The 2017 Ottawa Marathon is now in the history books. My experience this year was a bit different, on a number of fronts:
- I was one year older. As you get to a certain point on life’s timeline, you start to think more carefully about potentially health-altering choices. Like running 42.2km in the heat. But I decided to do it.
- For the first time, I entered a race with injuries to worry about. My right Achilles tendon and calf had been pretty sore for the months leading up to the race. And my left hamstring, which I strained in the fall of 2015, reminded me regularly that it was there. I wasn’t sure what, if any, effect this would have on my ability to run 42.2km at a pace of MY choosing. Turns out, it had no effect at all. Race-day adrenaline heals many ills.
- Also for the first time, I was a member of Team Awesome – a group of passionate, enthusiastic and social runners who work with Race Weekend organizers to promote awareness of the event and (hopefully) increase registration numbers. It was an absolute blast to be part of this great team, and I now have many new running friends scattered throughout Canada and in the USA … and one from Kenya!
- I had missed some training in the months leading up to the marathon. In March, I got a very bad flu and couldn’t run (literally) for a couple of weeks. You can see from my running distance chart below, the effect this had on my training volume:
But some things this year were very similar to Ottawa Race Weekends past:
- The weekend was INCREDIBLY well organized, details well communicated and courses expertly marshalled … thanks to the organizers and thousands upon thousands of volunteers.
- The course was beautiful. And the fervent crowd carried us all to the finish. Again. Always. Ottawans are SO lucky to live in this incredible city.
- My fundraising went well – I have raised $2117 for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health … $100 (exactly) over my $2017 fundraising target. Thanks again to all of my supporters for your kind generosity (see my last post for more on this). And a shout-out to my fundraising teammates Cathy Christenson and Melissa Bindner, for their work for the Royal as well!
- Related to the Royal: I ran in honour of a family friend, Helen O’Brien, who worked at the Royal for her entire career and who passed away from cancer last November. Sadly, this is not the first race I’ve run in honour of an absent friend.
- It was HOT. Again. My running friends refer to this phenomenon as “the Shouldice Curse” now, as if it’s a given. As in: if Shouldice is running a half or full, it’s going to be crazy-hot out. A week prior to the race, they were predicting 16C and cloudy with showers. We ended up with 25C and full sun. The curse strikes again! But the heat makes for better war stories after the race.
- My finish time (4:00:12) was jussssst over the psychological barrier that I’d like to stay under (and have stayed under, in my two prior marathons: 3:51 and 3:59). But I walked for several minutes with a friend who was in a world of hurt at the 33k mark, and so I’m happy with the result. Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey.
When I ran the Ottawa (2014) and Chicago (2015) marathons, I documented some of my memories and feelings of gratitude afterwards. I do so again here; for whatever it’s worth, here goes … in more-or-less chronological order:
- Bonnie & Reid: thank you, again, for putting up with my running “habit” (and Reid, so glad you too have caught the bug!). I know I was away – a lot – in the winter and spring, between my business trips and my inflexible running schedule. Thank you for understanding how important it is to me, and indulging me without judgment. And Reid – congrats on your 5k (19:57) and half (1:43) performances!
- Team Awesome: you are da BOMB. What a great group of people. I found it amazing that when we first met as a group, in person, on Friday night, it was like we had all known each other for years. Such is the power of social media and the fellowship of the running community. Thank you all for your camaraderie, and I truly hope to be part of it again next year!
- Saturday/Sunday Run Club (Sandy, Cathy, Jane, Mel, Dennis, Brent): you made many a cold, dark, miserable weekend morning bearable. Just the thought of the post-run coffee/gab was enough to get me out of bed and onto the cold, snowy/slushy/icy streets.
- Rick Hellard: as always, Coach, thanks for the advice, when needed, to get me past the obstacles (both physical and mental).
- Ottawa Race Weekend organizers & volunteers: THANK YOU for everything. From the privilege of being on Team Awesome, to the President’s Reception, to the VIP tent at the finish line, to the races themselves and everything around them, you hit it out of the park, again. Ottawa is a mid-sized city, but it puts on a world-leading event. There’s nothing like Ottawa.
- Mother Nature: you came at us hard in both 2016 and 2017, but we were victorious!!! Next year, some cloud, maybe a breeze and some cooler temps would be nice. You were kind to the spectators, though – so maybe I need to be thankful of that.
- Spectators: again, well done. The crowd can be a bit sparse in the early going (let’s be honest: 7:00am is a bit of a tough time to be out on the streets if you’re not actually in the race), but was in full, rowdy force by the time I hit Wellington West (CRAZY!) and peaked in the last 4k (Colonel By, Pretoria, and Queen E) — providing me with energy that I desperately needed to get to the finish line. In particular, a big thanks to: my brother Lee (who woke up at 4am to go downtown with me, and saw me off at the start line); Peter & Helen Smith (at the start line and also on Sussex drive); Peter & Chris McDougall (whom I saw THREE times on course, Pete proudly waving the New Brunswick and Acadia flags); Andrew Codrington, Shari Orders & Lia Codrington (whom I saw in the Glebe); Rob Ferguson (whom I caught mid-yawn on Queen E just west of the Bank Street bridge); and my brother and sister-in-law, Tyler & Kim (on Scott Street, just west of Tunney’s Pasture). Also a big thanks to the anonymous spectators who spurred me on to start running again toward the end, when I was starting to falter a bit.
- The kid who handed me a freezie on Stanley Avenue: dude, you are a life saver. That said, I got a massive freezie headache post-consumption, and wasn’t thankful in that particular moment.
- My godson, Derek Smith, who found me in the recovery area: Derek is a triathlete who competes for Queen’s University (cha geill!). Derek ran his first marathon that day, in 3:15. Oy. Derek, sorry I had to keep moving so abruptly, but I felt like I was going to pass out and had to find a bench in the shade (see next point).
- The runner who asked me if I was OK after the race: I was experiencing pretty intense tingling in my arms & legs, so knew I needed to sit down, quickly. So I did. The chap beside me checked in on me to make sure I was OK. We chatted a bit (he was French and graciously put up with my attempt to speak the language) – turns out he ran his first marathon that day, a 3:45 in that heat. Respect.
- Power-bell guy, punch-the-cardboard-sign-for-beer-guy, the musicians, dancers, bell ringers, clacker whackers, drumming crews, Captain Canada, and every kid who high-fived runners: thanks to all of you, for the welcome distractions.
I think that’s it, for this report. Thanks again to all of you for the support and encouragement (enablement?) you provide to me and runners like me. I’m not sure I’ll do another marathon after this one – I’m beginning to realize that my sweet spot is the half. But one thing I’ve learned in this sport is never to say never.
Over & out,