I became a marathoner in October 2018. This was a dream I had since I started running races is 2011. In 2016 I had planned to train and run my first marathon, but finishing my Masters Degree final project took over my life. My 2017 goals included the same plan but ended up with a shin splint that would not let up. In 2018, everything just came together in timing and training so magical that it was just meant to be.
Training: My First Marathon
I used Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Training Plan. I found it to be a very gentle and approachable way to train for your first marathon. My goal was to finish, end of story. I didn’t have a time goal, I just wanted to enjoy every second. My long runs were on Saturday and I rested on Sunday for the most part. I did strength training using Fitness Blender and hot yoga 2 – 3 times per week throughout training. My structured training began in April for the Tely 10 and I continued marathon training immediately after that.
I loved doing my long run on Saturday’s. The whole ritual of it was amazing, getting up early and running to pure exhaustion. Every Saturday run increased my confidence that I could run 26.2 miles. The sore satisfaction I felt for accomplishing my long run every weekend left my on an endorphin high like no other. I also loved that on Saturdays I could eat whatever the hell I wanted!
I was very lucky to do get to do a lot of my training in the fall in Toronto. A lot of my fall work events take place in Ontario so I was fortunate enough to train on parts of the course especially on the waterfront several times. This definitely helped build my confidence because I was familiar with the race course and conditions. While I won’t always have the opportunity to do this as a first timer it was helpful.
The only component of the plan I didn’t do was any other type of cardio as cross training. While I did strength training and yoga I think if I had added in that additional cross training it likely would have improved my performance. This year I have incorporated bike riding into my training. It is equal parts brutal and magical all at once!
I had such a great experience at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This was my first large race. Until this point the largest race I had done was 5,000 people. The Toronto Waterfront Marathon had over 25,000.
My husband came to Toronto to cheer me on and the two of us caught the bus shuttle to the expo. You could just feel the excitement on the bus! The whole process was super organized from the shuttle bus to picking up your race kit. We browsed around the expo and I went to the braid bar. I have super thick hair and at the time it was crazy long so I would braid it for long runs. It was awesome to have a braid bar and have a professional braid my hair for me for $10.
We stayed at an AirBnb in Nathan Philips Square a 2 minute walk to the start. I didn’t want to have to worry about taking public transportation to get to the start. The start area was super organized and each corral had tons of porta potties which I appreciated. When it was my corrals turn to go, the announcers, cameras everywhere and confetti flying just lit me on fire. I was so excited to be there in that moment accomplishing a goal that had been on my heart for years.
The course was flat and fast, which as a first-time marathoner was super important to me. The entire course had tons of crowd support the whole way but the first half was crazy. People, bands and dancers everywhere. I can remember running down on the waterfront and you could not take the smile off my face. The views especially in the first half were spectacular, running the waterfront is one of the most beautiful areas of Toronto.
The area when the half marathon and full marathon split is a little tough. It’s in more of an industrial area and not many people are on the course in this area. You just have to push through it and keep going. After this section you go through a residential area running two major out and back routes. I sometimes find the out and backs mentally hard. The second one seems to go on forever, of course it’s the end of the race so everything is hard at this point. But the great course support just helps you push through it.
I felt good and strong the first 32kms and then my legs felt like lead. I felt fine, my breathing and endurance felt fine I just felt like my legs were 100 pounds heavier then normal. That last 10kms was harder then the first 32kms combined. I had to dig deep to keep going and use every mental tactic I had developed in the previous months of training. I remember at one point running 5 minutes and walking 1. Then running 3 and walking 1, when I literally felt like I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. These kilometres were much slower for me then the first ones but I just kept going. When my legs were screaming at me to stop I pushed on through.
The last mile was both amazing and brutal all at once. It felt like it was never going to end but when I turned the corner to head towards city hall and saw the 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 meter signs I started tearing up. This was really going to happen, I actually made it. I don’t think I realized until that second that I really would finish. It was a high like no other, working so hard on something for months to come together on achieving a massive goal. Finally, a marathoner.
The moment I finished I knew I would do it again. In the months since completing my first marathon, that hasn’t changed. I loved marathon training, how all encompassing and challenging it is, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. My plans this year are still a little up in the air, but if I am in Toronto at the time I defiantly plan to run the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. It was an awesome race in an amazing city I have grown to love.
Have you run a marathon, which one? Any tips?