I signed up for the Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon very last minute, in a quest to become a marathon maniac by running two marathons on consecutive weekends. It turned out to be a good thing for me since Hamilton is now my new favourite marathon (more on that later).
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada is a large urban city, probably best known as a steel manufacturing mecca that has since past its prime.
Although Hamilton has a bad rap for being a not-so-pretty city, it actually has many beautiful spots for running, and being set in the Niagara Escarpment, it has some beautiful running trails and views.
Hubs and I picked up our race kits just in time - 3pm on Saturday afternoon. The race kit was non-existent. It was simply a chip, bib and a rather ugly ill fitting T-shirt. RD if you read this - please something other than a shirt!! Please! Anyway, that said, the volunteers were super, and it looked like everything was organized, set, and ready to go.
After kit pick-up, Hubs and I checked into our hotel room at the Sheraton (which I stole on Hotwire for $66). Its only about an hour and twenty minute drive for us, but I was going to my friend birthday dinner downtown Toronto, so this allowed us time to attend her birthday dinner and still get a decent night sleep.
Speaking of dinner, I basically did everything you are not supposed to do. Since I decided this wasn't an "A" race, I had a large beer (I have never liked beer, but lately I have craved beer - in fact I'm sipping one as I write this race report), salmon, and creamy risotto. I did drinks lots of water, and had a good nights sleep (loved the clocks going back!).
Race morning Hubs and I awoke and considered skipping the race. Had I not laid down $170 dollars ($85 each), and proclaimed my intentions on this blog, there would be no race report. We drove to finish line of the race (Confederation Park), arrived just in time, and then we were bussed to the start line.
It was chilly this morning. About 2C(36F). I layered another long sleeve shirt on, wore gloves, and shorts. I shivered as I waited in line at the porta-potty. All of this made me grumpy and made me question why the heck I do this to myself.
Before the race started I ran into Marlene, which was nice. I expressed my doubts to her, and wished her well. We also ran into a few running friends from our local Running Room.
Before we knew it, we had to head to the start, which was annoyingly about 1km from the school. In fact as we approached the start, the gun went off, and we had to scramble to get going. We were amongst the last to cross the line, and were even behind the police sweeper truck! LOL.
I struggled right off the bat. I hadn't yet got my mind around the marathon. I think I was cold to start and my muscles tightened right up. We ran past a few runners that we knew that had run the Niagara Half Marathon last week, so I felt at least I wasn't the only crazy one out there!
The first half of the race was on quiet rolling country hills, which was nice and tranquil. The sun was out, and I started to feel warm. My pace was around 5:47-5:50 kM/min, slower than last week, but I just went with what felt comfortable. I had no intentions of going for a PR. Around 7kM, Hubs and I ran into a few runners we knew, and relaxed and chatted. Before I knew it, we hit 10K (58 min).
Hubs had pulled ahead past 10K, and I decided that I was going to keep him in my sights, if I could. In fact I followed him past the half way. I crossed the half-way point at about 2:02. I felt O.K, but I really wasn't pushing, and felt that a PR was unlikely. I just wanted a decent race with no major crashes.
Past the half-way we ran on a free way that the RD had shut down for the race. The scenery was stunning, and it was a HUGE net downhill, about 5kM worth! I glided down the hill and caught up to Hubs around 25K. Hubs was impressed and commented that he thought I would get a PR. I wasn't so sure. I didn't know how my body would react to those later kilometers. Hubs and I ran together until 30K. He had to go to the porta potty but told me to go for it. We reached 30K at 2:52. Only a minute off of Niagara.
It was at this point that I knew that a PR was possible. I had tanked the last 10K of Niagara last week, but this week I was blister free. I would say that I felt slightly more tired than in Niagara but my legs were fine - no stiffness whatsoever. I reached 32K at 3:03 - the same time as Niagara. It was on, I officially was gunning for a PR!
I ran steadily with a few small walk breaks to 34K. I felt pretty good, and wondered, how long can I do this for? I decided to try and run as much as possible, with short walk breaks at the kilometer markers. This seemed to worked. My watch went dead shortly after 34K, and I thought, I have to dig deep, I have to listen to my body and do my very best.
Past 36K, we turned and ran along a lake shore path that would take us to the finish. It was stunningly beautiful, and pancake flat. The wind, however, was wild!! I felt chills to my bones and for whatever reason - I began to cry. Crying and running marathons seemed to go hand in hand for me. Today my tears were a result of reflecting on my life thus far, the people in it, and how happy I am to be running. For whatever strange reason, pain makes me grateful because I know, I am alive, AND I'm living a less than ordinary existence.
Spectators, however, took my crying as a bad sign and one nice gentleman on a bike pedalled beside me and we chatted for a few minutes, and he told me some jokes to make me laugh. Past 38K, I asked a fellow runner what her gun time was and she told me 3:42. Now math and the marathon are never a good mix, but I guessed that if I could run the next 4.2 at about 6kM/min, it would take me 24 more minutes, and I would finish in about 4:06-4:07.
By this time though, I had to walk frequently. I was tired, I tried to keep the walk breaks brief, but those last few kilometers seemed to take FOREVER! I had no idea of my time, until I rounded the bend to the finish line at saw 4:09-- on the clock! I darted towards the finish line at finished in 4:10:17. My chip time results are 4:09:20. I still can't believe that I shaved 6 minutes off of my time from seven days ago!! Other celebratory facts are that this was my 10th marathon, and I am now officially a Marathon Maniac.
So I am very happy that I got up this morning! It was tough, but really not bad until the very end. I am less sore than Niagara and no blisters! Although this event has a few bugs to work out, I would recommend because of the variety of scenery and the time of year it takes place.
Thanks for reading!