2022 was unofficially the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety rules were relaxed, mainly because death tolls went down substantially with the effectiveness of the vaccines, and people were already fed up staying at home, away from other people. With caution, gathering events started to pop up everywhere, and most of them had sold out. Running races were not different.
In January of that year, I was out of shape, poorly running during the pandemic, with an incredibly low volume. My calorie intake was higher than my wiliness to burn them up. I would blame my lack of purpose, which is running races. Exercising to lose weight was not in my plans. I run to have fun and the more fun I have the more I run, and the more I run the more weight I lose.
I needed to find purpose so I signed up for the Ottawa Marathon, which would take place in May, I believed it was enough time to do proper training. I started increasing volume and regaining endurance, but not as fast as I needed. I guess I forgot what I have learned about training after 2 years without racing. But my goal was just to finish the race, not set a new personal best (PB). The actual question was: would I be able to run it all, without walking? A month before the race I was certain that I wouldn’t. I caught COVID.
Despite all the doses of vaccines, COVID caught me hard. I spent 3 days lying in bed with a fever, coughing, and experiencing chest pain. I was still breathing normally, but I was afraid of having to go to the hospital. Fortunately, my fourth day showed signs of recovery, with the end of my fever. I still needed two more weeks to have all my symptoms vanish, but my fitness also went with them. I didn’t give up my marathon though. COVID because one more reason to pursue the finish line.
The Ottawa Race Weekend was our spring family trip. Kids ran the Kid’s Marathon, which consisted of running 1km per day, on 40 different days before the race day, and running the remaining 2.2 km on the race day. My wife ran the half-marathon and I ran the marathon. We also had my father and mother-in-law visiting and helping with the kids while we were running.
The marathon started first. I walked from the hotel to the start, already all set for the race. The temperature was around 10 degrees Celsius but I knew it would increase up to 23 by the end of that morning. I never ran a marathon in such warm conditions and I wasn’t acclimatized either so that race was an enigma. My wife started 2 hours later. Since most people finish a marathon approximately in 4 hours and a half-marathon in 2 hours, they make it in a way that most people finish within a time window.
With 4 marathons on my resume, I rarely get nervous at the start these days. I was relaxed and even started a conversation with a fellow runner from Montreal. He was running his first marathon and was asking some questions about my experience. I realized he was bluffing because he started fast and finished with a good time.
This race is interesting because we run in two Canadian provinces. We start in Ontario, cross the river, run a few kilometers in Quebec, then cross the river again, back in Ontario, using a different bridge. After this bridge, marathoners turned left for the last third of the course, full of hills, and half-marathoners go straight to the finish line. The course is very scenic, charming, and we feel welcomed by the residents. But nothing helped to relieve the suffering caused by the heat. I ran well up to 25 km, but when the hills started I couldn’t help walking for a while. It just kept going relentlessly up, but I was impatient to run again since so many people I passed were passing me by then. So I decided to walk and run until the downhills started a few more kilometers ahead. I was sweating profusely and craving for the next water station, where I would drink at least two cups. Yet, I left those stations still thirsty. That could be a sign of dehydration. A sensation I was feeling for the first time. I didn’t know what to do so I kept walking and running until I saw 1 … 2 and then 3 people fainting, losing consciousness on the road, and being promptly assisted by paramedics. That scene made me afraid that would happen to me too, so I slowed down to walking, only running in downhills, until a safe distance to the finish line. I had my family waiting for me there and I didn’t want them to find me in a hospital.
In the last 2km to the finish line, there was a big crowd waiting for runners. It would be a shame to pass through them walking, so I pushed a painful light run. I hit the wall a few kilometers ago and I couldn’t sustain that run for 12 minutes, so I had to change the concept of shame to simply not finishing the race, which was unlikely to happen at that point. I crossed the finish line 4 hours and 49 minutes after the start, 41 minutes more than my best time. Well! Being a finisher is better than a DNF (Did Not Finish), which granted me the right to a medal.
It was so good to see my family at the finish line. My wife was already there. She told me she also had hydration issues. She even accepted a popsicle from someone in the streets (Don’t do that!!!). Relieved and with medals hanging on our necks, we had lunch together and headed back to the hotel. By 2 pm I was laying on the bed and there I stayed until the next day. Despite the suffering, it was worth the experience. I learned a lot and realized I knew nothing about hydration and acclimatization. I can’t wait for my next race!
Best Marathon Time to Date: 04:07:11
Elevation: 229 m