Half Marathon October 2009: 2:13:37
Yesterday’s Half Marathon: 1:50:46

It’s official: my work-in-progress is progressing.

The big event has come and gone and more than 24 hours later I still have the biggest smile on my face (I think it’s because I’m happy, but I’m so sore it wouldn’t surprise me if it was because my facial muscles seized up at the finish line)

If you didn’t hear the yelps of triumph that ricocheted across the country yesterday, I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know that I made my goal time. Actually, I didn’t just make it, I smashed it — finishing a full four minutes and fourteen seconds under my “ultimate” time of 1:55.  Plus, I was within 18 minutes of my brother’s 1:33:12 finishing time (albeit he did meet a friend and stop for brunch along the way).

More importantly, the runner that crossed the finish line yesterday was a totally different one from the gal who crossed in Ottawa just four months ago.  I mean, when I started this I was being passed by tectonic plates.

What changed?

A lot.

This time when it got hard, when I couldn’t catch my breath and my legs were screaming expletives too nasty to write here, I pushed forward instead of pulling back. Why? this time, I knew I could.  My experience in Ottawa, coupled with the months of Dr. Stevil’s training, taught me that I would make it through; that the pain was temporary and that I wouldn’t end up prone beside a dead raccoon 500m from the finish line.

I also had a plan. I knew if I was going to stop at water stops and find a bush to pee behind, I had to keep my pace somewhere in the 5:10 to 5:20km range – and I did. I swore I would only walk at water stops – and I did. I said if I had anything left at around 17km, I would pick it up – and I did.

Perhaps though, the biggest difference between Ottawa and yesterday was that I didn’t run it alone.  My #1 reader (sorry Mum); Mr. Jeff Rowell, drove all the way from London, Ontario, to pace me for the race.  At the beginning, he reminded me to hold back. By the end, I was quite literally following in his footsteps:  One. Two. One. Two. One. Two  – One terrific guy.

But Jeff is just one part of what I’ll call “Team Gardiner”.  At risk of this sounding like a bad Oscar acceptance speech, many people helped me to smash my goal yesterday: My husband, my parents, my kids, Dr. Stevil  and his “of course you can do it” group, Reid “Olympic Standard” Coolsaet who told me I could do it and put me in touch with Steve to make sure I did, and  the loads of people who I haven’t actually met, but who read this blog and sent their virtual support before and after the race.

Seriously, what is it about runners? Why are they just so unbelievably nice? Endorphins? Collective insanity?

Whatever it is – Team Gardiner, this one’s for you. Seriously, please click here, I don’t know how to say it better than Olivia.

Perhaps the best thing about yesterday’s race, and the training that got me there, are the new horizons it has opened for me.  Four months ago, the idea of even trying to qualify for Boston seemed so out of my reach I wouldn’t even entertain it. Honestly, I thought the only shot I had to get there was to maintain my current speed until I turned 70.  Today, I know it’s possible. Maybe not now, maybe not next year, but definitely within the next few years I’ll attempt it.

What now? For the next couple of months I’m going to – gasp – run for fun. At the end of October I’m planning to run the Audi Best Buddies Challenge 10km race with my sister-in-law, who has just taken up running.  For November, it’s the Hamilton half-marathon with my running group and maybe even my husband. Come spring, I’ll face down the marathon again (not sure which one) and shoot for another PB.

In the meantime, I’m just going to hobble around the house with my perma-grin, enjoying the moment. Couch to Kenyan? I’m almost there… well, maybe more like a quarter of the way, but at least I’m en route.

If you like my blog,  drop me a line and I’ll add you to my mailing list to let you know when updates are on the site. Don’t worry, your e-mail address will be safe with me and my best Nigerian banker friends.



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