I ran a marathon and all I got was a lousy technical shirt

At the start of the year, I said I wanted to get to 300 pounds on my deadlifts and squats. That isn’t going to happen this year. I realized that I was getting close to 40 years old, and I had one chance left to run a marathon before the big 4-0. (Which is in January 2017) So I entered the Goodlife Fitness / Royal Victoria Marathon and signed up for training.

At first, I could keep up with some of the lifting while I was running, but as the distances ramped up and time marched on, I couldn’t keep it up. It was just running.

It was expensive, too. I had to get two new pairs of shoes, bone-conduction headphones, so many sports drinks and tablets and gummies, registration costs, training costs, etc. It was easily more than $500; I haven’t added it all up. Like my diving gear, it’s best if you don’t know.

The day before the run, it rained hard all day. It looked like the run was going to miserable and wet. On Sunday morning, it was perfect. Great weather, good temperature, everything was great.

20km in, my hips were tired. Soon after that, I got a cramp in my left quad. My left calf followed suit. Then my right knee, the one I hurt in the half-marathon a few years ago, started hurting again. We were doing a 10:1 run:walk ratio, and the science on that is pretty clear. Unless you’re an elite, you’re going to get better times taking walk breaks, and have a much lower chance of injury. Plus, my work on weights reminded me that hey, failure is part of the game. Rest five minutes and you’ll get your next set.

I had to take a lot of walk breaks. It got to the point where I could barely run anymore. I’d had all my shot bloks, I’d had lots of electrolyte water, I was hydrated enough, I’d just hurt myself.

I started yelling at my knee that I didn’t care, that we’d walk with a limp and get a cane from the cane store.

I kept going.

My headphones ran out of battery.

I started with one goal. Finish. The time was going to be a PB, no matter what.

My form was shot. I could only limp-run. It was a LOT slower on the second half… well, the last quarter, anyway. Positive splits are a thing, right?

You can see me slow down.
You can see me slow down.

The last corner was coming up. One of my training buddies saw me and knew I was in trouble. The rest of the group saw me, and saw my form wasn’t normal. My knee had seized completely, and there was no power on my left leg at all. I was throwing myself forward with every step, limp-running the end. Entering the final chute, I understood what my old office manager told me. “A marathon isn’t 42km, it’s 42.2, and it’s really only that last .2 that counts.” I was focused on getting across the finish no matter what it took. I was vaguely aware of a gurney next to me; I found out later someone had broken their leg. I knew there was a medic on a bike following me, staying close. I saw my dad. I could hear the crowd. A lot of people were cheering; they wanted me to cross as much as I did.

I crossed the line. Some of my training buddies thought I just went to medical and didn’t look for me. That’s okay, I wasn’t sure where I was headed either.

I didn’t collapse. I got my medal. I finished a marathon.

I ran into someone with a medal later, and they told me that they didn’t quit because they saw me, and I didn’t quit.

By Wednesday, I was healed completely, and even gave blood in the afternoon. 10:1.

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Magnus is a Professional Electrical Engineer from Victoria, BC. He's worked on projects ranging from new code for embedded radios to inspecting [redacted] government systems. He'll relax and unwind by teaching yoga or Cyclefit, or going out for a dive in the cold ocean.

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