Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Unfinished Marathon

I did not complete the race.

I entered my first marathon after experiencing a few years of success running in numerous 10k’s and half marathons. By then I had become a serious runner and had achieved my personal best in a 10 k. Was in great shape.

Did not show enough respect for the distance however.

Toronto Marathon. October. I had been training hard. Long runs to build up endurance combined with speed work on the local high school. Unfortunately I never actually ran the full distance during training. Felt confident that I could do it during the race. This would come back to haunt.

Began well enough. Right pace. Breathing well. Comfortable.

Light rain began shortly after the start as we headed east from Nathan Phillips Square. It stayed until near the end and kept the temperature cool.

Kept up the pace after the slight downhill to Lakeshore where we headed west toward Parkside Drive. In a great pack of runners all chatting and moving well. Wet but not cold.

North on Parkside for the climb to St. Clair. Uphill all the way combined with short, intense inclines. Slowed a bit, but still at a comfortable pace. Attacked on the inclines to keep motivated. Speed work came in handy.

At the right onto St. Clair, facing the long, straight route into East York, realized a couple of things: first, ‘this was a dam long race!’; second, ‘what was that pain in my left knee?’. The folly of never having completed the full race distance in training reared its head.

Increasing pain in the knee as we crossed Yonge Street. Still confident though when I realized that I had hit the halfway point in under 2 hours. Ahead of schedule even with the slowing pace. Finishing in less than 4 hours still seemed possible. Foolish thought.

The transition from confidence to despair happened quickly.

Through leafy Leaside still heading east and closing in on the 30 km mark, the rain combined with the cool temperatures and the increasing pain in left knee to knock me out of the race.

Pace slowed to a walk. Eventually stopped to try and ‘stretch it out’. Didn’t help.

Runners and even walkers passing constantly.

Finally made it to a medical tent. Shivering cold. Wet. In pain. Mentally devastated. In inconsolable despair. Defeated. 13 km from the end of the run.

Waited along with the other unfortunates for the ‘clean up’ bus. The vehicle following the last runners picking up those not able to finish.

Took over an hour and a half to make it back to the finish line. Longest 90-minute ride of my life.

The bus dropped us off about 50 yards from the finish line. Time clock still counting. Well past 5 hours. Not many people around. Found my bag, changed quickly and went home.

Didn’t talk about it for quite some time. Loosing to myself not something I wanted to share.

Stop running competitively for quite some time after that.

Unfinished business…

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