I got injured during ATB and I was afraid it would affect my training for my next race: The Toronto Marathon. The Toronto running scene is so active that the city has room for two marathons per year. This one, in particular, is not a big road event, compared to Toronto Waterfront Marathon, especially because its organization is deficient in many aspects, but it is still runnable because most of the course is scenic, downhill, and less crowded.
I still had my IT Band injury, a chronic pain on the right side of my right knee, caused by prolonged repetitive impact. When discussing the treatment, that’s when I first learned about running form. I didn’t know there was a correct way of running. I just pushed forward without thinking too much. Then I learned that I was hitting the ground with my heel when I was supposed to land flat or with the front part. This way, the impact wave would not propagate too intensively up through the body. I also learned that a way to adopt this form is to slightly lean the upper body forward as if the runner was constantly preventing a fall.
There was no time to fix the form before the race anyway. I couldn’t make the volume required for the race, but I noticed that if I had a full day of rest between runs and limited the distance to a maximum of 10 km, then I could manage the pain. That was the minimum I did to survive the 42.2 km.
Race day. The weather was great, with clear skies, and a calm Sunday. The start line was too far from home, but I was lucky to live close to Exhibition Place, where the organization offered buses to take runners up to the start. I took my bus and sat close to a talkative old man. He told me he was already retired and spent his time training and traveling to races everywhere. He ran more than a hundred marathons! That’s so cool! I wanna retire this way too. I keep being inspired by seniors, seeing them as a projection of what I wanna be when I get older.
We arrived in time to enjoy a warm cup of coffee. Runners were gathering in big numbers. Soon, we would be heading south, followed by half-marathoners, blocking streets, avenues, and bus lines, making the chaotic traffic of Toronto even more chaotic, but happily welcomed by spectators.
My mind was obsessed with the idea of running a mostly downhill course. Maybe, that was my chance of breaking 4 hours for the first time, or too ambitious for a second attempt? What followed was actually a personal best, but still far from a 4 hours performance. The first 4 km were flat, which was great to warm up. Then a short but steep hill broke the rhythm until the 6 km mark. The course continued with short ups and downs for more than 6 km, then we were gifted with 8 km of continuous downhill. Before that, I was following the pack with the 4 hours pacer, but I was so excited about having gravity as an ally that I left them far behind. What I didn’t expect was to feel so tired at the 25 km mark, all of a sudden, significantly slowing down. I kept going but the 4h pacer eventually passed me 20 minutes later. That morning I learned that running downhills too fast increases the heart rate to the point of burning down most of my glycogen storage. It left my body depleted, unable to refuel with a carbohydrate gel for the next 10 minutes.
By the 36 km mark, I started walking, tired, thirty, and disappointed for sharing the same route with walkers and riders. My muscles were fine, which allowed me to run from time to time, but I was so thirsty, desperate for a water station. The weather was getting hot and I was sweating a lot. To some late relief, I reached a water station at the 40 km mark. When I reached the finish line I had nothing more to give. I think I didn’t collapse because my family was there, but they had to wait until I finished 5 bottles of coconut water, freely available for finishers.
Despite the struggle, I dropped 7 minutes from my first marathon. Not bad for a second marathon. I went to bed that night thinking about how could I finish a race without suffering so much.
Best Marathon Time to Date: 04:23:24
Elevation: 199 m