I ran my first half-marathon race last Sunday at the Calgary Marathon. It was an incredible event with more than 2,100 runners competing in this distance. I ran with my wife, Lindsay. This was her third half-marathon. We ran side-by-side for the entire race and crossed the finish line together in 1:52:34. I couldn’t be more proud.
16 gruelling weeks of training went into this race. The Jeff Gaudette designed training plan pushed us to our limits and beyond. What I mean by that is the plan had us running 4-5 days per week at 35-75 KM per week and with six long-runs of 21.1K+ sprinkled throughout the four months. Even though we didn’t complete every single one of the sessions, the plan was still torture and we won’t be following it again. More on this in a future post.
Here’s my Calgary Marathon recap:
The night before
We arrived in Calgary on Saturday afternoon, just in time to pick up our race packages at the Stampede grounds downtown. This year’s t-shirts looked awesome!
We stayed at the Hotel Arts, which is just a short walk from the start line. We checked into the hotel late Saturday afternoon and then headed to the rooftop patio at National on 10th for dinner and a drink. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and changed into our running gear to go out for our ‘shakeout’ run to get the legs moving.
We walked down to the beautiful Lindsay Park and then jogged the trails around the Elbow River for 20 minutes – followed by three short 30-second sprints to really get the blood flowing. I’m not sure about the science behind the shakeout runs and when exactly you should do them before a big race, but I was feeling pretty good after that run!
Race day morning
We had a decent night sleep at the hotel but got up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for the early 7:00 a.m. start time on race day. Lindsay brought homemade muffins and so I had one of those, plus a banana and a small cup of coffee. We brought along fuel for the race – CLIF BLOKS energy chews stuffed into our pockets – but I didn’t end up using them during the race.
We got into our race outfits, pinned our bibs to our shirts, and took a light jog to the start line to warm up. We joined up with a dozen or so other Calgary Marathon racers along the way. Despite the chilly morning air you could feel the energy and excitement as the street filled with hundreds of racers near the start line.
I was nervous but I knew I was well prepared going into the race and the conditions couldn’t have been better. I did my long runs early on Sunday mornings for the last 16 weeks, so the race day and time mimicked my training nicely.
10 minutes before the start of the race we lined up for one last bathroom break and then found our place near the 1:50:00 pace bunny. We knew if we could establish that kind of pace early on we’d at least have a shot at our goal-time of a sub 1:50:00.
Keeping the Pace
The gun sounded and we shuffled to the start line in a crowded mess of racers. I didn’t want to start too fast with all the adrenaline and energy pumping, but frankly there was just too many people to dodge and dart around to establish any kind of pace.
By kilometre three, however, we had some space and were running comfortably at a 5:10/KM pace. We tried to settle into that pace knowing we needed to run 5:13/KM to reach our goal of a 1:50:00 finish time.
The nice thing about running together is that we were able to push each other along at various times throughout the race. The only thing that threw me off was at the water stations where runners in front of me would grab a water from one of the volunteers and then basically stop and take a drink, which meant I’d either run right into them or have to veer out of the way and then miss my chance at water. That happened a few times and was quite annoying.
We lost our pace during kilometres 9 through 14 as we averaged between 5:21 and 5:26 per kilometre. Somehow we got our second wind and picked it up for the remainder of the race. Kilometre 19 was our best one – 5:02/KM – and we really pushed our pace as we came to the home stretch. I guess all that training paid off!
The finish line
Lindsay surged ahead to pass several runners, showing she still had something left in the tank as we approached the finish line. We crossed together in 1:52:34 – both personal records for us in the half marathon distance. We were exhausted, yet elated with our effort.
Lindsay’s time placed her 162nd out of 1,159 female runners, while my time placed me 357th out of 1,010 male runners.
At a 5:20/KM pace we weren’t that far off of our goal – just seven seconds per kilometre away from achieving a sub-1:50:00 half-marathon time. Rather than reflecting on what could have been if we just picked up the pace during that middle stretch of the race, I simply view this as an opportunity to improve on our time at the next race.
I loved my experience at the Calgary Marathon and my wife and I will definitely be back. The course was beautifully designed, the race well organized, and all the participants and volunteers appeared to have a great time. We did, too!
It was a nice getaway for the two of us. After the race went back to the hotel and showered and then hit the Cactus Club for a much deserved tuna stack and several beers.