This is an experience that is very hard to sum up into words which is why it’s taken me so long to attempt to write it. This post will focus purely on the race itself (which is 42.2km long), but I’ll give you a brief sum up of the lead up before I reached the start line.
~ I’d been suffering from very painful side stiches that would come and go when I ran and had plagued me for 18 months.
~ My longest training run was 35kms from Burleigh to the Spit and back. It felt amazing!
~ I was seeing a physio for treatment 1 – 2 times a month in the lead up.
~ I tried on more than 15 pairs of shoes and bought 2 pairs before finding the right ones for the race.
~ My back pain started to flare up a week before the race and I couldn’t walk for more than 30mins at a time before having to sit and rest.
~ I attended free marathon seminars put on by the Gold Coast Running Centre which were so helpful.
~ I did all my training runs by myself.
Note: The photos used in this post have never been shown to anyone before. I couldn’t bear to look at them a few months ago as all I could see was ‘fat’ and it depressed me. My mind set has changed since then and now I can only see the positive things in these photos. I bought the photo package last week and will treasure these memories without any shame.
As I lined up at the start line, I was thinking “Am I really about to do this?” I couldn’t believe the moment had arrived. I had complete faith I would finish the race and it would be just a matter of how long it took me. We sang the national anthem and then we were off!!!
Well, it was more of a shuffling start than a running start due to the 5000 people competing in the event. We headed south from Broadwater Parklands, over the bridge and veered of the highway towards Main Beach. I was overwhelmed by all the crowds who were cheering on every single runner. I was really enjoying myself and kept telling myself to savour the moment and lap it all up. I cruised past Surfers and Broadbeach and it was then when I saw the front runners coming back. Yep! They’d already been to Burleigh, turned around and were on their way back!!! Seeing them powering by was awe-inspiring and all of us still heading south gave them an applause. I was maintaining 7min per km which was the slow and steady pace I knew would get me to the finish line. I kept checking this at each km checkpoint and knew I was on track. I managed to see an old trainer Brendan along the way. He did not laugh in my face when I said I wanted to run a marathon one day and totally believed in me that I’d do it. Here I was, running in my marathon and waving at him as he passed me, heading back north. I saw Brooke and Rachel my friends from training soon after and cheered them on. At Miami I saw my first supporter, Dad, who ran along-side me for about 20 meters. He did so in his thongs and I knew that was the longest distance he’d run in about 40 years! He completed his own personal marathon that day! I was re-energised by seeing him and it powered me through to Burleigh (15kms) and through the turn-around. After this my back started aching a little and I developed slight stiches I had to try to get rid of by alternating my breathing. I saw friends, Belinda and Paula on this stretch and along Hedges Ave, Trudie my trainer ran along-side me for a while, giving me some encouraging words.
Reaching Broadbeach (20kms) again, I felt my back pain becoming more intense and my stitch was not subsiding as well as it had been earlier. I walked for about 20 paces before starting again. I had to do this three more times through Surfers, whilst digging my fingers under my ribs and trying to release the muscle spasm causing the pain. At Main Beach (28kms), it was getting bad and at one point, after a couple of minutes walking, I began to run and black spots started dancing in my eyes. I felt dizzy and stumbled to the side of the road convinced I was about to be sick. Putting my head upside down only made it worse so I stood upright and tried some deep breathing and blinking. At this point, on the side of the road, pain searing across my back and through my ribs, I thought it was over. If there was a medic nearby, I might’ve raised my hand and pulled out. Instead, I thought about my family who’d be up ahead waiting for me and I reminded myself of why I was doing this. I kept walking and tried to focus on my music and to think about anything else but where I was and what my body was going through.
It was this time, in my most dire of moments that a guardian angel tapped me on the shoulder. Her name was Michelle and she was from Tasmania. She’d seen me walking and running and had been trying to catch up with me. She said she was struggling too and didn’t think she’d be able to do much more running. I was not happy with the idea that I’d have to walk the rest of the way but I knew that if I didn’t, and tried to push through I may not finish at all. So I turned my music off and Michelle and I teamed up and walked from the 30km mark. We had 12km to cover and it was the longest walk of my life. I’d realised as we passed by the start line and headed north, the winners of the marathon had probably finished, had an ice bath, recovery swim, massage and were back in their hotel rooms finishing a movie! On this walk I saw my Dad, Mum sister Kylie, her partner Levi and my gorgeous nephew Kale. Although I was a bit ashamed I was walking, I smiled confidently and tried to show a positive demeanour. I didn’t want them to think I was in any pain. They gave Michelle and I some jelly beans which helped to boost our morale. This northern leg was pretty quiet with very few supporters. As we were right at the back of the pack, not many people had bothered to stick around. So I was thankful to have Michelle to keep me company on what would’ve been a very lonely, depressing walk otherwise.
Putting on a brave face. Approaching this camera man I remember us saying – Look happy! Look happy!
I saw my friends Lisa and Josh at Land’s End Bridge who I’d cheered on the day before in the 10km run. I was so grateful they had waited this long to see me. I was about 45mins over the time I thought I’d pass through this point. Michelle and I talked about so many funny and mundane things. We did anything to keep us moving and our minds away from the pain. I had tears streaming down my cheeks with 3kms to go and even though the end was near, my back was hurting so much and my feet felt like they were on fire with every step. As we inched closer to the finish line, we saw many more supporters. I saw Tim who had presented those Marathon seminar series, my old training buddy Libby and my mum. As Michelle and I saw the finish line I told her we’d have to finish it running. I don’t even remember it hurting because I was determined to finish this thing with strength and positivity.
It was an amazing feeling to cross that finish line. My time was 6 hours and 8 minutes. Not at all what I thought I would do but I was so pleased I’d finished. I’d been running and walking for over 6 hours without stopping so that in itself was an endurance feat! But no resting quite yet! They make you walk about 100 meters to get an orange wedge then even further to collect your medal and shirt (which was totally worth it). We just shuffled along. I was shaking all over and my teeth were chattering. My body was definitely in some state of shock. It was so good to see my mum and lay down with my feet up against a wall. I’d just finished a marathon.
My guardian angel – Michelle
For a long time, I wasn’t sure whether to feel immensely proud to have finished or very disappointed I couldn’t run as well on the day as I had done in training. I’m still a bit torn between the two. In the weeks afterwards, I thought I’d never do it again. Now, I know I will run another one. I’m putting everything into improving my health and wellbeing to prevent any of those issues from niggling at me in the future. I’m going back to basics and starting off barefoot running, the way we were all supposed to run and the reason why all the African runners are so superior.
The main thing I learned from the experience is that I am capable of much more than I ever thought. This experience can give me strength and confidence in other aspects of my life. I know if I put in the effort and truly believe in myself that I can do astounding things. The best thing is that for the rest of my life I can call myself a marathon runner.