The marathon day started for me at 3am due to wanting to accompany friends who were doing the half marathon to the race precinct and a little bit (well mostly) about not knowing or wanting to find my way there alone.
I followed my usual breakfast routine that I had used for long runs (the few that I did during training) and had honey on toast and a hot milo. I thought I would bring a banana along to have before the race but ended up forgetting it.
Off to the tram at 4.20am and jumped on the 4.40am tram. As we were the first stop, it was empty but got very full by the time we reached the race precinct. I was feeling a bit ill by then because of being squashed in but while on the tram I managed to catch up with a fellow Coffs Harbour runner and wish her luck for the half marathon. It's amazing how fate plays games with you on days like this. Of all the carriages for her to hop on, it was the one I was on!! By the way, she did a super time in her race!
It was still dark when we arrived at the precinct and first thing was to locate the toilets. We found an out of the way block so the line up was minimal. It seemed like it didn't take much time after that for my friends to have to head to the start line for the half marathon. I was left standing in the dark and cold trying to watch the start from a slight hill. I forgot I could've gone into the middle of the precinct and watched it on the big screen.
I was surprised to see people still jostling into the starting line long after the start gun had gone off - but apparently that is normal.
As it was still cool, I headed back to the toilets and sat in a cubicle for a while just to keep warm. Not sure what to do then, I wandered around, dropped my bag off and really just stood there watching the other runners start to arrive for the marathon.
A lady from the Facebook group of which I belong, Running Mums Australia, popped up beside me and asked if I would like to come with her to find the RMA tent as there was going to be a photo taken of the marathoners at 6.45am. It was 6.30am by then and the race was due to start at 7.20am. Off we went to find the tent and we did and had our photo taken. I had explained to the lady that I had forgotten my banana and she was kind enough to share hers. We did a final trip to the toilet and headed to the start line.
I was actually wanting to run with this lady - she was aiming for a 4.30 finish time so had chosen starting group D and I was in C as I had been advised to estimate a faster pace so not to get stuck behind slower runners. I kept trying to sneak into D but the volunteers were on my case each time so I ended up lining up at the start in C on my own.
After a motivational speech by Robert De Castella and recognition of the passing of the great Ron Clarke, the gun went off and we started moving slowly towards the start line.
I was having trouble with my Garmin watch picking up a GPS signal so was saying silent prayers it would work. But also taking in the atmosphere and as I went up a small crest and looked down over the start line and all the fellow runners doing this run, I got a bit teary. I told myself I could not cry because I wouldn't be able to breathe. So put a stop to that. I could not believe I was crossing the start line after all those months of training and I was alone but surrounded by thousands of other runners. It was such a big event to be part of.
I have to note that not even a kilometer into the run and there were some poor runners already pulled off to the side with possible pulled muscles so their run was over - I felt for them.
I found a nice pace to run, but had a bit of pain in my ankle which just felt like I needed to do some ankle rotations but it did come good not long after.
I won't do a k by k breakdown of the race but I will say that the run out to the turnaround at Burleigh Heads was fun. The crowd is great! I high fived as many kids as I could along the course. I wasn't quite sure where the turn around was so it threw me a bit because I thought it was earlier than it was. But I had already started running into people I knew from Facebook running pages I follow and from Ipswich parkrun.
The best surprise (well there were many best surprises on the day) was hearing my name called at Surfers Paradise and seeing a lady from work there with her family. I ran across to high five her - and would you believe, she was still there on the way back which deserved a hug so she got a big sweaty hug. She has since sent me an email saying how proud she is of me and how inspirational I am! It was a lovely surprise and spurred me on.
I ran into one of the running coaches from a group I run with in Ipswich when I'm up there on holidays a few times. I would run past then walk through the drink stations and he would catch up again and then I'd run past and it would go on like that for a while.
Catching up with Green from Super Running Girls and Graham from Taking the Long Option could not have come at a better time. From about 10km my toes felt like they had blisters on the bottom of them but it was an annoyance more than pain so I could keep going. Green and Graham kept my mind occupied for a while. Green had to head to a toilet so Graham and I kept running together. Graham had a camera on a stick so was taking photos along the way. Graham was doing a great thing for the team Run for Hummingbird House. He was running back and forth throughout the marathon to get all the team across the line. He ended up running around 62km instead of 42km.
