Last weekend we took a little road trip to Amherstburg, Ontario for the Run for Heroes Marathon. Two other friends from our running group joined us and we made it quite the fun little adventure. On Saturday we did some exploring around the quaint downtown area and goofed off at the expo.
We ate an early dinner at a local tavern that was offering a special pasta dinner for the runners, except we were the only runners there. We had a good laugh dining with the elderly locals who were enjoying the daily special of frog legs as we noshed on spaghetti.
We picked up some last minute essentials at the grocery store, then we all turned in early – lights out before 9PM. After a bit of a restless sleep (mostly for hubs), we were up dark and early at 5AM for a quick breakfast in our room. We got our things together and left about an hour later for the short drive over to the race site, arriving ridiculously early as per our usual fashion.
Speaking of fashion, we were all about the kid-sized throw-aways from the second hand store to keep warm before the start. It’s tradition!
It was pretty cool and very windy as we waited for the sun to come up, but we were able to hang out (and use indoor facilities – woohoo!) in the community centre. We met up with our friends and exchanged lots of last minute good lucks in between several visits to the washrooms.
Before long, it was time to head outside and line up for the start. It was a small crowd of only about 750 combined in the half and full marathon, starting at the same time but from slightly different places – marathoners started in the parking lot while we started perpendicular on the road, but we merged almost immediately. I positioned myself roughly between the 1:40 and 1:50 pacers (there was no 1:45), which was very close to the front. We heard the National Anthems (American and Canadian since we were so close to the border) as the sun peaked over the horizon and we were off at the firing of a cannon.
5:01, 4:59, 4:59, 4:57, 4:55
I was able to find the pace quickly as the field spread out. It was not crowded at all and I had tons of space right from the start. I could tell it was going to be a bit of a lonely race, but I was looking forward to just zoning out with music and doing my thing. I was “comfortably cold” (if that makes any sense) in shorts and a tank with gloves. Speaking of which, my beloved Lulu spandex shorts are officially too big. I’ve had to wet the waist band before running recently to get them to stay up, but that didn’t work at all on Sunday. They kept slipping down and I spent the better part of the first two kilometres yanking them back up until they finally “stuck”. As I came to find out later (thanks to hubs who noticed as he ran by with the lead marathoners), I was showing some crack at the start of the race. Apologies to anyone who was running behind me… yikes.
5:00, 4:56 (gel), 4:58, 4:57, 4:58
At 7K we turned directly into a pretty strong headwind and the pace immediately became a lot harder. We were running along the water, which was beautiful but also the windiest section without any shelter. I kept trying to find a big guy to run behind, but it wasn’t working. I was on my own and knew I had to tough it out until 13K which would bring the next turn. Although I was now working a lot harder, I still felt very much in control with a manageable effort. Smooth cadence – check. Steady breathing – check. Acknowledging other runners/volunteers/spectators – check. I actually wondered if I was slacking and should have been going faster, but I knew there was a lot of race left and decided to settle in until we got out of the wind.
4:57, 4:57, 4:54, 4:54 (1/2 gel), 4:49
At 13K we split from the marathoners (who continued on into the wind, ugh) and turned right. I felt some relief and my pace picked up automatically without much more effort. I was still in a great mood, soaking it all in and pretty certain that my 1:45 was well within reach. I was loving the course, which consisted mainly of long, flat stretches of road, and the support out there was very impressive for such a small town and event. I did start feeling tired in the last third of the race, but I also had a good mental boost from knowing I was headed back toward the finish.
4:53, 4:53, 4:55, 4:52, 4:54
The kilometres ticked by and my thoughts drifted to hubs and our friends who were also running the full – I hoped they were all having a good day out there. I also remember thinking back to the halfs I had raced in the spring and how much better I was feeling at a much faster pace. I was (am) really proud of how far I had come and how well I was executing this race. I was counting down the kilometres 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and pretty much knew I had it in the bag. I ditched my handheld at an aid station around 19K since I just didn’t feel like carrying it anymore and I knew it was due to be replaced anyway.
With 1K to go, I glanced at my watch and realized I might be able to squeak in under 1:44. I had a pretty good kick left in my legs and made the last split my fastest.
(Those runners around me are in the 10K. They turned toward the finish at the same time from the opposite direction – that’s the most people I had anywhere near me since the start.)
I grabbed some food, water and warm clothes and quickly made my way down the road to watch for hubs at the 38K mark. It was great to see him run by looking strong, and then I boogied back over to the finish line. I was way more nervous about his race than my own, since this has been an even bigger come back year for him. As of January, he hadn’t run in several months and basically started all over again. So proud of his 3:11 finish, which was good enough for 9th place overall!
Super duper congrats to our friends Andy and Greta as well who had incredible races – big PRs and BQs for both of them!
We had a really great time in Amherstburg and at the race; it was a very well executed for such a small event. Not one complaint and we all agreed that we would do it again in a heartbeat. Until next time, Amherstburgers!