Adam Campbell Claims 2nd Place in Vancouver Marathon
A Story by Adam Campbell
As I was heading out the door for another sub -20C run in knee-deep snow of a Maritimes winter, I knew that I needed a goal. It is way too easy to skip a run if there isn't a purpose behind it. I certainly don't do it for the chicken leg, spaghetti arm, hollow/gaunt cheek emaciated look. My running obsession only goes so deep, although I do quite enjoy the metronomic rhythm and suffering of it.
I decided to run the Vancouver Marathon because of the ease of travel, it is a beautiful city and also because I hadn't run a road marathon in a few years. I knew that training would be a challenge, with bashing the books and exams and the barely run-able roads of Fredericton, but I made the most of it.
I got out on the skinny skis a whole bunch, threw the rackets on my feet and tried to find some clear road in between library and reading sessions. I probably should have signed up for a steeple chase as I spend the winter high stepping and hurdling snow banks, but the miles came and I started to feel fit.
The last few weeks were a bit of a struggle, as I worked my way through the hyper competitive, sleep deprived, hyper caffeinated and strange world of law exams, but even then, I never skipped a run, a ski or bike. It was my release and was a great form of "constructive procrastination".
I flew in to B.C. this week and it was showing off. The blossom trees were out and every day was sunny and warm. I love travel and enjoy the Maritimes, but BC is the most amazing place to fly home to.
Predictably, they were calling for rain on race day. Something you expect when you sign up for any race on the "Wet Coast". Luckily, race day came and the sun was beaming. What a day. The course was lined with spectators and I think they had over 16,000 participants in the various events. It also seemed like the entire city was out enjoy the sun and cheering us on.
I figured that I was in shape to run about 2:30, so I took off in that pace. I knew the second half was tough, with lots of rolling hills, but hills are my strength, so I gambled a bit.
I was surprised to find myself in the lead at 2k and held it through 16k, which was a thrill. People were cheering loudly and I probably got a bit over-excited, feeling like a rock star, but I was also soaking it up. It is a pretty cool feeling to be running through the closed streets of a major city, on a sunny day and the snowcapped mountains framing the scenery. There were people from all walks of life cheering my name. I will definitely relish that feeling for a long time.
The dream came to an end at 16k when, predictably, the eventual Kenyan winner came rolling by me. I knew that he was faster than me, but I stuck with him for 2k before he rolled away.
I started to feel a bit rough at this point. It was also when the hills started and it was the loneliest section of the race, with no spectators and no other competitors. I started to feel my first lows. The pain is entirely self-inflicted, so I made a lot of deals with myself to keep me rolling along. I realize now that I am a poor bargainer. I kept promising myself that things would feel better around the next corner, or up the next riser, but that never happened. I actually got more sore and tired, but at least the kilometers were ticking over.
After the lonely stretch through beautiful Stanley Park, we merged back in with the half-marathons and marathon walkers, which was great. They are so supportive and it really feeds you having them cheer you on. Unfortunately they also sort of hog the aid station and I missed a few feeds. So my spirit was fed, but not my belly.
Once up and over Burrard bridge, in the Kitsilano area, I saw a few familiar faces and there were a lot more spectators, so I started getting splits about the racers behind me. It was a struggle, but I knew that if I could just muscle my way to 38k, I would be fine. So I started wheeling and dealing with myself again.
My calves and quads were killing me, I was paying the price for the early pace, I had stopped caring about the finishing time around kilometer 28 and I focused instead on running a pace that I though would keep me on the podium (and in the money).
At the 32 kilometer turnaround, I finally saw places 3-5 and I knew that I couldn't let up and they had paced better than me and were coming on strong, but they also had a lot of ground to make up. I focused on relaxing and trying to find familiar faces in the crowd, as well as focusing on form.
There is a strange time paradox in marathon running and endurance events in general, the further you go and the longer you run, the slower the miles seem to click over and the further away the finish line feels. While the first half was somewhat effortless, I can pretty much remember the pain in my quads from every foot-strike from kilometers 32 through 39.
I finally made it to the top of Burrard bridge, the 40kilometre marker, with 40 seconds over 3rd, I put in my last spurt for home and at 41.5 kilometers finally relaxed.
I really enjoyed the finishing chute. I was in total agony, my quads were killing me, but the crowds really do lift you. I got a last bit of courage and energy from the crowds and gave as many high-fives as I could. I stopped at the finish line and bowed to the crowd to thank them for their support and almost fell over as my hamstring seized. So I sort of stumbled across the finish line, which was a fitting end.
So although it wasn't the smartest paced race, it was an incredible experience. I got to lead the race for almost an hour, I finished second (top-Canadian) and got to run in a magnificent event with thousands of other runners and great support.
Not a bad way to spend the weekend.
I now get to head back onto the soft and hilly surfaces for the rest of the season.