Posted by: Karen | July 17, 2006

Calgary Marathon

Sunday, July 9th, 2006 I completed my first marathon. That’s 26.2 miles, folks – 42.2 km if you prefer metric. I ran and walked them one right after the other, on my own two feet, all in the same morning.

I awoke before the sun did. I had my usual breakfast of toast with peanut butter and honey, and drank coffee. I drove Cheryl and *jeanne* down to the race start and we hung around before the 6 a.m. early start, doing last-minute tasks and thinking last-minute thoughts. I was excited but calm. I was confident and positive. I was so confident and positive that I forgot my two race gels in the car. Thankfully, Cheryl gave me one of hers.

I was a little frightened by the race official who firmly denied that any runners would be allowed to start early, at 6 a.m. Funny, I’m sure I read on their web site that anyone anticipating a slow marathon (like me) should start early. I tried not to let it unnerve me and the race started with a shotgun blast. I don’t remember anyone singing/playing the Canadian anthem – hey, shouldn’t there have been an anthem?

Here are some memories I hope will stick with me for a long time:

Hard Stuff:

  • Lots of sullen, tired people waiting to cheer their loved ones in the last 1/3rd of the course. They were hot, too, I realize, but it took a lot of yahooing and downright obnoxious cheeriness on my part to get a little applause from them. They were saving it for someone else. Quite a change from the bouncy, fresh faces I’d seen cheering a couple of hours earlier.
  • Running after 36k/22mi. Everything below my belly button ached when ran. No specific locatons for the pain, just general, lower body ache. Somewhere in there I walked for about 22 minutes straight (I had run 10 walked 1 the rest of the race). I did manage to get myself back to running again by telling myself “It’s SUPPOSED to be hard. Do the hard stuff!”
  • The water stations got reeeeally far apart towards the end. No wait, they weren’t further apart, I was just going slower and it took me longer to get to them!
  • Worrying about gels. I ate Cheryl’s after the first hour, and broke out the power bar in my pack for the second. Eventually there were 2 water stations with gels, so I got to try Powerbar’s Tropical and Vanilla flavours (no Chocolate).
  • It was hot out, but I’ve felt worse in other races.
  • Wondering how Little Runner’s race had gone. I’d never missed her finish before.
  • Calling my husband with 5k left to go and telling him I would still be another 45 minutes yet. And then struggling through that last 45 minutes.
  • Wet shorts. One can only dump so much water over one’s head before it migrates to the shorts. I must buy some fast-drying underwear if I ever do this again. I dripped continually for the last 10 km. I guess it wasn’t really THAT hard. Just a little annoying.
  • Smiling for the finish line. I’ve never found it hard to smile for the finish line, but this time the grimace of pain made it through. I didn’t get all weepy emotional like I had thought I would, but it was still an effort to get myself across the mats.
  • Finding a water bottle after the race. They had to be somewhere, every racer had one, I just couldn’t find them.

Easy Stuff:

  • Going through water stations. I’d say it out loud every time cups were handed to me: “Water on the outside.” (dumped that over my head) “Gatorade on the inside.” (had a sip or two). Then I’d grab a wet sponge, dab it around my neck like perfume, and tuck it into my cap band until I got to the next stop.
  • Portapotties: I never had to wait for one. I stopped 3 times enroute and they appeared just when I thought I might need them.
  • Smiling for cameras in the first 1/3rd of the race. Fresh as a daisy!
  • Running at my “forever pace”, for what seemed like forever. I never seemed to want to go anyone’s pace but mine. I let go of pace bunnies and passing runners the instant I saw them. I guess starting 1 hour ahead and getting passed steadily for about 3 hours numbed me to any competitive thoughts.
  • Running past the Half Marathon turnaround point. I danced a silly nanner nanner song past the volunteers: “I get to keep GOing, I get to keep GOing…”
  • There was a lady on the side of the road with a big bag of ice somewhere in the last quarter of the race. She gave me a big handful of it and I tucked it into my bra. Ahhhhhh…
  • Thanking volunteers. I thanked and thanked and thanked. I know it was difficult to get enough marshals out this year, and I want them all to want to come back again.

