was driving home and reflecting on a very pleasant morning of training is how fun it is just to train. There is no time pressure, you take things at your own pace and just enjoy.
Fast forward to this morning, day of the 39th Vancouver marathon. I woke up at 5:30am so I could drop a friend off at the start line and sneak in an 18k run in time to watch the marathoners pass through Kits. The run was great. It was a misty but calm morning, and I drew energy from the marathon course volunteers setting up....I must say that it was also mighty fine to run down Point Grey Road and into Stanley Park absent any traffic at all!
My jaunty little run was a walk in the park and complete juxtaposition with what I would witness for the next few hours. Bogey (my sidekick marathon super-fan) and I perched ourselves at the corner of Point Grey Road and Waterloo - this is part of the out and back section for the marathoners, approx. 31.5k on the way out and 34.5k on the return. Yes, this is the "wall". That dreaded point in a marathon when the smile starts crumbling, the legs start to ache and you wish you were anywhere but running a marathon.
This is the exact same distance where, two weeks earlier, I started unraveling at Boston. At 20 miles, your body starts a rebellion. At 21.5 miles / 34.5k, it is just an all and out assault. I could see this in the faces of the passing runners - the concentration, the pain, the exhaustion, the grit and the sheer will. And I totally understood.
Bearing this in mind, if you want to be a marathon super-fan and not a super-jerk there are certain things you never, ever, EVER say to a marathoner at 34.5k without risking life and limb:
"You are almost there" 8k is not a lot, but it is an eternity in a marathon. You are NOT almost there at 34.5k. Almost there is, like, 3 steps. Anything longer than 200m is not almost there. Trust me on this.
"Looking good" Seriously, have you ever seen anyone looking good at 34.5k? And they know it. No point in buttering anyone up.
"Run faster" My favorite. If I heard someone say this to me at 34.5k, I would have half a mind to step off the course and throw my gatorade in their face.
And yet, there we were at 34.5k on the marathon course listening to the spectators say these things.
So my sign took a different tact completely:
All in good fun, of course. But this tends to be how I feel at this point in a marathon (aka...you are mine, bitch!) so I took a chance and threw it on a sign....and loved the reactions. From high-fives to cat calls to one guy who actually stopped and had his photo taken with me and the sign. One sixty-ish woman ran past and said "damned right". It was absolutely priceless. The intended effect was to make runners smile, dig a little and forget for a minute where they were....and I think it worked :)
So congrats to all that came, saw and conquered the 26.2 today. There were great times posted out there today and the hard training paid off. Congrats to the new BQ's and some smoking fast PRs...you know who you are. Kudos to you all for hanging in there and toughing it out. 26.2 is indeed a bitch....but today she was YOUR bitch!