Finally getting that marathon PR

It feels really good to finally accomplish something you have been trying to do for three years.

I got my marathon PR at the Vancouver Marathon two Sundays ago.

But, I didn’t just “get” my personal record time. It wasn’t handed to me. I earned it. I trained for the past three months for it. I ran in the dark with my headlamp. I ran in the rain. I ran while traveling in Europe. I ran before work at 5:30 in the morning (that one time).

I wasn’t going to let what happened last year, happen again.

I was here for redemption.

My thought going into the race was to just take the first half easy, run 10 minute/mile pace, whatever.  I will just negative-split and still PR in the end, I told myself.

I did not have negative splits.

I never ran at 10 minute pace.

I don’t own a GPS watch so I basically just went with “how I felt” and did some basic calculations of my estimated pace whenever I passed a mile marker (which, didn’t seem as often as I had liked since I noticed more kilometer signs than miles. Darn you, U.S. public — and private — education for not thoroughly teaching me the metric system!)

I felt good at the half-way mark but not good good, just OK good. I woke up race morning with my lower back feeling kind of tight and was worried it would just give out on me (it did not). Also, at the half-way mark, I had now been running with a pack of 30-something-year-old women for five miles now. I noticed them at about the 8-mile mark and just stuck with the three of them. Was it weird running with a pack of strangers and not say a single word to them? Yes, kind of. I definitely scrambled at water stations to catch up with them a few times because it’s not like they were going to wait for me! (From my observation of the three of them, they were friends and knew each other).

The three runners on the right are the ones I stuck with for a good number of miles.

Somewhere between the 16 to 18-mile mark, one of the three made a move. She started running ahead (or, the other two were just slowing down). I didn’t feel like death. I knew I was going to PR, but I wanted to secure my PR so I decided to stick with her.

Apparently this is my race face when I don’t know my dad is taking photos. This is about a mile or so before yellow shirt and I leave the other two runners behind.

After we went up the last hill of the race (which is a bridge), somewhere around mile 20, I finally said something to her. I said: You’re the most polite runner I have ever met.

I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just impressed with her good manners! She was literally saying “thank you” to every spectator that cheered for her or to a group that may have included her/us. This Vancouver native told me she was a teacher and it was just out of habit for her to give thanks.

In my head I told myself I would stay with this polite-Vancouver-runner-teacher until the finish.

That didn’t happen. (I left her).

At mile 20 or 21 I looked at my watch and calculated that I was going to PR. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was finally going to break my cursed time of 4:23:29. I’m bad at arithmetic but I estimated that I would beat my time by at least five minutes or so.

That didn’t happen. (I crushed it!)

My right foot started to cramp but I tried my best not to think about it. Yes, my body was not feeling as comfortable as it normally does. It was getting painful. But, not to the point where I was going to give up. From mile 21 to 26, I was passing more runners than other runners were passing me.

With about two miles to go, my hands began to feel slightly numb. This is when my stomach sort of cringed. Last year, with one mile left to go in the race, my hands, arms and feet all became numb to the point where I couldn’t feel them. I shook my hands out and kept on running though. I was too close to think about these side problems. (And, I was too focused on my race to notice I was getting some major chaffing under my arms!)

I finally turned the corner onto Pender Street (which, by the way, is an incline!!) and both sides of the road were filled with people cheering, yelling and screaming. My heart was beating very fast. Now, I was in pain.

Straight ahead, off in the distance, I saw the finish line banner. All I could think about was that the road was an incline, ever so slight, but still an incline. My parents spotted me and yelled at me. I didn’t wave at them like I did the previous four times I saw them along the course — Yes! Four times! Aren’t my parents the best cheerleaders ever? — but they did allow me to get myself in check.

I kicked it in.

I didn’t full-out sprint quite yet, but when I was maybe 300 meters away from that finish, I sure did kick. I sprinted past a good six to 10 people before I crossed that line.

And, right when I crossed that line, right in that moment, I knew.

I knew I had a new marathon PR.

It wasn’t until I looked down at my watch that I knew it was a 16-minute PR. (I stopped checking my watch somewhere between mile 23 and 24 for fear that I would get too nervous and go into shock or something …)

My final time was 4:07:40. This is 9:26 pace! Becoming a sub-4 hour marathoner now seems very feasible. (Sub-4 hours is something I never even dreamed of before since it was so “out there.”) Watch out Sarah Palin, I’m going to beat your marathon time (3:59:36).

“I can’t move my legs so I guess I can stand and pose for this photo.”

There was really no trick to how I did so well in this race.

You know back in school when you really studied well for an exam? You knew going into the test that you were going to ace it because you had prepared. That’s how I felt going into this marathon. I studied really hard for three months. I learned from my mistakes in my past races. (Don’t start the race with people faster than you. Don’t not eat breakfast before a long run. Do speed workouts not just long runs during training).

And, I fought (in mid-70 to upper-70-degree temperatures!)

I fought for those 4 hours and 7 minutes.

And, I’m more than thrilled to do it again in five months at the Chicago Marathon. (Hello, flat course!)


Obviously I’m so rude that I made this post all about me and how great of a race I had … blah blah blah. Although running is a solo sport, it’s not. I did high school cross-country and that was very much a team sport. My team this weekend were my parents who cheered like crazy for me. Bryce, Jackie and Brent who carbo-loaded the night before with me. Jackie and Brent did the half marathon and came back out to see me at the finish. Bryce also did the full and kept me calm — sort of — before the start of the race. And, to all my other friends who went on a long run with me during training, or understood that I couldn’t hang out because I had to be in bed early for said long run: You are all the best team to be on.


7 thoughts on “Finally getting that marathon PR

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