I wrote about my training and my marathon results, but for some reason I haven’t been able to finish this post about race day and actually running the Montreal Marathon.
We stayed at Le Nouvel Hotel in Montreal. It was a short walk to the metro from the hotel and a quick metro ride to the starting area. I headed out into the cold, rainy early morning alone. Orlando and Carlos would meet me later at the finish line. The metro was packed with runners so I wasn’t worried about getting lost.
I arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare so I jumped in line for the port-a-johns. The girl in front of me was beside herself because she had never used a port-a-john. When it was her turn she let me go ahead of her! I wonder if she ever mustered up enough courage to go inside.
The entrance to the Jacques Cartier Bridge was jamming with a live band and swarms of runners. I retreated to a grassy area nearby. It was a dreary morning, but the rain had subsided for the time being. I took the opportunity to stretch and relax. It was nice to take time to clear my mind, stretch my body and just be in the moment.
About 30 minutes before the start I began to walk to my corral, Corral 18. As I was walking up the Jacques Cartier Bridge I noticed in contrast to my red bib everyone else seemed to be wearing green bibs causing me to worry that I had been given the wrong bib. When I finally spotted another red bib I asked which race she running. I was relieved when she said the red bibs were for the full marathon and the green bibs were for the half. There were approximately 14,000 runners in the half marathon and only 4,000 running the full marathon.
I settled into my corral and got to chatting with some friendly women from Montreal. Both were in their 50s and doing the half marathon. One had lived in China and ran the Great Wall adventure marathon and the Beijing Marathon (I thought of you Carina ). She was running the half that day in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. The other woman had qualified for Boston during her very first marathon in her 20s. She had been out of running for some time and this was her first long race in many years.
As we chatted the rain returned and really began to pick up. I marveled at the sheer ingenuity of so many of the runners who came equipped with a simple trash bag over their head. Absolutely ridiculously brilliant, simple and cheap! Guess who now has a trash bag in her running bag?! I had a throw away sweatshirt on with a hood and gloves to keep my hands warm which turned out to be enough.
We made our way very slowly across the Jacques Cartier Bridge towards the actual starting line. Corral after corral we inched closer and closer. My legs were getting antsy and I was itching to run. Finally after at least 45 minutes Corral 18 took off. The rain was coming down at a good clip and I had ditched my sweatshirt already. I really didn’t care too much about the rain. I was more focused on keeping my feet out of puddles. Running with soaking wet shoes that early would not be fun.
During the first 5 miles I excitedly spotted the 4:30 pacer. I somehow managed to pull ahead of her and stayed in front of her for the rest of the race. I was very satisfied with that, but I continued to be on the lookout for the 4:15 pacer to know I had a good cushion for time. I never did see the 4:15 pacer!
At approximately the 10K mark we crossed the St. Lawrence river again via the Concorde Bridge. I love running over bridges. I frequently run across a nearby bridge into a neighboring town just to glimpse views of the river. Before reaching the end of the bridge I realized the rain had stopped. The weather continued to be overcast for the rest of the race, but no more rain! On the other side of the river we ran through Old Montreal, past the Notre Dame Basilica and up the bustling Ste Catherine Street. At Lafontaine Park we broke with the half marathoners. This would also be the finishing point for the full marathon. The spectator support was fabulous through Old Montreal and grew in intensity as we neared Lafontaine Park. This was the finish area and also where we would break off from the half marathoners.
However, as I cheered the runners whizzing by me who were finishing the half marathon the noise and excitement of the race also disappeared. I looked ahead and saw two lone runners way up in front of me. I jerked my head to look behind me and realized I was basically alone. At this point I settled into my pace and into my thoughts. I felt great, better than I had expected both mentally and physically.
The second half of the course meandered north through some rather quiet streets before turning east towards the Botanical Gardens and Olympic Stadium, neither of which I remember passing because I believe we just ran past the outside of the sites. There were wonderful volunteers along the back half of the course and because it is a Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon there were bands in various places along the route. Before the finish line was even in sight I could hear the roar of the cheering spectators. It is still amazing to me that people come to cheer their hearts out for the runners. It brings tears to my eyes every time. Montreal supporters did not disappoint.
As the finish chute came into sight I felt a surge of energy ignite my body. It was as though I was just beginning my run as opposed to finishing 26.2 miles. The last quarter of a mile or so was like an out of body experience. Just before I crossed the finish line I caught sight of my husband and son to the right beyond the finish. “Yes,” I thought, “they made it!”
And so did I!
This post has taken me so long to write. Sometimes I feel really alone in this running journey. No one around me really “gets it.” This race started out as just another marathon, yet it turned into so much more. I knew I had a good chance of running a sub 4:30 marathon which for someone like me is a huge accomplishment so to run it in 4:16:35 is still a bit mind boggling. I exceeded my own expectations far beyond what I believed to be possible for me as a runner. I’m not sure how to channel that right now. I’m exploring goals I have previously scoffed at, but now they don’t seem so strange or unattainable. I have a desire to run longer races and I can’t quite explain why. Yet I feel I need to explain why before I sign up for one. I don’t just want to run though, I want to run healthy and clean. I also want to feel strong and flexible. I’m not sure exactly what is next for me, but I am anxious and excited to find out. I am also a little bit terrified.
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” Henry Ford