It’s Monday afternoon, and in 6 days, I am going to be toeing the line at my very first marathon!
It feels like this day has been a long time coming. I've very slowly and progressively built up my distance and this weekend it will all come together when I run the iconic distance: The Marathon. I've never run anything close to this distance before (my longest run to date has been about 33km) so this day will consist of a first of many forms.
I love firsts and it feels like as I get older, firsts happen less and less often. You only have one first marathon. You only have one first day at school, first day at a new job, first kiss (sigh). The very act of doing something for the first time brings you into this state of unknown and while it can be scary it’s wildly exciting. As I make my way through this week, with all the feelings brewing inside, I'm reminded of the importance of continually trying new things in life to have that 'first time' feeling. With the last long run of this training block in my rearview mirror, all I can do now is sit back and reflect on this short yet exciting training cycle that has lead me to the start line of my first 42.2 km race.
I decided to run this marathon in the final days hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc with my husband this summer. I can actually vividly remember the moment I decided. We were on day 9 of our 10 day hike. We were staying in Argentière, a small town in France, just 2 days left in our hiking adventure. As you can read in my day by day review of the hike, by day 9 most of the pain and discomfort from the long days hiking had diminished and although we were doing challenging hiking all day everyday, I began to really miss running. As we were leaving the town we stopped in a small supermarket to pick up some lunch for that day. Luke stayed outside with our bags while I ran in to grab some food that we could have on the trail. I remember as I was walking into that supermarket, I had this realization that I wanted to run a marathon this fall. That’s right, while picking out goats cheese and bread rolls in broken french, I made the decision to run my first marathon.
Initially, I wanted to run the Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, our city's very own home race but after doing some math, I realized that even if I started training the week we got back from our trip that would only give me 10 weeks of a build up - definitely not enough time to get ready for a marathon let alone a first. I did a bit of research trying to grab wifi in the middle of the French Alps and saw the Hamilton Marathon was two weeks later. A 12 week marathon build is definitely not ideal, but considering the fitness I was coming in with not completely unrealistic. So then and there I decided I was going to run a November marathon.
Jump 11 weeks later, and I’ve now entered into race week. Remembering that I am only going to have one first marathon, I’m making an effort to indulge in all of the pre-marathon week feelings; the excited nervous energy, the fears, the slight neurosis around getting enough sleep. I’m paying close attention to my body and what it needs giving it rest (as much as I can), good nourishing food and lots of reflection. Whenever I’m alone with my thoughts, I try to visualize the marathon and the feelings I may experience during the run. My goal for this race is just to experience it and do the best I can. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to run a certain pace or make it to the finish line in a certain time. More than anything I want to have a positive experience - and if I run really fast then that's just a bonus!
All this was going great … Then came the ghost race niggles.
Last Tuesday, I laced up my shoes for a very easy 40 minute run commute home from work. After only a few steps, I noticed a slight pain in the outside of my right calf. I didn’t think much about it, so kept running figuring it would sort itself out after a km or so. When I realized the pain wasn’t going away I stopped to check it out. I palpated around my calf and realized the pain was originating from the lateral fibres of the soleus muscle, one of the deeper calf muscles. I poked around a bit, did some self massage and then continued running. The pain didn’t get any better, in fact, it got worse.
Looking back now, as soon as I felt that pain I should have stopped running and jumped on the subway but in the moment I thought it was probably nothing, I was already partly home, what was a few more km's? The pain persisted throughout the run, not really getting worse but definitely not improving. It wasn’t until I got home, showered and sat down that I really felt it. Shit shit shit. What had a I done.
I immediately had a moment of freak out and started making every plan I could think of to get this sorted out. Chiro, RMT, acupuncture, self massage, heat/cold/heat/more cold... I started to make plans to get everything treated. Then I stopped, I thought about what was probably going on, and did something I don't usually do.
I did nothing. That’s right, nothing. I just left it alone, with complete and utter faith that it would sort itself out. I did no running on Wednesday or Thursday gently giving my calf some self massage whenever I felt it was needed, key word GENTLY. I did some very gentle work with my yoga tune-up balls, not at the site of pain, but up the chain in my glutes and hamstrings as well as higher up in the calf. I left the site of pain alone though.
By Friday, the pain had resolved itself almost entirely so I did a shortened version of my planned run stopping the second I felt anything unusual in my calf. I then took another day off on Saturday. By the time Sunday came along for my last long run a week before the marathon, whatever had been going on in my calf had resolved itself and didn't make an appearance.
I realize now, this was my body giving me information to slowwww down. In the two weeks before a marathon you are not building anymore fitness. All you can do in those last few weeks is prime yourself to get to the start line the healthiest and mentally prepared as you can be. In this case, this was clearly my body telling me to give it some rest and trust that I had put in the work. It's no surprise it also coincided with the two busiest weeks of work I have had all year - clearly another sign that my body was reminding me to chill out.
I am so beyond excited to toe the line at my first Marathon this weekend and experience all the magic that goes along with travelling 42.2 km's powered by nothing but my own 2 feet.
Wish me luck!