For the past two years, my running life has revolved around one goal: qualifying for the Boston Marathon. After running a sub 3 hour marathon in Toronto last fall, I finally had the time I needed to apply to Boston for 2016. The weight that I had held on my own shoulders was gone. I finally allowed myself to relax, and spend more time on the other important stuff in my life - like playing volleyball with friends, spending more time with Katie and the dog, planning our upcoming wedding, and sleeping in on weekends.
While I decided to take a break from marathons in 2015, I vowed to stay in good shape. In January, we joined Greco Fitness on Sussex, which has been a great decision. I continued to play volleyball with my good friends every week. I registered for my first triathlon, which is kind of scary. And, of course, I signed up for the Ottawa Half Marathon. I love half marathons. To me, they are the perfect distance. They are long enough to be challenging, but short enough to allow you to lay it all out on the line and run hard.
Going into race weekend, I felt like I was in the best overall shape of my life. While I had been running less than I was during my marathon days, I had been diversifying my workouts more. I had recently re-added cycling into my routine. I even started swimming here and there in early preparation for my triathlon. The biggest change in my routine was adding in 3-4 workouts at Greco every week. I love the high intensity, instructor-led, interval training with a strong focus on legs and core. My worst workout at Greco is better than any workout I’ve ever done on my own at the gym. They know how to mix things up, keep you on your toes, and push you to your max. It’s not just the physical component I enjoy, but the mental part too. Reminds me a lot of those final few kilometers of a race when all you want to do it stop - but you push through to finish what you started.
Despite feeling strong and fast, I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself on race day. Sure I felt strong, and my cardio was great - but I wasn’t fully dedicated to a running routine. I wasnt running 50, 60 or 70 km a week. So while I went in with the goal of running a personal best (which was previously 1:27:44), under the surface I was unsure of myself. Katie quickly told me that I was an idiot, and that she knew I could do it. Gotta love those blunt words of encouragement.
Race morning was sunny and cool. Katie and I headed over to the start line early, and I walked her into her corral at around 8:30. On my way back to the my corral, I realized that I should probably pee before the race started. I had about 25 minutes - plenty of time. After waiting in a long line outside of city hall for about 15 minutes, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it. I ran down Elgin Street, trying to get into Second Cup and Dunn’s, only to be turned away for not being a customer. I got into McDonald’s, where I waited anxiously. The kind gentleman in line in front of me let me go ahead, as he was just spectating. In and out as quick as I could, I ran back up Elgin street, weaved my way though the crowd, threw out a couple of “excuse me’s” and hopped over the fence into my corral. As my feet hit the pavement, the voice over the loud speaker belted out “15 seconds to go!”. Phew! I barely made it. Before I knew it, the horn blew and we were off.
As always, I flew out of the gate. I always do. It’s impossible for me to hold back. I get too excited, and even though I know I should hold back, I just can’t. My first kilometer was a 3:48. My second was 3:52. I gradually scaled things back and evened myself out at a smooth and quick 4:01 pace. The kilometers flipped by, one-by-one. Before I knew it, the sun was out in full force and things started to heat up as I crossed the 10km mark. Now, 4:01 was a faster pace than I had planned, but I thought to myself “Hey, this ain’t so bad right now. I’m gonna keep this up for as long as I can and then just hang on”.
Over the bridge to Quebec and the sun really started to beat down on me. Gatorade, water, sponge. I’m usually pretty hard on our neighbors across the bridge. In my experience, the crowds in Quebec are often quite thin and quiet. But this year was different. There were so many more people than I had ever seen, and they were loud. Like, really loud. It was awesome. Before I knew it, the Gatineau loop was done and I was back across the bridge heading past the National Gallery of Canada. As I crossed the 18 km mark, I started to hit that inevitable wall. Oh man, my legs strated to feel it from that pace I was trying to keep. Okay, here’s where we hang on. Push through. Since I live in the Golden Triangle, I am very familiar with the last 3 km of the race route - it’s pretty much how I finish every training run. I girtted my teeth, buckled down, and just gav’er for that final push. A quick look at my watch with a km to go and I realized that I was going to do it. I was going to run a new PB. Knowing that gave me an extra boost and I absolutely flew during my last kilometer.
Crossing the finish line never, ever gets old. It feels amazing. Especially when you PB. Pride. Elation. Satisfaction. Oh yeah, and lots of pain. But it is so worth it.
I finished the half marathon in a personal best 1:25:45, 113th overall out of 11,620 racers, and 24th in my category of men aged 25-29.
Thanks to Ottawa Race Weekend for putting on another world class event, my family and friends for all of their support, and the great folks on #TeamAwesome for the great experience.