I’ve had a few days to recuperate and reflect on last weeks’ Victoria Marathon and thought I’d share a few of the lessons I learned along the way.
1. Having a specific goal for the race kept me really focused during training.
Victoria was my second marathon. First time out (earlier this year in Vancouver) I heeded the sage advice of Hal Higdon and made it all about simply finishing. I followed a proven training plan, didn’t think too much about finishing times (OK – well maybe just a little) and concentrated on basically getting enough miles on the clock to give me a chance of getting to the finish line in one piece.
At the end of the Vancouver run (which I finished in 4:18), I felt very strongly a) that I wanted to do it again and b) that I definitely had a finish time in me that started with a 3 not a 4. To this end, and with the aid of a comprehensive 16 week plan (that I joined in week 3) from Runners World, specifically geared to running a sub 4 hour marathon, my whole approach shifted to build in speed-work as well as endurance. I guess it worked – I finished in 3:57. I will say that without the discipline and variety of training in the plan, and the challenge of a specific target beyond just doing the race, I think it would have been much harder to sustain myself over the full training period.
2. Running is a team sport – #1
Training for a marathon takes time. It takes patience. It takes focus, dedication and sacrifice. It takes a team. I rely on my Home Team to who I owe so much. For putting up with me vanishing for hours at a time at the weekend while I plod around one part of Seattle or the other. For waking up at all hours to stand in the rain to see me run, and for at least pretending to look interested while I talk about running more than is probably healthy. To my beautiful girls I have to say, “Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You all inspire me more than you’ll ever know – just please don’t stop me now!”
3. Running is a team sport – #2
I know a lot of people who like to run alone. I like running on my own too. But 16 weeks (I guess a typical length of a marathon training plan) is a long time, and I have found myself so incredibly fortunate to have a rock-star of a running partner in my friend Yoko. Having a friend to train with helps keep you honest, makes sure that even when it’s cats and dogs outside, and that you have 20 long miles ahead of you, that you head on out and make it happen. You keep each other going, you push each other and you get to call each other names when you hit the steep hill that your partner had lying in wait for you when it was their turn to plan the route. To Yoko I have to say “Thank you –for your friendship, and for making me a better runner, but not for that route up to Volunteer Park – because that totally sucked.”
4. Apparently nutrition and hydration are very important – especially on race day
I don’t think it was a good idea to eat one sachet of instant oatmeal for my pre-race breakfast and I think it was even less smart to only drink 10 fl. oz of water in the first 20 miles of the run. Thank God, or in this case my brother in law Simon, for the brilliant Science in Sport gels or I would have been totally ruined. I’m going to file this in the ‘must do better’ file and come back to it.
5. Age is an unacceptable excuse for not getting it done.
There was a world record set at this year’s Victoria Marathon. The female 75-79 year old category world record was shattered (and I think I have this right) by a total of 46 mins. 76 years old Gwen McFarlan, for your 4:02 finish, you are my hero. Absolutely bloody fantastic.
6. More please.
Last but not least, and I specifically remember thinking this at my darkest moment of the race, about mile 23, when I was, lets just say, tired and emotional, when I thought I may totally have blown it, that no matter how much it was hurting, I wanted to do it again. I know I can run better, and I know I can run quicker. Like with many things in life – I just need to go out and do it.