It feels weird every time I say it, but I’m now a marathoner.

Marathoner. Such an easy word to say, but behind it lies countless hours of practice, preparation, commitment, and struggles. Leading up to the race, I had often wondered if I could make it. After all, I was the least experienced runner among my running group. For me, a marathon is as much a mental challenge as a physical one – it is a total effort of the mind and body. Yes, there is training that must be done in order to be physically prepared for race day, but when your legs begin to ache and complain after making the same repetitive movement thousands of times, it’s up to the mind to override the urge to quit. But how do you deal with your own insecurities and doubts? Where do you find the strength to face the fear of the unknown?

My body and heart knew about the challenge ahead as I laid in bed that morning. My nerves were raw, and heart pounding with anxiety. I quietly got dressed in the gear that I had carefully laid out the night before, and pinned my bib carefully to my shirt. I gazed at myself in the mirror, and in that moment, questioned my sanity, and reflected on the last few months of training.

Can I do this?

I met up with Mike, Adam, and Shirley before the race, where we proceeded to encourage each other, take pictures, and slowly walk over to the starting line. And finally, there we were – facing a chilly, daunting day. In the giant sea of humanity and the company of my friends, my nerves were soon replaced with excitement, anxiety with enthusiasm. In that moment, I was so absorbed by the positive energy from the runners and spectators that all my fears, doubts and insecurities were gone.

I CAN do this.

Finally the gun went off, and I eagerly raced along with my running companions and the crowd of runners, over the cheers of spectators braving the cold weather. The first half was almost effortless. At one point, my leg did cramp up and I panicked. I mentally scolded my leg, and that seemed to have scared it enough to start working again (I did also fuel up and hydrate immensely, so that may have helped too). Otherwise my body remained relatively pain-free for the rest of the race, although I did take a Tylenol midway as a precautionary measure.

The halfway mark was a bit depressing, mostly because the half-marathon crowd veered off to cross their the finish line while we had to repeat the distance all over again. Thankfully my running companions remained at my side, and we hung to each other like leeches. Even when one of us started to hurt and cramp up during the race, we never to strayed far from one another. And when spectators were scarce and the music entertainment stopped along the course, we sang Bohemian Rhapsody or told each other silly jokes to lift our spirits. Seeing the look of determination on my friends’ faces gave me the strength to continue, and every step with them gave me the confidence to finish.

After 5 hours and 41 minutes, we finish the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It was an emotional moment – knowing that I finally accomplished something I thought, even just hours before, was impossible for me. Running is a such versatile activity – not only does it gets you places, keep you fit, or helps you de-stress, but it also builds long-lasting bonds. Without these bonds, I may not have had the strength to start.

Marathon

So thank you, to Mike, Adam (Denis) and Shirley (Casey) for running this with me; to everyone who trained with me every Sunday – whether it was raining or extremely hot, running for hours and hours on end, or running in trails filled with mosquitoes; and to Sarah, Maggie and Sookie for never losing faith and waiting in the cold for hours to cheer me on by the finish line.

And marathons, as I’ve learned, is like eating a bag of chips – you can’t stop after just one.

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