4 1/2 months all came down to one moment: a nearly 6 hour moment that was a mix of highs and lows and ultimately, one of pure joy. Let me take you through the journey.
My fellow run girls (Janine, Robin, and Beth) and I flew to Victoria a day earlier than the rest of the team did. Three of us had never been to this magnificent city and wanted to take full (well, as much as could be taken) advantage of the sight-seeing there was to be done. Little did we know we were in for many wonderful surprises this weekend!
An Olympian and his groupies
Upon arriving at the airport, we started chatting it up with a nice gentleman with a lovely New Zealander accent. I thought he was exceptionally polite for asking us about our plans for the marathon and whether we had any time goals–I was sure we were boring him to tears, but he actually managed to show some interest, so it was nice just to have this pleasant conversation.
A few hours later, we’d discover this was no ordinary gentleman: he was, in fact, Rod Dixon, a famous Olympian, champion marathoner, and–best of all–the very first TNT coach.
We basked in the glory of several public shouts out from Mr. Dixon, including one at the opening ceremony of the packet pick-up, during which he pointed to his “Team In Training Girls,” from the balcony, atop which he stood while cutting the ceremonial ribbon. We knew from that first afternoon that we’d been touched by destiny and this was only the start of good things to come :).
One of the things we were most looking forward to was the famous high tea at the renown Hotel Empress. I’d been wanting to do high tea ever since my trip to London in 2008, and I was super excited for the opportunity to do it at one of the best-known places.
I was not disappointed.
From the moment our waitress brought out the steaming cups of tea, to the strawberries and cream and the sandwiches and treats, I felt like royalty. The food was fantastic, but the atmosphere itself was even more so–we were able to relax and forget our nerves about this big challenge we were about to undertake in a few days.
Day #1 could not have been more perfect or enjoyable!
We started with a hearty breakfast at a local diner, where we strategized about our run intervals, pacing, and target finish times. Janine was, as always, exceptionally thorough and had done all the homework and we merely had to absorb everything.
Next came the bus tour of the actual course–a tour that took about 1 hour and 45 minutes, which felt long and brought home once again how far this distance was that we were going to run the next day ;). The tour took us through the island’s most beautiful sights and got us pumped for what we would see along the way on the run.
Finally, we had to get down to business and stock up for our pre-race breakfast supplies. And lo and behold, we came upon a grocery store that seemed like a godsend. Mini cartons of milk! Hard-boiled eggs! Mini pumpkin pies! Dark chocolate Tim Tams! Scones! Not only would breakfast be secured, but we had plenty for post-run snacks as well :).
Inspiration for the marathoners
That night brought on the traditional TNT pasta dinner, newly renamed the “Inspiration” dinner, since we runners would be inspired after hearing from our manager, one of our coaches, and of course, one of our Honorees. Todd graciously shared his story of winning the war against cancer, and reminded us that as with most cancer survivors, he is not completely out of the woods yet, and what we do season in and season out gives him his best shot at living a normal life for years to come.
So let’s do this!
The big day arrives at last
The day started early, with the alarm going off at 4:20. We breakfasted and put on our armor: running skort, TNT shirt, shoes, arm warmers, and trusty garbage bag. A fashionable bunch we were not, but we were ready for the elements. It was a chilly 1 degree Celsius (30-something in Fahrenheit), and sunrise was still at least an hour away.
Let the games begin.
After the bus tour the day before, we knew we would be in for a treat with this course. But nothing compares to actually running on it–watching the sun rise over the water; seeing the trees with their yellow, red, and golden leaves; passing the Craftsman houses with their perfectly manicured front lawns. This course was absolutely STUNNING and we felt so lucky to be running it.
The first few miles flew by. Janine and I had a few hiccups in the beginning, but before long, we hit a groove and were sailing along. Before we knew it, we’d hit the halfway point and I was feeling fantastic–better than I had ever felt at this point in a marathon. Mile 15. Mile 16. Mile 20. I had managed to push out “the wall,” but only so far: I hit it, and I hit it HARD at mile 20. Tightness gripped my muscles, fatigue started to set in, and emotions began to swirl inside me.
I thought of our Honorees, who’d suffered through so much. I thought of my dad, who has had far too many of his own struggles. And the pain and the distance still ahead was starting to get far too overwhelming. By the time I saw Coach Tim approaching us at mile 21, I was a full on wreck, making a beeline over to him and giving him a hug, then collapsing into tears. Not exactly a picture of composure, but Tim nevertheless knew exactly what to say and do. He ran with me and Janine for a bit, joking with us, encouraging us, and most importantly, making me forget about how my muscles were rebelling against me and that there were still 5 miles to go.
The next 5 miles were a blur. Janine and I were both struggling and eventually had to separate for a while to follow our own pace and our own groove. And this was the time when the realization started to set in: I was not going to get the PR I was so hoping to get.
Mile 22, mile 23, mile 24… I was quickly falling apart, alternating between running and walking every 30 seconds–anything to keep the muscles from seizing up on me. I heard people chanting on the sidelines telling me I had only 2K to go, 1K to go. I couldn’t quite process what that meant. To me, it just felt like such a long way to go still.
Then at the last mile, I somehow caught up to Janine, and I knew we might be able to finish this thing together. That gave me the second wind I needed! Minutes later, James and Arianna showed up and gave us a MAJOR boost by running with us.
With 400 meters left–a mere lap at a track–James and Arianna peeled off, leaving me and Janine to go for the finish line. And go for it, we did. We dug deep and found a last burst of energy to sprint towards the finish line, screaming as we crossed it and letting the tears flow when we finally did.
When we posed a few minutes later with our medals, it finally sunk in for me: I was a three-time marathoner. 3 marathons–all within a 12 month span. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get my PR (which I missed by a mere 10 minutes). It didn’t matter that I didn’t have an excellent last 6 miles. All that mattered was that I finished–even better, that I even got out there at all.
I said before this marathon that it would be my last. But as tends to happen with these things, the pain fades away quickly and that little voice starts to whisper again. One more. One more.
It won’t be soon, but there will always be one more.