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My back hurts, my legs hurt and according to my pharmacist friend my feet look “like a diabetic 80-year-old’s”, but most of all I’m just plain ol’ disappointed.

Yesterday at Scotiabank’s Toronto Waterfront Marathon I failed to meet my sub-4 hour marathon goal — For the third time. I wish I could blame the weather, a bad course or a crazy man blocking my path with an Irish Jig, but the truth is, my body just couldn’t do it.  I didn’t have it in me.

I’m frustrated. Going in I felt fitter than ever. My times in training suggested I should be able to sub-4 hours with minutes to spare. I ate well, I slept well, I followed my training plan — exactly. I really believed it was doable.

I ran a strong first half, finishing right on track at 1:58:04. By 30km my pace had slowed and I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling good. I was slightly dizzy and finding it hard to maintain a rhythm, but sub-4 was still within reach.  Two kilometres later the cramps hit.  Starting in my calves, moving up to my hamstrings and finally finishing the climb at my lower back. They were paralyzing — forcing me to slow my pace to seven-minuteish/km. I was barely shuffling.

I have never had cramping issues in training. Never. Not even during my 38.5k long run. Because of that, pre-race I blamed the leg cramps I experienced in New York on heat and inadequate training. And I stupidly pushed the 2km of cramps from my 2011 Toronto marathon out of my head.  I really didn’t think it would be a problem yesterday.  I was wrong.

But it’s not all bad.

For starters, I know better now. I’m pledging here and now that I won’t  even think about running another marathon until — one way or another — I get this damn cramping issue under control. If it means figuring out my nutrition or running on a treadmill in a sauna at race pace until the cramps manifest themselves and then I cure them, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes.

I also finished in the top 35% of female runners and top 39% of my age group and that doesn’t count the people who didn’t finish.  For a girl who use to be a regular back-of-the-packer, that’s actually pretty respectable.

What’s more? I couldn’t ask for better support. My friends, my running group, my family and the awesome readers of this blog, ran with me, cheered for me, followed me online and pushed me all the way to the finish line and beyond (The e-mails, the calls, the Facebook posts I have received in the past 24 hours humble me – thank you) I am so lucky.

And no matter what I must remember this — I finished another marathon. Even better? I have no regrets when it comes to my race-day effort. I gave it everything I had. I fought and I fought and I fought for every step, every second, every kilometre.

What’s next? I have to be honest. There is a very real part of me that’s questioning my innate athletic abilities and my future as a marathon-runner. If you had asked me yesterday I would have invited you over to hear me say a few kind words before I buried my marathon career in the back yard next to Keith, the once menacing raccoon. I would have told you that from here on out I would be sticking to an exercise routine that alternated between Zoomba and a 30-minute jaunt on the elliptical.

Now I’m not so sure. I’m not ready to commit to another goal just yet and I know it will be a good while before I run another marathon, but I’m also not quite ready to throw in the towel.  What I do know is that I need at least a week or two to lick my wounds and rethink my strategy.  Stay tuned dear readers I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

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