Only one full week after running the Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax, it was time to toe the start line of another marathon – this time, right here in Ottawa. Just like the week before, it was fun to catch up with many friends at the race expo, which was held in Ottawa`s cool new Convention Centre. It was also great to meet many of our Team Love4Gambia members in person at Sports 4 for the pick-up of our team shirts.
My friend Tineke was in town from Nova Scotia to run the marathon and we headed down to the start together on Sunday morning. Marc was out of town to run a 100 mile race in Sulphur Springs and I had been up until late checking on his progress via Facebook updates from friends who were at his race. Before we left I received a text to say that he had finished in 21 hours and 59 minutes. If this wasn’t inspiration for our run, then I don’t know what would be!
After checking in our bags behind City Hall and chatting with a few more friends, I left Tineke to warm up a bit and to get into my start coral. There were more familiar faces here and we talked about our goal times and wished each other luck. Then we were off! I had hooked up with my friend Noel who also just planned to get the miles in as a training run. We ran side by side, exchanging running and race stories, catching up on mutual friends and remarked on how serious and focussed the pack around us looked.
We also soaked up the cheers from the amazing crowds that were out in full force along the streets of Ottawa. There was music, drumming, costumes, balloons, high-fiving kids, encouraging cheers and a fantastic party atmosphere. I had no idea just how much the whole city was behind this race! And it seemed like there was a familiar face at nearly every street corner – friends, colleagues and acquaintances were out in full force to cheer on the runners. We were having a ball!
I did notice a lot of tightness in both quads, but counted on the fact they would loosen up as we got further into the race. Hope springs eternal! After about 13 or 14 km, we came to a spot where runners made a 180 degree turn and we could see the field ahead of us. And who do I see barely 45 seconds ahead? The 3:15 bunny! Oooops – that certainly had not been the plan. Too much talking and not enough focus. The idea was to run easy and to just cover the distance, not to race. After all, I still needed to run a big mileage week after this marathon before starting my taper. I should have known that Noel’s easy pace was more like my race pace, but there we were.
Unfortunately, even the realization that I was seriously going to pay for this lapse in judgement didn’t slow me down – at least not initially. I was just having too much fun and like a total rookie, I kept going. We crossed the river and headed into Quebec where we soon crossed the half way mat and encountered the first few bumps that could be described as hills. They were nothing like the hills in the Blue Nose Marathon the previous weekend, but boy, did I ever feel them. Suddenly the going got a lot tougher for me. A line from a Brian Adams tune that we heard earlier along the course came back to mind: “Ain’t no use in complaining, when you got a job to do.” Damn straight, Brian. I just had to suck it up and carry on, but now I began to slow down.
It didn’t take long before the 3:20 bunny Ian Fraser passed me. I hung with them for a bit and made a donation appeal to Ian and his flock, but with few exceptions (notably my friend Erik – good to see you, mate!), my chatter was met with stern focus and looks of determination that said: “I will not lose this bunny and won’t waste my energy by engaging in conversation or smiling!”. Maybe it’s because of people like me that so many folks wear headphones in races!
Here in La Belle Province the cheering crowds were just as thick as in Ottawa, but instead of shouting: “Looking good! You’re almost there!” now they were yelling: “Lâches pas! Tu es incroyable!” In spite of the cheering fans, I was dragging and it wasn’t long before the 3:25 bunny and his gang also blew by me.
After crossing the Alexandra Bridge, we turned onto Sussex Drive by the stunning National Art Gallery. I got a good chuckle when the entertainment station just before the Prime Minister’s residence on 24 Sussex Drive blasted the B52’s Love Shack from its speakers. Who would have thunk! And then past there, the lone Commissionaire outside of Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s beautiful estate, was doing the wave to cheer us on. I had taken a little walk break up the Alexandra Bridge and had also taken in some more nutrition. I was still digging deep, but started feeling a little better. After looping through New Edinburgh we turned back onto Sussex Drive and I started feeling like I was on the home stretch. I went past the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and thought of the support Love4Gambia has received from Ambassador Calderwood and his team at the Canadian Embassy in Dakar, which is also responsible for the Gambia.
Soon after, I was at the Rideau Centre and on the left side of the Rideau Canal. From here, I could hear the shouts and announcements from the finish line on the other side of the canal. This was also where the half marathoners joined our course and we started getting pulled by people running on fresher legs than we did. The crowd had also increased even more and the volume of the cheers was deafening. It felt like the finish chute, but there were still a good three kilometers to go! But nevertheless, the smile started widening on my face – this was fun! Then a quick right across Pretoria Bridge, which made me think of all my friends who would be running the famous Comrades Marathon in South Africa the following weekend (Pretoria is South Africa’s capital city) and then another right towards the finish line.
In the finisher area, I bumped into Noel and his wife Kim. After taking off at kilometer 23, he kept up the pace and finished in 3:14. I was a full 19 minutes behind and happy to have completed another race with a smile on my face.
Team Love4Gambia was represented in all of the events in Ottawa Race Weekend – from the 5 km to the marathon. Well done and a huge thank you to all of you for helping us help kids in West Africa! There were a number of firsts (congrats to Beata and Amy!), some PBs and near PBs (whoohoo, Tineke!), some fast times in spite of moving, finishing school and working the expo every day before the race (well done, Jill!). Everyone’s support and dedication has really meant a lot and a huge thank you also goes to all the donors who have supported members of our team.
With just over a week to go now until I leave for the Gambia, I am enjoying the taper. It is hard to fathom that after all the time preparing, the run is almost here! Now that we are finally getting some warmer weather in Ottawa, I am starting to realize what I got myself into! As Karen at iRun so eloquently put it when we talked last week: heat is my Kryptonite. But then again, I’m trying to be Wonder Woman, not Superman, and if I know my comic book characters, Kryptonite never fazed her!
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