Fun Stuff:

  • Taking pictures with *jeanne*. We posed for a butt shot for Dawn before the race, and a couple of other silly ones with statues on the Stephen Avenue Mall in the first couple of km. 
  • Cheering elite runners as they went by, and watching *jeanne* valiantly try to keep up with them for a bit. Cheering on 10k’ers, too, especially when I saw Glenn Gabriel on his way back. GO PENGUIN!
  • Somewhere around 25 km I caught up with an older asian man with “Old & Young” on the back of his shirt. I asked him what that was for, and he said it was the name of his running club in Kuala Lumpur. No way. I know a slow runner in KL. Did he know Penguin Terrence? Sure enough, he said he did. He said he was 60 years old and running his very first marathon. Wow. I wonder how he did.
  • Yelling Yaaaaahoooo! every chance I got. I was a loud, proud Calgarian. This was MY race course and I was glad to be finally able to claim every inch of it. It made volunteers grin and gave myself little boosts of energy, too. Kind of like when I’m looking at a scary downhill trail and I give a yodel for courage.
  • Somewhere during the race I started yelling out the km markers as I went by. Every km marker became a little cause for celebration. The bigger the number got, the bigger the yell. My yeller didn’t ache, nosirree.
  • Every now and then remembering that I had a MARATHON bib on my shirt. Not 10k. Not Half. I was a Marathoner already, because I was doing it!
  • Greeting local Penguins and Calgary Roadrunners I knew along the way:
      High-fived Helen in the zoo.
      Waved to Pam in there, too.
      Hugged Greg as I headed into Bridgeland. 
      Square-danced with Julie to the bluegrass band.
      Hugged Penguins Joanne and Nancy.
      Blogger Sarah even ran along with me.
      Regan gave me my medal and took my chip.
      Hugh waved at me as he cleaned up.
  • Hugging my family at the end. They had come without complaint. They had waited and waited, and were there at the fence cheering me under the banner. I was so glad for their support!
  • Hanging out with the other Penguins at the finish. I saw *jeanne* finish even as my chip was being removed. It would have been nice to see Cheryl finish, but I think I was still looking for a water bottle at that point.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run another one. I’m not adverse to it at this point, but I will admit that the time commitment to training was quite a challenge for both me and my family. I’m glad I did it, I’m glad I did it at this point in my life, and maybe I will fortunate enough to run one again. I think I could even do it better next time 😉



  1. aww. I’m all snuffily. I love the race reports. Congratulations Karen

  2. I love the way you organized your “official” race report. I’ve experienced many of the same “stuff” and again congratulate you on such a huge accomplishment, soggy shorts and all.

  3. You finshed a marathon on a gel, a powerbar, and a few sips of gatorade? My had it off to you. Your yodel of courage works well!

    Great job marathoner!

  4. Actually, I picked up 2 more gels at water stops – one was Tropical and the other Vanilla. I only ate half the Powerbar. Somewhere towards the end I acquired a 3rd gel, too, and probably should have eaten it – maybe it would have helped me find the energy not to walk those 2 km towards the end. I think I was too dazed to think of it at that point. “Only 5k left, who needs a gel for 5 more km?

  5. Congrats…

    I just stumbled upon your blog somehow, and had to stop in to say “good job”

    I did my first marathon 4 years ago, and I have done 3 marathons and a 50K since that one. They keep getting easier (and I hurt less after), not that it ever gets easy…

    You should do another one sometime, but not too soon, don’t try another one for at least 6 months…

  6. Congratulations! Well run, and well written! The nicest part is that you’ll be a marathoner the rest of your life even if you never run another step. 🙂

  7. Congratuations! Great report too – I like your lists 🙂

  8. Congratulations, Karen! Sorry to be so late on this. Sounds like you ran a great race, Karen. I totally relate to the forever pace and the very obvious increase in distance between the water stations at the end. I can’t believe you had your phone with you. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to talk.

    They got a TON of pics of you, and I think they all came out nice. What is that on your hat? I liked the bullet list too. I think putting it all down quick like that gets all those millions of memories out there so you don’t forget them. I think if I hadn’t done that it would have been erased from my memory by the following week.

    Congrats on a great race, Karen! Soooooo, next one? 🙂

  9. Just stopped by to say hi and read your report. GREAT JOB!!!! You are AWESOME!!! I loved your report.
    Keep Waddling

  10. i love yelling at races…it’s good for everyone. for you, for other racers, for volunteers…i’m glad your yeller didn’t hurt!

    congratulations, again, karen. you made it sound like you really had a blast out there…sure it’s hard, sure it’s painful at times, but it truly is a celebration of life and the amazing things that we can do in our skin. you owned that and made it yours. you rock!


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