When I started this blog many years ago I was hoping it would help motivate me to train hard and finally qualify to run the Boston Marathon. I tried personal training, running more miles, doing more speed work, losing 10lbs…. but my marathon times stayed in the 3:40-3:50 zone. After running a few trail races I decided to quit marathon training and start ULTRAmarathon training. My first ultra was the Grizzly 50km ultra in Canmore, AB in October 2014. It was tough, but I didn’t cry or puke, so I signed up for the Iron Legs 50 miler the following summer in Kananaskis, AB. Iron Legs (2015) race day was rainy and a pretty good running temperature for me, and although I was disappointed there were no mountain views I was happy to not be running in 30 degree temps. Running the 54 mile race took me less time than expected, and I was happy to finish the race in under 14 hours (and before dark). After having completed a few ultras (that summer I also ran Rundles Revenge 50k and the Mount Robson 50k), I figured it was time to try running the Vancouver Marathon again in 2016, which I would use as early training for my main 2016 goal- the Black Spur 108k.
I felt confident that I could qualify for Boston at Vancouver because my training had gone well, and running at sea level after training in Kimberley always feels easier. Buuuut on race day it was HOT, and I clearly hadn’t trained enough on pavement because half way into the marathon my legs felt very heavy and I couldn’t keep the pace I needed to BQ. I still ended up with a personal best, but was 1 minute short of the time needed to qualify. This meant I wouldn’t be running Boston in 2017.
After researching all the fall marathons (fall=cold temps), I signed up for the Hamilton Marathon which took place in November on the weekend before my birthday. Supposedly it is the best race to BQ in Canada, and it meant we would be able to spend some time in Toronto afterwards to celebrate my 33rd birthday. I don’t think I trained any differently for this race, but maybe running 108km a couple months before did help. After the Black Spur I took a few days off before jumping back into marathon training. I didn’t do any speed work leading up to Black Spur, so I incorporated a few yasso 800s and continued to do runs of between 30-40km on weekends. And most importantly, I ran mostly on pavement.
Brett and I flew into Toronto a few days before the race and were able to check out the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I was thankful to visit at this time of year because it meant fewer tourists.
My mom flew in the night before the race, so her and Brett made a plan to meet me around the half way mark. I drank many litres of Nuun the day/night before the race, and had a dinner of butternut squash ravioli. My friend from Edmonton was also running the Marathon, and her husband was running the half. Her sister gave us a ride to the start, where we spent the 30 minutes before the race waiting in a port-a-potty line until just before it was time to start. My initial plan was to stick with the 3:30 pace group for the first 10-20km, because this was the time I needed to make sure I could actually register for Boston. In previous years you need to have finished a marathon about 2-3 minutes faster than your qualifying time to actually get in. I also planned to take a gel every hour, and drink water from the aid stations if I felt thirsty (which ended up being just 2 or 3 times). By the end of the first km, I decided to run based on how I was feeling. I didn’t want to regret running slower than I felt I could. The race is very flat and starts on back country roads. The first half went by very fast, and I was on pace to finish in under 3:30. I saw my mom and Brett, threw them my arm sleeves, and was happy to start the second half of the race. There is a long slightly downhill section in the second half, and then a very short trail section, before an out and back along the waterfront trail by the lake. I enjoyed the short section where you could see other racers heading back to the finish. For the last 5 or 6km I ran with a girl from Halifax, who had also graduated at St.FX. It was her first Marathon AND she was going to qualify for Boston!
I finished the race in 3:25:22-FINALLY qualifying for Boston. I stuck around and waited for my friend to finish and then it was time for recovery beers.