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Hamilton Marathon – The power of the mind!

I wrote a review on this race last year as it was my first marathon that I ever raced.  I wasn’t going to write another review on the same race but had such a different experience, I thought I should.

Hamilton likes to claim it is the best event if you want to qualify for Boston.  Some say it is because of the long downhill section when you run down the Red Hill Parkway.  My goal for this race was to do a 3:05 marathon.  I knew that 3 hours wasn’t realistic as I have been running with a sore left foot (heel spur and plantar fasciitis).  In reality I should have listened to my wife and stopped running for a while early on in the training to get my plantar issue fixed but of course was a typical male and figured I could push on.  Unlike the first year, I wasn’t nervous at all.  I knew I had the training in.  I knew I ran a 3:09 last year and even with my foot issue I had been faster in every race I had competed in this year.  Although the pacers I ran with last year were running New York this year, I had two new people I could run with that on paper were very similar in speed.  Even though we run out of the same club and have done many tempo or track workouts together, the Hamilton marathon was our first long run together.

The race was delayed about 20 minutes due to traffic down at the finish line.  The event is very well organized but the reality is you are going to experience these type of delays when such a large group of people show up late.

It was just prior to race start so I did some strides as one of my good running friends swears by them.  When doing strides I found one of my pacing partners.  We both hunted for our other friend Ross and after much yelling of his name, found him with a minute to spare.  The race started and somehow even though we were close to the front, we still had a bunch of slower traffic to get through in order to maintain a 4:24 pace.  We didn’t worry and made our way through the course.  It was different this year compared to last year.  We didn’t have as long of out and back section.  There was also no train delay for the 3:30 marathon time due to a change in the train schedule.  I am told the course this year was more like the normal course and last years course was unique due to construction.  One thing I can say is that as nice as this course is, there are way too many places people could cheat.  You don’t know this at the time when you are racing, but it turned out the only timing mats were at the beginning and end.  Nothing even like last year where you had a mat at the 1/2 way mark. I found this hard to believe considering it is a boston qualification course.  I guess runners are the honest type and want to earn their times instead of cutting corners.

As for my race, I ended up running with Ross for most of it.  We started out a bit too fast for our other running friend who is know to have an amazing finish.  At 12K my left foot really started to hurt.  I talked to Ross about it and we managed to figure out ways to ignore the pain.  At 23K my right foot was now hurting just like my left was.  This wasn’t a good sign as my right foot had always been fine.  As Ross and I flew down the hill, he was killing me.  Last year I used the hill to recover and it was actually my slowest part of the race.  This year we were doing 4:05-4:10 kilometer paces.  At the end of the hill we had close to 2 minutes in the bank.  This was great except for the fact my feet were killing me.  At 32K my right foot now hurt more than my left.  I knew I had compensated somehow and done damage, but I have never been one to quit.  Ross started to pull away but I was always able to keep him in sight.  At 36k I was ready to give up.  My feet hurt so bad I just kept thinking “left right left right…just get this done.  The sooner I finish the sooner I can get off these feet”.  I ended up closing the gap on Ross and thought we would be able to finish together.  Unfortunately at 40K Ross cramped up.  It was horrible to see him go through that as he gave me someone to chase and keep my mind off the pain.  The power of the mind and determination is an impressive thing but when you get a muscle cramp in your calves or legs you physically can’t run.  I yelled at Ross to come on, we only had 2k left and could do this.  I wanted to stop and help but at the same time I knew if I stopped I wouldn’t start back up due to my own injuries.  Normally I have an amazing push at the end and finish strong.  I tried to increase my speed but started to see spots at which time I thought it would be better to just finish it than to collapse right there.  I saw my wife at 41K who had just completed an amazing 1/2 marathon earning her a new PB.  All I said as I looked at her was “I’m done”.  I rounded the corner and tried to sprint to the finish line.  I didn’t want my 3:05 to disappear when I had a few minutes in the bank.  I knew I was giving back time, but in the end I pulled it off.  I finished and met my goal even with two messed up feet.  Once again I saw my wife and this time I just grabbed on and held her.  If she wouldn’t have been there, I would have been on the ground.  The support of people cheering along the course and the power of the mind not to give up and that pain is temporary got me through the race.  A special thanks to Ross who is the real reason why I still met my goal.  I would love to run with him again and next time I hope we are both healthy.  I think together, he and I will eventually break the 3 hour mark.  For now, my body needs a break.  Both feet are swollen, and my right foot is one big bruise.   It turns out I partially tore my plantar muscle in my right foot.  I now have plantar fasciitus in both feet as well.  Those injuries will heal, but the pride of pushing through will stay with me forever.  Looking back it might not have been the smartest thing to push on, but I can’t take that back now.  Next time, I will listen to my wife.

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