Once on Yonge Street, I put Skipper and Daddy out of my mind, believing that they had found each other. Instead, my mind filled with voices that would guide me through the next 41.2 kilometres.
Shawn and Graham, my running mates who helped me immensely with my pacing on our long runs, were always in my head. “You’re picking it up again, Cynthia,” Garmin Graham would tell me when I was in training and, whenever I noticed my feet start to pull me forward in Toronto, I heard Graham pull me back.
Dr. Randy’s voice also echoed in my mind. “The race begins at 32K,” he told me. I had to start slowly.
Shawn and I often talked about my pacing for the marathon during our last few runs before it. “Go out easy,” he said. “Aim for a 1:50 half. Look for the 3:50 pace bunny and stay a bit ahead of it. 1:50’s good.”
I did look for the 3:50 pace bunny at the start but I didn’t see one. There was a 3:30 and a 4:00 bunny, but no 3:50 – not even a 3:45. I let out a deep sigh and tried to place myself properly at the start line. By the first kilometre, I knew I had done just that; I was running around a 5 minute kilometre (or 8 minute mile) pace – exactly what I wanted.
By the time I reached the 6K mark, I knew it was going to be a tough few hours. I was already cold and wished that I had worn my arm sleeves. We climbed the hill at Hoggs Hollow, where we were cheered on my spectators and volunteers, and handed bottles of water by store owners. At that point, I decided that I was going to have fun with this race; there was no point in taking it seriously because conditions were rotten.
And fun I had. I expected that the boys at Upper Canada College would be manning an aid station but they were nowhere in sight. So I made sure that I thanked the bubbly and enthusiastic girls next door, at Bishop Strachan School, who were handing out water, gatorade and oranges. And I hammed it up for the photographer at Casa Loma – something I never, ever do.
By 12K, I started to regret not wearing more on my arms and I started to strategize. “When I see Daddy and Skipper at 15K,” I thought, “I’ll ask them to find them in my backpack and meet me at 18K with them.
But that plan feel through when I didn’t see them. I was certain that I hadn’t missed them; the rainy weather made sure that there weren’t lots of spectators out that morning. I continued on but didn’t see them anywhere. “They’re just cold and hungry. It’s better that they’re at my parents’ so that they can stay warm.” Not once did I think that they weren’t together.
In the last kilometres before Lakeshore, I waited – yes, waited! – for a portapotty. Since I had been drinking Gatorade at each station, I wanted to make sure that my bladder was completely empty before getting into the cold and wind so that I wouldn’t be facing GI woes too. Besides, I had a bit of time to kill as I was about 2 minutes ahead of where I wanted to be. But the wait took forever and, by the time I got back on the road, I was 2 minutes behind my goal pace.
Shawn’s pacing advice went through my head again: aim for a 1:50 half. I was on track for that so I stayed calm and carried on. And, if my legs tried to catch up to some of the runners who left me at the porta-potties, the voice of Garmin Graham tightened the leash.
On I went at my 5 minute pace, aiming to just have fun. But, once we got to Lakeshore, fun took on a whole new meaning….