Since my injury put me out of the game for most of the spring, I was hesitant to sign up to run a full before the end of August. But in the last few weeks, my leg was feeling really good so I decided to give it a try.
It wasn't the race I originally intended to run, and it wasn't located in British Columbia, but it was one to complete before the end of the summer and it was a racing experience like no other I've ever had.
© Ben's Smart Marathon by the Sea
A bit of background
Located in Saint John, New Brunswick, organizers describe the race as such: "Canada's first incorporated city plays host to the Ben's Smart Marathon by the Sea event in a festive atmosphere of down home maritime hospitality." Can't argue with the history - and certainly cannot argue with the hospitality.
Getting to know the locals
The whole race weekend really presented us with a flavour for the local community. While wandering around the city, my husband and I were warmly welcomed by many residents who talked to us about the big race. One even chatted to us about her aid station volunteer duties ("I'll see you tomorrow!"), and how her family members were helping with the pasta dinner.
Carb-loading dinners tend to be standard fare at these kinds of events and always take place the night before race day. While we've previously been to ones that have been hosted in big hotels, this one was held by the Boys & Girls Club of Saint John, where runners were served home-cooked portions of spaghetti and meatballs for free; guests had to pay a small charge. A local musician entertained folks while they ate, and race organizers introduced themselves to the different runners. I even had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the organizers about my injury and how we had traveled from British Columbia ("You came out all this way for the race? That's great!"). All proceeds from the dinner went to the Boys & Girls Club as well.
On race day, I posed with a mascot who looked like a giant piece of bread. Never done that before. And the start gun? Well, I don't know exactly what it's called, but it had been brought in by the military and gave off a really loud BANG.
|The Ben's Smart mascot all ready |
to pull the trigger. Ready, set ...
Small event with a lot of heart
Here's a note on scale. There were 58 people registered for the full marathon. Compare this with the 2,619 participants from Victoria in 2009 and the 453 full marathoners who ran Kelowna in 2010 and you start to realize just how small this event really is.
But even though this was an event on a small scale, I was extremely impressed by the level of support on the course and before and after the race. Package pick up was a breeze. There were plenty of aid stations on race day, all manned by enthusiastic and energetic volunteers (the very first one was being manned by the Saint John Fire Department - hello, firefighters). Washroom stations could easily be found along the course. And even though the route was open to regular vehicular traffic, policemen were stationed at each of the route's intersections to direct and stop traffic as runners were passing by.
The awards ceremony was not limited to just event winners; first, second and third place finishers from each category in each race, as well as exemplary volunteers and aid stations, were recognized as well. How often do you see that? Not to mention all of the door prizes they gave away. I didn't win anything, but it was nice to know I had just as much chance as everyone else in the room!
So for the race itself ...
|The forecast was 100% humidity. For reals.|
My race started out great. I'd paced a little faster than normal, but was feeling good and like I could sustain that pace for the entire duration ... boy, was I wrong.
I definitely hadn't prepared well enough in terms of my intended finish and how fast I should be running throughout. I blew it all in the first half and ended up having to slog my way through the second. The turnaround point was also further away than I thought it would be, which really challenged me mentally; if I had simply studied the route a little better the day before, this slip could have been avoided completely. It also didn't help that I got passed at the turnaround by a woman I had flew past much earlier in the route. That's what I get for going out too fast.
My pace slowed considerably after that and I started to get discouraged. About three-quarters of the way through, I saw a mile marker sign that went something like this:
"There will be days when you feel like you can't run a marathon.
But there will be a lifetime of knowing that you have."
And then I started to cry. So I knew at that point, I'd completely lost it. But it did give me a bit of a boost to keep going.
Towards the end, my legs did not want to work anymore. I ended up walking much more than I ever have in a race. And then I got passed again which is always so good for the self-esteem. Thankfully, I got some encouragement from one of the traffic police and volunteers with about three km to go:
Me (walking up a big hill towards the intersection with the policeman and volunteer): "Hi! My legs refuse to run up this hill."
Policeman (laughing): "But you're still moving! That's the important thing. And - you're not last!"Loved him. And that gave me another little boost.
|Crossing the finish line.|
Photo credit: flickr.com/people/mbtsfinishlinephotos
And then I crossed the finish line and immediately burst into tears. I swear, I hiccuped and ugly-cried for at least five minutes. I was so relieved it was over!
The final wrap-up
Out of 58 full marathoners, I finished 53rd, sixth out of six in the female 30-39 division and came in with a chip time of 5:08:48. It's not my best time, but it's also not my worst. And like I've always said: any finish is a good finish!
Even though I didn't run a smart race, there was plenty to love about this event: the locals, the volunteers, and it was the first time in any race that I have ever been given a call-out at a finish line.
And to think ... I seriously considered not attempting this race.
Thank you, Saint John and the Marathon by the Sea! You have a wonderful event. I'm so glad to have been part of it.
Five by 35. Three down. Two to go.