On Sunday after hundreds of kilometres, countless early mornings and a substantial amount of carb loading I ran my first ever full marathon. 42.2km to be precise (although according to Strava it was 42.8, but hey, what’s another 600 metres when you’ve already been running for more than four hours?).
My chosen race was in my hometown of Bunbury at the Three Waters Running Festival. It was hosted by my local club – the Bunbury Runners Club. The two-lap course took in the three bodies of water in Bunbury – the beach, inlet and bay. Some may say it’s a big call but I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque, scenic route. It may not get the high numbers other marathons do, but give it a few more years and I honestly think its reputation will see thousands flock to the event. The BRC should be commended for such a fantastic event and I am so proud to be a member of the club.
Sunday was without a doubt one of the best days of my life and I loved every second of it.
Of course some parts were tough, my legs, feet and hips hurt at times and on account of the heat it was run in less than ideal conditions, but it never once crossed my mind to give up. It was never even an option.
The day before the race, my gorgeous cousin – who has just started her own marathon training – reminded me I’d be achieving something few would even dream about, and to remember to look around and take it all in. I made sure to do that the whole way and in every one of my race photos I am smiling.
As I predicted I had a terrible night of sleep the night before but wasn’t concerned because I was well rested and already knew my nerves would keep me awake. That and the fact I had to pee constantly due to all the water I’d taken in that day.
I carb loaded for three days prior to the race and made sure I ate really well the entire week, as well as staying hydrated. I cannot stress enough just how important adequate hydration is. This is what made the weather conditions bearable for me. A fellow club member gave me a race-saving tip to pop a water bottle at very station which I did, and I believe this also led to me having an awesome run. I made sure to walk each station and had a cup of water and a cup of Powerade. I also refuelled with my Shot Bloks every 10km and had jelly beans in my SPI belt just in case.
It was too hot a day to be careless with hydration and refuelling. The mere seconds lost were easily made up because rather that feeling dehydrated and yuck I felt great.
The morning of the race I got up about 5am and scoffed a hot cross bun with peanut butter and jam. I also had a big glass of water. After getting dressed and liberally applying Percutane to most of my lower half I kissed my husband and son goodbye and went to pick up my fabulous training buddy. We were both feeling anxious and excited to get started.
We arrived well ahead of time and eagerly listened to the race briefing before heading over to the starting area. I was so happy to see my dear friend, running inspiration and Team Hoka member Ashul just before the start. My nerves eased and I was ready to rock and roll. Bring it on baby!
Off we went and I settled into a nice pace from the get-go. I ended up running with a pack of others who were also keeping the same pace. We got to talking and stuck with each other for the first third of the race. Out of the group myself and two of the men broke away and ended up running at least the first 30km together. These guys were an absolute godsend and I could not thank them enough – they were both running the ultra (50km) and were using this race as training for Comrades (a 90km ultra-marathon in South Africa) in a couple months time.
They were dead-set superstars. The camaraderie shown by these blokes and all of the runners on the day was a definite highlight of the run. Everyone was super supportive of one another. There was a lot of high-fiving and encouragement on the course. It was simply awesome to be a part of.
I managed to roughly sit on 6:00/km for the entire run and the only time my pace differed was when I was walking through the water stations.
Non-runners always ask me what I think about when I am running and the answer is nothing but everything. On this particular day I was thinking about the amazing journey I’d taken and the sacrifices I’d made to get to this point. I thought about my beautiful family a lot, my online family aka the Operation Move gang (particularly Steph who would be running the London Marathon just hours after I finished), even the people who didn’t support me crossed my mind for a flash but mostly I just took it all in.
We were blessed to have a breeze for the first 25km but then it disappeared and the heat became apparent. During the second lap the boys and I went silent – it was clear we were all feeling a bit ordinary as we ambled down Ocean Drive along the beach, but we continued to run with each other for a few more kilometres.
I ended up breaking off ahead of them further down the road and ran the rest solo – I was feeling good but between 32-35km my brain was telling me otherwise and I had to keep telling myself to keep going. I had written a few words on my arm that morning anticipating that this may happen; Don’t stop, stronger, C (for my son) and G (for my husband). It helped a bit.
Then like an angel sent from above I saw my darling sister on the sidelines near the inlet taking photos of me as I was running toward her. I stopped and gave her a massive hug, and said “Thank God you’re here, I’m struggling so you’ve got to run with me.”
Being the superstar she is, she did just that. Dressed in thongs, a dress and carrying a DSLR camera she pounded the pavement alongside me. I made her speak to me and tell me all about her morning. As we approached the water station a few metres ahead I handed her my water bottle and said please fill this for me – she did and dropped her camera in the process. I felt terrible but luckily it was okay!
I’m so grateful for having seen her at this point. It was the toughest part of the whole run and she got me through it. I think it may have been The Wall that so many marathon runners talk about.
Further down the road I was greeted by my husband and son who ran up to me. I’m not going to lie, I shed a few tears! I hugged them both and surged on. They were still there when I came past again and we embraced once more. It was such a special moment although my little boy cried as I ran off again.
I was on the home stretch – I looked at my Garmin and realised I was going to come in a lot faster than my goal time.
I had three goals – the first was to finish with a smile on my face, the second was to do it in under 4:30:00 and the third – my secret target if the planets aligned – to finish in 4:20:00.
As I was thundering downhill toward the finish chute I heard someone call out my name. It was my parents and I yelled back tearfully “I did it”.
I picked up my pace and ran through the finish with the biggest smile on my face, I high-fived the MC who congratulated me over the PA system on finishing my first marathon, and my son and husband were right there on the finish line.
My boy ran straight up to me but in my daze I ran past him before turning back to give him a cuddle. I also made sure to grab my medal.
My parents, sisters, a few of my BFFS and my goddaughter were there to meet me too.
Then I cried.
All the hard work had paid off – I’d just ran a marathon. Not only had I achieved my goal one of finishing with a smile on my face but I’d finished it in under 4:30:00. My Garmin and Strava recorded me as achieving my third goal with a time of 4:19:37 (it auto pauses if I stop running which I did several times for hugs and to grab my water bottles) however my official time was 4:22:17 which I am thrilled to pieces with. To be honest if it had taken me five hours I still would have been overjoyed.
I was on a high for the rest of the day and allowed myself to indulge in a few glasses of Veuve having quit alcohol while I was training. It went straight to my head!
It’s now a few days later and I still can’t wipe the smile off my face nor quite believe what I’ve achieved. For some it may seem like not a big deal but for a girl who loathed sport and never thought in her wildest dreams she could ever become a runner let alone a marathon runner – it is a big deal.
In less than two months is the Perth Marathon and because I am clearly a tad crazy, I have my sights set on running that too. However I’m going to see how the body holds up over the next few weeks before committing.
I ran 5km a few days after the marathon and to be honest it sure didn’t feel like I’d ran a marathon prior – thanks to hammering the magnesium, foam roller and resting – so I’m confident I can make it to the starting line but I’m not going make any promises just yet.
My biggest tip for anyone thinking about running a marathon – if you can dream it you can do it, you just have believe in yourself!
And never, ever give up.