Friday, April 29, 2016

2 days until the BMO Vancouver Marathon!

I'm 2 days away from running another half marathon and I am seemingly not freaked out at all about it. It feels good. Perhaps I'm in denial about my fitness, or perhaps I am actually ready.

The BMO Vancouver Marathon is coming up this Sunday, May 1st. This is an awesome event in Vancouver, bringing together so many community members -- thousands of runners and walkers of all levels, kids, volunteers, and spectators. This race will always be special for me as the first time I participated in the event was also my first ever marathon, 4 years ago. This year, for the 3rd year in a row, I'm running the half marathon. It's a great event, a great course, and because it's so BIG, it's like a runners' party. I went to the expo yesterday after work, and as always I bumped into lots of friends and running community contacts I only see at events like this. For me, going to a big race expo is like going to a social event. Lots of meet and greets, catching up, laughing, sampling food, etc., and you leave with a goody bag!

My only complaint about this event would be the 7am start time, but that's just me being fussy because that's much earlier than I usually start my long runs. I often run at that time or earlier for a short weekday before-work run, but a 21.1km effort is a little different and requires prep. With breakfast and getting to the start line in another city, with road closures along the way, needing to allow enough time to navigate thousands of people and line up at the port-o-potties, etc. In short, one must wake up EARLY! But Saturday is wide-open for relaxation and hopefully a good sleep-in so an early wake up call the next way will be less of an issue.

The start time is also a positive though, as the marathon starts a good 90min after. So by the time I finish the race, there's time to shower and eat a meal and still head back onto the course to watch the marathon, even catching the front of the pack and their inspirational sprint to the finish. This is a highlight, as rarely do you actually get to see such incredible athleticism when you're participating in a race. You may see the elites line up, but at the gun, they are off faster than you can say "marathon" and not to be seen again until the post-race festivities. This event allows me to be both a race participant and a spectator and make a full day's experience out of it. There's something so inspiring to see marathoners and their proud journey to the finish line. The trouble is it tends to get me emotional, thinking of what the accomplishment feels like, and making me think that one day, I want to run a marathon again.

The last few weeks since the BMO Sunshine Coast April Fools Run have been great for me as a runner. Finishing the Fools Half was all about finishing. I hadn't accomplished that distance in a long time, and honestly, every long run in preparation for the event was hard. A slog even. Somehow since then, long runs have been easier. A week after the Fools Run, I did a 16km, and followed that up with a 19km effort the following week. I was excited every step of the way, felt strong, with legs on auto-pilot. I've been resting since, only doing an 11km last weekend, and just short easy stuff in between. My body feels strong and healthy. I have lost a bit more weight since the Fools Run and am even more like my old self, feeling light on my feet. For the first few months of running since my injury last year, I made sure to never run on consecutive days to aid recovery. Now I can run any day or any time I want and bounce back like a super hero. I now run 4 to 5 times a week, still do things like gym sessions weekly, hiking and/or very long walks, yet I don't ever feel tightness or inflammation hanging around for long after an effort. I feel about 6.5 years younger than I was in 2015.

I have not done any speed work whatsoever. I think I may try that after BMO to give me a different training focus for the summer. Stupidly long runs aren't as much fun in the summer heat, but a kickass track session feels great. And now my body actually feels ready for that. No fun to try going fast when you feel heavy, sluggish, or in discomfort. So I expect to race some 5km, 8km, and 10km events over the summer to put this to the test or at least track progress. I have yet to make a decision, but this year could see me return to run the Scotia Half Marathon in late June - this was my first half marathon back in 2003 so one I like to return to every now and again for sentimental reasons.

So without speed work under my belt now, leading up to BMO this weekend, I can't expect this event to be a fast one for me. But with improved fitness, more training time, and an easy / relatively flat course, I can expect this one to go better than the previous one. A half marathon won't feel like a new distance for me but just the next logical step. In any event, I will not be wearing GPS because no sense in obsessing over numbers. Just going to listen to my body's cues and see what it can do with no external feedback.

To everyone running this weekend, have fun out there. It should be a beautiful day to celebrate the wonderful sport of running!

<3 Zahida

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