2017 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

October 8, 2017

The turn on to Exeter Road from Beach Drive is just in front of me. I am 23 km in to this run and 2km beyond the half way point of this course. Until now, I have been mostly making my way north. Exeter is the marathon's turn around point; the part of this out and back route that marks the return south toward the Legislative Building and the finish line.

Throughout the summer, almost all my Sunday long runs have been on this marathon course. If I started a training day from Gonzales Beach, Exeter would be my turn around point and I would get roughly 23 km of running in; If I started from a point on Dallas Road, I would get more. I ran to Exeter enough times this summer to be intimate the texture of its asphalt; on tired feet, I was able to feel the coarseness of Exeter's surface through my running shoes.

I made a friend earlier this morning. For the past two hours, I have been mostly running with a guy who introduced himself to me around the 500m point of this marathon. Our time goals aligned and I took comfort in that this was his fifth marathon. I was banking on his past experience to get me to the finish line. At Exeter, he needed a break and suddenly, I was running without my new buddy.

Running alone, especially on this section of Beach Drive, is very familiar to me. I have been here before. I have been in this very spot, running down this very road. I know what this place feels like when running with fading legs; right now, I can feel energy in my legs. Any uncertainties I have surrounding my first marathon are fading fast. 25 km in, a little more than 17 km to go. I am running alone, I am happy, and I feel like I could fly!

At 30 km, the gentle hills and turns of Beach Drive are replaced with a right turn on to the forever straight and ever so gradual incline of Oliver Street. The hard truth of how far it is to the next turn, Windsor Road, stares back at me. To focus that far ahead up the road takes my mind too far into the future. I adjust my gaze to the next runner in front of me. Re-focused, I tune into the turn over of my feet, the stablity in my hips, and the rythmn I have been enjoying for the past 5 km. Oliver Street was a struggle point during my training runs. Today it makes me smile.

A left turn on to Mitchell Street and up a short steep hill is my task at hand. Just behind me is a tall course marker that reads "20 Miles". As I ran past it, I looked up at it and thought to myself, "Shouldn't I be feeling worse?" Worse may be coming; maybe at the top of this hill, maybe further down the road. Whatever my mind imagines as "worse", it is too preoccupied with the joy of making this marathon happen.

More than 35 km behind me and Gonzales Beach is off to my left. It is nice to see the ocean again after the jaunt through Oak Bay. I can count on 2 fingers how many people have caught me since I left Exeter. I have lost count of the runners that I have overtaken over those same 10 km. This is the game that my mind has gravitated to. It seems to be working.

I glance down at my GPS watch, but I have no idea what it is telling me. It shows distance and pace, but those numbers are off by a figurative mile. There is another course marker just ahead; 36km in the bank; 2 km further than I ever ran in in my life. The thought of the distance completed doesn't sink in. Hollywood Cresent becomes Dallas Road; 6 km to go. I got this!

The sunshine is warm, and it feels good; the weather is providing a near perfect October day in Victoria. I have reached the top of the last incline; my form is getting harder to maintain as but I am still pushing on. In front of me is a gentle decline then a flat run to the line. To my right is a statue of Terry Fox that provides more than enough inspiration to finish this task.

One more course marker! Another tall flag with a large "41 km" centered on it. I am so close now I can taste it. 18 weeks ago, I could barely run a couple of blocks. In my mind, I have just 1 km to go! For the past 20 minutes, my feet, ankles, knees and hips have been getting progressively sore. But with excitement of just 1km left, my mind takes over and I do my best impression of picking up the pace.

Wait! Another course marker! This one says "1 km to go". Was this a cruel joke or just fatigue setting in? "26.2" or "42.2", I chuckle at myself for forgetting the ".2" part. It was in the brochure after all. The pace I thought I had 200m back is all but forgotten now too. I am 6 minutes away from realizing a dream that I didn't know I had. No need to sprint this one in, this is a marathon after all.