Road 2 Hope

I had one more shot to run a fast time in 2009 and qualify for the 2010 New York City Marathon, and that was at the Road 2 Hope Marathon in Hamilton, ON.  I have told many people that I would do it and I was eager to pull through. 

I was also a little nervous after a few small injuries I was starting to develop over the last couple of runs.  I figured I would start out on pace and see how it felt and then back off if necessary.  There's no harm in testing out the waters; I wont know unless I try.  

I drove up on race morning, since my Uncle Nick, who I've run a few marathons with previously, had picked up our race kits the day before.  He was running the Half and I would be tackling the Full-marathon.  I had the advantage of being familiar with the course after running the race last year.  

My uncle advised me to attend a short prayer service held in the school's cafeteria before the race.  He attended a service only minutes before he ran the Detroit Marathon, a few weeks earlier, and had the best race of his life.  I figured a prayer could do nothing to hurt my chances.  

As we were lining up for the start, I bumped into a few different people that I have met before at various races.  It is incredible that in the hundreds and sometimes thousands of people, you might stumble into the same guy in Hamilton as you did in Quebec a few months ago or Toronto the year before.  

The race started and I settled in with a few other guys looking for sub 3-hour finishes.  We chatted a bit, but at that pace, it is hard to have much of a conversation.  

The group started to thin out and after only 10 or 15k, there was only a couple other runners in sight.  I ran for a stretch with a middle-aged guy who was running his first marathon in a long while, exchanging only a few words because of our fast pace.  We took turns pulling each other and pushing the pace on the long country roads.  

Just past half way, the course enters the Redhill Valley Parkway, which takes runners on a 6k, steep negative grade, towards the waters of Lake Ontario.  Up to this point, I was on target for my time and I wanted to add a little bit of insurance before the last 10 kilometers to the end.  I parted from my new pacing friend as I cruised down the Parkway at full throttle.  

Once leaving the Parkway, there was a small stretch through the city before the final out and back along the water.  I was feeling really good and only had to keep up the good pace for another 40 minutes or so.  With no other visible marathon participants in sight, it was hard to keep pushing hard, knowing that I had a good cushion of time to get into NYC.  

I think I passed a couple of the front running woman in the last 6k but it is hard to tell when they are mixed in with the Half-marathon runners.  With about a half hour left, my Garmin died and I lost my GPS.

It all came down to my legs, my heart and my drive.  I just gave it everything I had and tried not to think about the time or anything else.  In the final 100m I saw my uncle waving and cheering me on.  I saw the time on the clock; it was still under 2:54'!!!!!!  I couldn't believe it!!!  

I just finished running my twelfth marathon of 2009 and posted my second fastest time ever!!!!  

I felt a little bit like Dean Karnazes at the end of his 50/50/50 challenge when he finished his 50th marathon in 50 consecutive days in only 3-hours in New York City.  

I must admit, for how great the race felt while running it, my body didn't feel so hot afterwards.  I grabbed some food and changed my clothes so I wouldn’t get chills and waited for the awards ceremony.  

I found out that I came 11th place overall and I won my age category.  The biggest surprise of the day was that all the award winners were given the chance to meet Olympic Gold medalist, Simon Whitfield.  It was a great honour to be able to meet him.  He was actually was quite impressed with my performance.  

He asked me how I trained to prepare for such a long section of downhill.  I simply replied that you naturally toughen up after running nearly a marathon every week just for fun.  

So with my photos and medals, I went home that day feeling like I had accomplished a great deal.  What better way to end the running year?  I'll have to fight the temptation to book a flight to Vegas or Jamaica in December so that I can train properly and not wear myself out before the Goofy Race-and-a-Half challenge in January.   

© Brian Groot 2020