It’s been a few days since I started this recap so here’s Part 1 and Part 2 in case you missed them. I left on in my last post having just had a delicious ice cream at the dairy and then stopping at our final rest stop…
This final rest stop was one of the longer ones and I was so excited to know that once we left we would be on our final push to the finish. Last year I left that stop with a sense of relief that we would be done soon, this year I was leaving in total excitement and anticipation.
We had been running on some beautiful, quiet country roads but would be making our way through a neighbourhood before heading back through the industrial area and up to the University. I’d been chugging along on our 10:1’s and was kind of spending my time between a few different groups of runners. I was feeling great but definitely tired so walked along with some of the others when they took breaks.
This actually turned out to be a great chance to catch up with a few runners and hear how they felt the day had gone. I also got to chat with someone who was tagging along with us in order to learn as she was working on putting together a similar ultra event.
Our course had pretty much been pancake flat the entire day but I knew we had our only hills ahead of us.
Unfortunately the University is on top of a hill and we had to make our way back up there. Last year I was totally dead but somehow found a second wind to get me up the hill. This year, I pulled in with the pack and prepared myself to climb our only hill of the day. It was a bit of a roller and had a few separate hills we had to crest.
It was not as bad as I remembered it actually. Until we turned the corner and I remembered that there was a whole other length of hills in that direction too. Oops! I was running along with our other runner from Langley and decided to just grin and bear it. We had already run 50+ km, I didn’t really have any right to complain about one hill, even if it was at the end!
As we got closer to the University I was starting to feel emotional. Last year, completing this ultra marathon felt like the most ridiculous goal in the world but I found a way to do it. Returning this year and feeling so good and strong for pretty much the whole way was just incredible to me. I know a lot can change in a year but when you’re in that moment and you find yourself in a position you never thought possible, it’s pretty dumbfounding.
I know that completing an ultra marathon is by no means the craziest thing out there and I’m certainly nobody special just for having done it. But when almost 10 years ago I was told I’d never be able to run again I knew I could likely find a way to prove them wrong but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be able to cover the distances I am, let alone feel capable and strong while doing it. It is simply astounding to me what your body can do when your heart and your mind believe in it. Just one small goal accomplished and it’s enough of a taste to keep pushing and training and going further.
All of those feelings were so present on Saturday as we climbed that darn hill and made our way to the finish line. The sounds of everyone cheering as we turned into the parking lot was enough to get a few tears flowing.
It was so awesome to run up and see all of my friends and family cheering for us as we finished. We had such a great group following us throughout the day but even more had shown up to be part of the action at the finish and it was such a wonderful welcome back after a long day of running.
Amidst the cheers and clapping, we all started to hug each and congratulate each other on such a fantastic run. For some of us, it was our first ultra marathon. For others, it was just one of many. And for one runner on our team, it was just the second of 5 distance runs that day (my teammate Pete ran the half marathon that morning, finished our ultra and went on to complete the full marathon course, 5 km and 10 km courses that night!)
And of course, my family and friends greeted me with all kinds of treats too. Chocolate milk, root beer, potato chips…
And of course, fries!
After trying to consume as many treats as possible, I managed to get myself changed into some dry clothes, my CEP compression socks and of course, my Barefooters and started to feel human again. Over drinks and snacks I chatted with my fellow runners as we all relaxed and waited our turn for the on-site massages. It was heaven. Very painful heaven.
In comparison to the crazy hubbub of big races I’ve attended, the finish at the Run for Water ultra marathon is low key and kind of intimate in a way. Over 7 hours you bond with your fellow runners, get to know their stories and even meet their family and friends along the course. At the finish line, we’re surrounded our families and biggest supporters and all of the amazing people who work so hard to organize Run for Water and they have come to feel like family too. Seeing other friends show up to be there as we finished this amazing run, meant so much. It is truly a finish line like no other.
In fact, Run for Water is really an event like no other. Last year, I worked so hard for this cause that grew to mean so much and discovered I could do things that seemed so impossible at one point. This year, with that same meaningful cause keeping my fire lit, I went on to train the hardest I ever have. I still think it’s incredible how the right motivation can help you do amazing things. And knowing you have helped make such a difference in another person’s life just by doing so, it’s a pretty wonderful feeling.
In the end, it took us just over 6 hours to run the 52.5 km route (not including breaks) with our average pace as a group being just under 7:00 mins/km. Considering the length of the run and all that time on my feet, I think I fared pretty well. I was certainly tired and hungry but short of a couple small blisters on my toes, I managed to go unscathed.
I still have lots I want to say about Run for Water and of course, I have the story of my attempted marathon the day after yet to tell. Thanks for hanging in there for this long recap, it’s pretty tough to cram in 52 km worth of thoughts!