It was just over two years ago that I started running seriously. My dream was to do a half marathon. At that stage I couldn’t even run around the block without stopping. The thought of me doing a full marathon was laughable! However, that year I did 3 half marathons and I achieved the goal time I had set for myself. I proved to myself that if I set myself a massive goal and if I worked hard enough, I could achieve anything!
I started the Striders training plan but soon ran into trouble with the dreaded ‘Runner’s Gut’ when I did my long runs. It got really bad and I nearly gave up my training. But after talking to friends with similar problems and a fair bit of advice from Dr Google, I learnt that I had to prepare my body a few days prior to a big run. I had to avoid certain foods in those days when normally they wouldn’t cause me any issues.
My training went well after that and I got excited once I started running past 21k (my record). Each week I attended the Striders night sessions and did a long run with my training partner Peter Wilkes. Having someone to train with and run those long distances was invaluable. One week I would struggle and Pete would encourage me to keep going. The next week, he would struggle and I would be the one encouraging him. And so it continued. I am grateful for Pete’s support and encouragement. Each week we went a little further until we reached our peak distance of 34k (it hurt!!). From there we had a good taper and I felt as ready as I could be for the big M! I was still concerned that I had only been up to 34k. How was I meant to find the energy to go that extra 8.2k on race day?
Race day finally came! This was the day I had spent the past 20 weeks training for! My goal was simple – I wanted to finish my first marathon in under 4 hours. I was very nervous but at the same time, just ready to get this run over with!
Finally, the race began! I started at a good pace and passed the 3:45 pacer. My plan was to run by feel, I didn’t want to look at my watch every minute. At that stage I was feeling great! Only about 3k into the run, I came upon a familiar sight – Josh Strider! Josh is part of the night running group and is an amazing runner. However, this time round he was recovering from an injury and wasn’t able to run at his usual lightning pace. He asked what time I was aiming for and he said that he would run with me and make sure I got that time! Wow!! Thank you Josh!
We managed to stay with the 3:45 pacer for a while but at about the 18k mark I started to feel tired and sore. By 25k, the 3:45 pacer was ahead of us and unfortunately my stomach was not behaving. We had a quick pit stop and kept going at a steady pace. At 30k I was down and upset because I still had another 12k to go. I was struggling but Josh kept encouraging me to keep going, just keep moving. We passed the finish line (which was to our right) and I could hear the crowd cheering. Then I heard my name being called out! I looked to my right and there was our amazing wonderful team – South Pine Striders! I am so grateful for all the Striders and their families who came just to cheer for their team mates. Kymberley Stark was cheering for Josh and I over the loud speaker.
I cannot tell you how much that lifted me! Josh did his gazelle bounce and I blew some kisses to say thank you. From that point on, I was hurting but I knew that the end was in sight! Finally we got to the turnaround point just past 37k – only 1 parkrun (5k) to go! The k’s gradually ticked over and we came to the 41k mark. At this point the crowd was pretty thick and I decided this is the bit I’m going to remember. So following in Josh’s footsteps, I high five’d as many kids as possible! At one stage Josh yelled out that the 4 hour pacer was coming up behind us. There was no way I was going to let that pacer pass me after telling all my friends and family I was going to do this marathon in under 4 hours! So I put in my very best effort and eventually got to the finishing chute – the longest finishing chute in the world (or so it felt like it!). I crossed the finishing line in 3h 56m 58s!! I had achieved my goal and I was over the moon! Thank God that was over!
My first marathon is one that I will always remember. I would like to thank Michael Stark, Yvonne Baylis, Nigel Small, Anthony Fuster, Peter Wilkes and Josh Strider. I really admire and look up to all these amazing people and I am grateful for their advice and support. Do I want to run another marathon? Yes, but not your traditional marathon. My goal for next year is to do the Spartan Ultra Beast – 42k + obstacles! I can’t wait to start training.
Written by Tanya Wehl