Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Race Report: GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon - October 7, 2012

I've completed my second marathon, the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. The pride I feel is absolutely huge. I'm going to do my best to describe that here, but I have a feeling that words will not do justice to how I feel in my heart. Somehow I feel like calling myself a marathoner is a more legitimate claim now, now that I have run more than one of them. I really truly am a marathoner as it's not something I've just done once and will never do again. It's something I have done twice now and am eager to do over and over again, to continue to learn, grown, and achieve.

This time around, experience really played a huge role. There was no doubt in my mind about my ability to finish. I knew exactly what I was in for and how I needed to perform to finish. I gave myself a pep talk about starting my race slow, about taking the first half like a training run, and then pushing myself in the last 10km. And I reacted well to the circumstances I had in front of me. Despite the hardships I fought through on race day, I knew that nothing was going to prevent a strong finish this time around. 

I could visualize my finish the entire race. I could see myself running hard, pumping my fists in the air, and the overwhelming emotion I'd experience the moment I realized I did it. Again. I think this helped me fight through. It also helped me come to my senses whenever I'd get tempted to give in, or give up. I'd see the finish in my mind and say to myself, "no, you're not missing out on this. You've worked hard for this. You've endured worse than this. Suck it up. Get there!"

The only question on my mind was my finish time.  I had to let go of the idea of a faster finish time early on and I'm incredibly proud of how I ran this Sunday because of that. I gave it my all, knowing I wasn't feeling my best. I didn't let finish time discourage me, even when I realized that I was going to finish in over 5 hours. I ran hard, leaving all of me on the course, and most importantly, I maintained a great attitude the entire race. I told myself this, "Don't settle for anything less than the best you can give today. No matter what, this will be another accomplishment. Run this in a way you'll be proud of. You'll still beat your previous race time. You'll have many more marathons to get the time you want."

Despite resting up fairly well in the days leading up to the race, timing was not on my side. I felt a cold coming on Saturday evening, turned in early for the night, but woke up on Sunday, race day morning feeling very rough. My sinuses were completely congested and my energy was absolutely zapped. I reminded myself that while many would use how I felt as an excuse to stay home on the couch, this wasn't me. I am not an excuse maker. Being sick was just an obstacle I was going to need to endure through. I realized early on that my pace was going to have to be a little slower than what I would have wanted. I didn't want to elevate my heart rate and run it too hard. I needed to pace myself in a way that would be sustainable for 42.2km. 

I paced myself well, and was on pace for a 4:45 finish. Then at about the 33km mark, cramps started to develop in my quad muscles like they did in my first marathon. I had another 9km to go, and maintained my poise. I told myself, "that's 10km less of pain than last time, you CAN and WILL do this". I needed to stop to stretch a few times, had to walk a few short downhill portions, but otherwise I kept running, at a slow jog of about 7:30min/km, ignoring the pain as best I could until it got so unbearable, I had no choice but to stop to stretch again. I did not let disappointment or emotion get to me. I just did what I needed to do. I knew it was going to be an over 5 hour finish. I took a deep breath at this realization, pushed aside negativity and decided I was ok with this. Why? Finishing a marathon is always a huge accomplishment. And finishing this marathon would be something to be proud of for the rest of my life.

By the time I got to the 38km mark, calculating how close to the finish I was, I managed to push the pain away, react on adrenaline, pick my pace up to about 5:30min/km and push hard to the finish. I was groaning out loud and likely making some very expressive faces, but I was running and going as fast as I could in that moment. I was on fire, sparking those on the sidelines to jump up, yell, and give me uplifting cheers to further ignite my engines. I was passing several runners in my path and there was no stopping me now. And I did it. I crossed the finish. Then the tears came. Tears of joy! Tears of pride! And admittedly, tears from the last hour of pain too...

I finished strong at 5:08:15.

This is such a great race, and one I hope to run again next year. The course is beautiful and scenic, everything is so well organized, the finisher jacket and medal are gorgeous. I have many reasons to love this race. But one of the things that really stood out about this race was the thought put into the course design. There are plenty of places and opportunities for spectators to stand on the sidelines to cheer us on. Cam was easily able to strategize to be on the course in 3 different spots before meeting me at the finish. Seeing him, getting a kiss, and his encouragement helped me hugely, as it was in 3 spots where I was in discomfort that I saw him and was uplifted again. And all the cheer squads, music, dancing, every step of the way, was incredible, especially in those last grueling 10km of the race. That was my major complaint with the BMO Vancouver Marathon, that those last grueling miles are around Stanley Park and thus very lonely. But here, there was plenty of encouragement, high fives, music, cheering, right where you need it. 

Thank you to the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon for another great event! I'll see you again next year!


  1. Well done, Zahida! You look amazing in your photos. Can't wait to get back into running.

  2. What a fantastic accomplishment, Zahida. You summarized it very well and it is so nice to get to "experience" part of the race with you through this post.

    I'm sure I can speak for a lot of others that we are very proud of you. Like what you said, running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and despite you didn't made your initial goal in time, you've done something arguably more: staying positive and persevering through!

    What define of our run is not at the finish line, is how we reach the finish line. You gave it your all, that's why you are and should be proud of it.

    Thank you for being an inspiration.