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Have You Ever Surprised Yourself?

The day I met Jan, he had just won a local race, and was celebrating with his friends. As we got to know one another over the next several months, his friends became my friends too, and they were always talking about – you guessed it – running.

At this point, I’d run a few small races, mostly 5 and 10k’s. I had gotten really into triathlon for a while, and did some longer multisport events, but the longest I’d run was 30km, after swimming and cycling (yes, I know that is still very far). The point is, the expectations are a little different, or they were in my head. Plodding along with breaks to eat a few chips (must. replace. sodium.) seemed a lot more acceptable when I’d already been doing cardio for 6 hours.

But I never really liked swimming, and I wasn’t familiar with cycling routes in a new city, so I ran more and more. I met my first Vancouver friend (hi, Alyson!) when she was training for an Ironman, and we ran all over the city together. Residency kept me busy, but I could almost always figure out a weekly long run. Eventually I ran my first races in Vancouver- mainly 10k’s and a few half marathons, but it wasn’t long before everyone was asking when I would run a marathon.

Honestly, I thought there was no way I would ever agree to running a marathon. Too far, too much training, not enough time to eat/sleep/sit in the rest of my life. But, in 2016, I finally wore down and signed up for a marathon. The training was fine: I slept like a baby (residency will do that to you anyway). I ate basically everything I saw. The night before?! That almost killed me.

I was so, so nervous. We chose the California International Marathon, both for its gentle course (flat last 10k!) and timing (early December). We flew to Sacramento the day before the marathon, walked around the expo and picked up my race package, and then went back to the hotel room to put my feet up. I remember I could barely focus on HGTV. We had made a reservation at a local pasta place for dinner, but it was so full of people talking about the marathon that I could barely eat.

I’ve been nervous before, like for a big exam, medical school admissions emails, on the diving board at the Woodbridge Pool at age 8, but this was next level. I barely slept all night. CIM is point-to-point, so you start your day with a 5 AM bus ride WAY out to the start line. I had to pee about 12 times after the bus arrived. And when the gun went off, I was basically a basket case.

But then! I was running a marathon! And it turned out it was kind of OK. I followed my plan for fuelling and pacing. I chatted with two other girls running a similar pace. I looked at the scenery and I looked at the road and then I started looking for Jan.

25 miles into the race, I found myself struggling for breath. And, shockingly, it had more to do with the one mile in front of me than the 25.2 behind. I was completely blown away by the fact that I was going to finish this marathon! Once I decided it was not the right time to burst into tears, I finally got my butt across the finish line. This is me (unsuccessfully) trying to put on pants a few minutes later.

I learned a lot of things that weekend- to spring for the hotel with an elevator, to give myself more than 24 hours before getting on a plane post marathon, and to have a quiet, simple dinner the night before. But way more importantly, I learned that I’m tough! And that I can absolutely do hard things! To believe in myself. And to take a couple of deep breaths.

So I’ll leave this here- you can do hard things, too. But you probably already know that. Have you ever surprised yourself?

Top photo by Jan- a few km from the end of my first 50km race!

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