26.2 miles!

My first marathon was few years ago. I finished the race in 5 hours 20 mins. My goal was 4 hours 30 mins. Yup, nowhere closer to my goal. This year I was motivated to train again. I created a rough 12-weeks training plan so that I can participate in one of the races in early November.

As I had been running on and off throughout this year, the training did not seem hard. I was progressing without any injuries and was pretty pumped about it. But, with family in town and other obligations, I was not able to participate in any of the races that I thought I would.

I did not want to let my training go to waste. Hence, I decided to run on my own and cover the distance.

The weekend that I thought I would run, it rained here in Vancouver. Nope, not just a drizzle, it was a “you-need-an-umbrella” Vancouver rain where if you go out, you will get completely soaked and freeze to death. The weekend after, Mother Nature decided I needed to take a break (monthly women stuff)—it was freaking FOUR days early! I seriously thought the Universe was telling me to not bother this year. The weather had started getting chilly here—it was almost the end of November.

Finally, the following weekend, I woke up and decided to just do it.

It was cold that morning, 3 – 4 degree Celsius. When I left the house, I could see the thick layer of white frost on the grass and trees around the neighborhood. I attached my small water bottle around my waist and four GUs to get me through it.

The first 6 miles went like a breeze, a slow but a comfortable pace. I managed to finish it in 1 hour 10 minutes. Not bad, right? That’s what I thought too :). In 2 hour 15 minutes, I had finished 13.1 miles. I was enjoying my run and even the chilly weather. My adrenal level was pretty high. I was super happy about my progress.

Then, I started making my way towards downtown. The fun part of running your own race is that you get to create your own fun route. I love that freedom.

After about a mile, I stepped on a twig and twisted my left ankle. Stupid twig and stupid me for not seeing it! Not a good thing to have when you still have miles to run. I might have put more pressure on my right foot after that to ease my left a bit because my right leg started to get a cramp at mile 15. I stopped to stretch for a bit and decided to pace even slower—10 minutes run/jog and 1-minute walk.

Finally, I reached downtown Science World area at mile 19. Mentally, I was super happy to realize that I had only 1/3 left and also to see the water, other runners, and tall buildings. Physically, my legs were not happy with me. Both my legs got cramped by mile 23 when I reached English Bay. It felt like my shoes were tied to a big rock. My mind kept on repeating the mantra—one foot forward, then another foot forward.

English Bay. Picture taken during another of my long run. This particular day I did not take any pictures because the weather was gloomy and I was super tired.

It was getting really tough. Plus, the temperature was not helping either. It was probably still 4 or 5 degrees. I was super cold and I almost gave up. Somehow I managed to make it to mile 25. I was DONE, almost done. I kept on telling myself, another 10 minutes, another 10 minutes. But, my Runkeeper would not beep even after I thought I had covered more than I should. I looked at my phone and realized that it had died of cold. Whatttt!!! Not now, not here. I tried to resurrect it by massaging it with my palms and giving it some warmth. It still did not help. I ran a little bit further just to make sure I have covered my distance. I had no way of knowing it, though. My only tracker had given up.

The minute that I stopped, I was cold, exhausted and hungry. But, I felt good. I finished a marathon distance by myself. It probably took me little over 5 hr 5 minutes (my own guesstimate based on when the phone died) but I was happy. My body and feet ached, but I did the marathon that I had written down as one of the goals for this year. The time was not what I wanted it to be but I finished it on my own without any cheering squads, water stations or any mile markers.

It took me almost two weeks to recover and start running again. This experience made me realize how strong of an influence mind can play. Even when the body wants to give up, the mind can motivate it to keep on moving.

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