After Graham left, I caught up with Adele from She Runs a Lot and Sam from Darren and Sam's Running Adventures - this was the first time I had met them although I did seem them both at the before the start and probably shocked them a bit my saying hello and "I follow you on Facebook!"
Then I ran into Shylet from the Running Doctor and also embarrassed myself saying I follow you on facebook. I swear I felt like some kind of stalker at this stage. I must not forget that I had also run into Running Optimistic who was running with a friend - Jess and Tess!!
It was fairly uneventful until I came up to the bridge at 30km. I remember people saying that this was the incline - the hill that was still flat but still a hill. I thought, well this is the furtherest I had run in my training so anything beyond here is the unknown. It was also at this point I saw my friends on the sidelines and ran backwards to give them a big hug. Another spur to get me up the incline and as I crested and looked out beyond the finish line (yes I had to run past that - what torture) and saw the thousands of runners ahead and no turn around in site - my head started winning. I will admit at this stage the legs were pretty sore - in fact in my race video you can see when I run down the hill on the other side of the bridge I'm looking pretty stiff.
The walking begins here. I had just had the biggest boost from the supporters and my friends and now I was in no man's land. There are still supporters, but not as many. There are people collapsed in the middle of the road and there are lots of runners starting to walk. I could see a turn ahead and thought that once past there I might see the turnaround and be spurred on again - instead I saw more runners ahead. This just kept happening. Around every turn, more runners and no turnaround.
I had been up with the 4.00 pace balloon but that had gone, the 4.15 pace balloon also went and then the 4.30 pace balloon drifted off. My thoughts of a possible sub 4.30 marathon deflated and I just said, it's ok, I just need to finish. Even if I have to walk it. So lots of walking and shuffling I did.
I had seen another runner from Coffs earlier in the race who was behind me, she passed me as I hit my first walking session of the post 30km mark. I wished her well as I continued walking. Alas, suddenly there she was walking in front of me. I said No what happened and she said it hurts and I said I know and we walked together. This went on for a little while and then she said, there is only 4km to go, let's run. So off we shuffled. I really didn't want to run 4km - I really didn't think I could and after 2km and my stupid water/fuel belt kept slipping, I said for her to continue as I wanted to walk and fix up my stupid belt. So off she went.
So I walked and shuffled and lo and behold just ahead the 4.30 pace balloon - woo hoo!! Maybe my sub 4.30 was in sight again. I kept up with the balloon and then we rounded a corner and I heard the pacer say, there's only just over 1km to go you can do this. So I did. I overtook the 4.30 pacer and shuffled along quicker.
I knew the RMA tent was near the finish shoot so I thought, I just have to get to there and I know I'm pretty much home! The team tents were cheering and I was smiling again. I was on the way out of hell! High fives for all the RMA's hanging over the fence. And then my friends - the girls!! High fives for them and there was the start of the finishing shute!!! Let's put the effort in!!!
So effort I did - although looking at the video it really wasn't that fast! And I rounded a corner and thought where is this f**&^ finishing shute!! And there it was and my name was called out and I threw my hands in the air and fist pumped and got excited!! I had done it!! I had finished and I had done it, according to my Garmin in 4.26. Officially 4.27 and gun time of 4.31.
I stopped running and instantly my legs stiffened - it was hard to walk. I ran into my Coffs running friend in the food and water area and we both started crying and promising to call each other should we decide to do another marathon again - so we could talk the other out of it! I called my husband and daughter and they were so excited!! I made my way out of the recovery area and got my medal and shirt and went and picked up my bag. I then had to locate my friends - the girls!!
There are lots of people to thank for this journey and achievement - a lot mentioned in this post and a lot not mentioned but they know who they are! Will I do another one? I might, but not the Gold Coast again - not with that awful last 10k - that will never leave me! Although they say it's like childbirth and you soon forget. So who knows!