The actual Marathon des Deux Rives in Quebec City wasn’t that far off from what I had predicted. I had awoken before my alarm clock. I ate a good breakfast. Drank an adequate amount of coffee. I was dressed and on my way to the ferry as the sun was coming up. On the way down, I met a woman from Wellesley also running the marathon. Small world.
I arrived at the start in Lévis with plenty of time to stretch, eat some more, go the bathroom a few more times. I stashed my gear in the truck and ran around the parking lot to warm up a bit. The only drama was finding a last-minute piss spot. There were officials warning the runners away the more natural spots and into the long lines for the portos. There wasn’t going to be enough time for that, so I had to tramp through the tall grass to get to a spot that was hidden enough. Glad I did.
Then we were off. About 2,000 runners taking the start with 42.2 km (26.2 miles) ahead of us. I had been training in kilometers all summer which was good because the course was marked in kilometers — and only kilometers — so all the markers and timings made sense.
I eased into the first few kilometers. Checked my watch for pace and a heart rate. The pace was good — about 4:15/km (6:50/mile). The heart rate was garbage — sitting about 78. After a few minutes it caught up to the 140’s. I tried to find a group that was running close to my pace. But they all seemed to be going too fast or too slow relative to what I wanted to run. Not that I knew. This was my first marathon and I was unproven running at speed over this distance. After 3 km, I picked the pace up to 4:00/km. My heart rate held steady in the mid-150’s. The sun was up. It was still cool. There was a light breeze. This felt good. This felt sustainable.
The kilometers clicked by.
At 35 km to go, I told myself, “I’ve run this far before. I can handle it.” I kept the pace steady, between 3:55 (6:18) and 4:05/km. My heart rate held steady. I was taking drinks at every feed. I was eating every 30 minutes. I was fueling up and banking time. My legs felt good. None of the twinges in my calves, feet, hips or hamstrings that had plagued my summer distance runs.
Along the bike path by the river, I found myself running alone into the wind. It didn’t feel smart. So I eased up and let a group catch me, then tucked into the back of them. They were running a bit faster, closer to a 3:50/km pace, but it still felt doable.
Everything was going well. For the most part.