{A late Fitness Friday post: From 0 to 42.2km: My journey from cardio hater to marathoner}

Since running the marathon, I sometimes get asked: Why did you do it? It’s SO far!

My answer is simply.. because I can.

A pretty simple answer but I think it encompasses why I decided to do it. Running 42.2km  or 26 miles is no easy task. It takes a lot of motivation, dedication, attention to nutrition and months of training. I run because of the challenge of pushing your body to its physical and mental limits. I do it because I am in good physical condition and I am capable of it, and I will probably continue to do it till I can’t anymore. Crippling arthritis of the legs runs in my family, so I want to run while I still can. Lastly I do it because I LOVE the act of running. I feel free when I run, it’s a way to de-stress and a chance to be alone with my thoughts. I didn’t always think like that though.

I did not always love running, in fact I used to HATE it. I was never the athletic-type, I was probably the complete opposite. All throughout elementary to high school, I was ALWAYS picked last for teams and was quite vocal about how much I disliked Phys Ed class. I would much prefer reading books than do any sort of sporting activity.

In post secondary, my memories of running were on the treadmill as a way to lose those pesky 10 pounds I had gained in the first couple years of University as a result of my bad eating and hours of sitting around studying. Working out always felt like a chore and a complete bore.

Fast forward to 2008, I’m consistently working out about 4-5 days a week and actively doing group cardio classes and at a pretty good fitness level. I decided to give running a second chance after a fellow gym member had convinced me to come out to their Sunday runs in Edworthy Park. Boy, did running outside ever give me a wake up call on how fit I thought I was. I was determined to keep up with the faster group and within 10 minutes I was huffing and puffing and feeling like I needed to stop. But I didn’t because the competitive spirit inside me wouldn’t allow it. Next thing you know, I had completed a 45 min run. I thought to myself, perhaps this was something I could get good at.

A few months later I completed my first race, a 10km ran in 53 minutes! Exceeding my goal of doing it under an hour. It wasn’t until that moment that I got the “running bug” and experienced that feeling of accomplishment from all the training I had done preparing myself for this race (since then I’ve managed to get it down to 45 minutes)

Fast forward to May 2010 and I’ve got 2 10 kms, 2 half marathons and a 22 km race under my belt and I’m standing at the starting line about to embark on my farthest distance yet, 42.2km in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. If you had told me I’d be in this very spot two years ago I would have laughed and said: “There’s NO WAY!!“. But here I was, 5 months of training leading up to this day and a goal time of finishing under 4 hours. Up until this point, my farthest training run had only taken me up to 33km, so the last 9.2km…I was going to hope for the best.

The first 10km went by easily, I was passing by people left and right trying to find some open space to get to my comfortable pace and my cardio zone.

At the 13km marker, I saw the turnaround point where all the half marathoners were looping back to the start line. The exact place I was one year ago. As I ran past that point, the number of runners probably had reduced to 1/4 and I could only see only red bibs ahead (the half marathoners had blue and marathoners had red). A huge smile came over my face and I remember a man coming up next to me saying “this is what separates us from the weekend warriors“. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I felt like I had joined an elite group of runners and a whole new level in my fitness ability.

At 16km, there was a huge elevation gain up a hill that would go on for 2km. I had done this once on a training run before and it was a really tough climb. But to my surprise I was actually passing people along the way, most of which were men!

All was well until I was 20km in, where I began to feel shooting pains in my left knee. This put a huge dent in my confidence, I was only half way and the possibility of not completing the race scared me. I carried on, trying to focus on the motions to drown out the pain “left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot..” and match my pace to the beat of my music. The pain would come and go, but I was still able to push on.

Fatigue was setting in, but when I passed the 33km marker, I managed to muster a loud “yahoo!“, from here on this was all new territory to me.

At about 37 km I hit the much dreaded “wall“, that overwhelming feeling of fatigue that comes over a person when they’ve used up almost all the glycogen stores in their liver (it can only store about 1,500cal worth of energy) This forces the body to resort to burning fat, which is not converted to energy as quickly and the brain basically tries to will the body to stop moving in an act of self-preservation. I thought to myself, “This can’t be it.. there has to be more..“.

The last 5km was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I’ve ever done in my life. My legs felt like two concrete cylinders dragging along the asphalt, but I knew I had come too far to stop now. I thought about my family and the boy, all of whom would be waiting for me at the end.

As I turned that last corner and saw that huge red finish line gate, I felt like I suddenly got a huge burst of energy. There was only about 100m left and I sprinted as fast as I could, MUCH faster than I had run the entire race. It was a very weird feeling almost as if my legs had transformed from concrete blocks to being light as a feather. I even managed to run past 4 people along the way. I could hear the announcer call out my name as I crossed the red gate, I jumped up in the air and yelled out “I DID IT!!

I could see my mom and the boy right on the side of the finish line cheering me on! It was the most rewarding and proud moment ever. I bowed down to receive my medal as I walked through the finishing chute and as the boy came up to me, I was so overcome with emotion I burst into tears. 3 hours and 52 minutes was my official chip time, 8 minutes under my goal time, I could not be happier. (16th place out of 71 women age 25-29, 67th out of 345  female runners)

What’s my next goal? I am aiming to get under 3 hours and 40 minutes in the next Calgary Marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Bring it on..

4 Responses to “{A late Fitness Friday post: From 0 to 42.2km: My journey from cardio hater to marathoner}”
  1. tinkerbelldotcom says:

    I cried reading your post 🙂

    • eatrundesign says:

      🙂 This is probably one of the most personal posts I’ve done on my blog, but I wanted to show people that it’s never too late to get fit and that the body and mind are capable of amazing things and that we shouldn’t take it for granted.

  2. Merry120 says:

    I loved your post. I ran a marathon in 2002. Not sure if I will ever do one again. I didn’t start training early enough so I ran 3/4 of the way and walked the rest. In my training I ran multiple 5ks, 1 10k, a half, a 30k and a marathon…then I stopped running all together. I’ve run a few times in the last few months because I think I would like to start back. I have to decide for sure and make the time. Having a 3 yr old definitely makes time a bit of a scarce commodity. 🙂

    • eatrundesign says:

      Thats awesome you ran a marathon too! I have immense respect for anyone who even attempts that 42km. Yes, it definitely is a time commitment. I had to resort to 10s and ones (running 10min and walking 1min) for the last quarter since my knee was hurting pretty bad. The whole process is hard on your body. Perhaps after this half I will try a 5km, a race I’ve never done before 🙂

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