At 10pm while the sun set to the west I toed the line at the line in downtown Calgary for a truly unique experience of running a 150km race finishing up on the Calgary Marathon course the next morning. This course would see us run a 10 km loop around the Bow River pathway overnight to complete the first 100kms at the start line of the Calgary Marathon at 7am on the world famous Calgary Stampede grounds. There we complete the 150km race by running the 50km course.
All other runners started earlier, some as early as 6pm to strategically pace the front 100. For me, I knew I’d place my first 100km somewhere between 8hrs and 8hrs20min.
My training for the world 24 hour championships in Belfast on Canada day has been going extremely well. Today was a pace test to see what pace I’d go out at, along the way checking comfort levels and practicing fueling strategy. Starting the day I was struggling with the notion of pacing at a 4:50min/km or playing it conservative like a good Alberta boy and going 5min/km. I know this doesn’t sound like a big difference but it is. Over 150kms that’s a difference of 25min and over 24 hours it’s way more.
The horn went off and myself and wheelchair athlete Brian Martin took off. As he zipped past me I settled into a nice rhythm, started a great conversation with the lead cyclist and with a smile on my face got into my happy place. Overnight looping the river I passed by friends, created new ones, had some laughs, ate a Big Mac (thanks Terry), and generally felt very good. around 2am my pace started to slip a bit and my mood started shifting, after processing this it was decided that I need a Red Bull to give me some wings. Like that, poof, problem solved. All’s I needed was some damn caffeine (and whatever the hell else is in those beautiful little cans). Around 2:30am I noticed a bright green streak of light shooting up from the west. Very quickly as the light extended to the east and started to dance the dance that only the Aurora Borealis can and wide-eyed watched the Northern lights put on a show worthy of applause. It
was one of the coolest moments I’ve experienced while running. The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, as I passed other runners I noticed the exhaustion in their bodies and offered words of encouragement. The welcoming sun arrived just after 5am nearing the completion of the first 100km and signalling me to get my ass over to the Stampede grounds for the start-line of the final 50.
My 100km split was 8hrs 11min. This was perfect, exactly where I wanted to be. I felt relaxed, comfortable and very confident about my pacing for the next 50. Both my wife Sharon and my Physiotherapist (and buddy) Shari MacDonald brought me Timmy’s coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Thanks girls! As I hammered those back I went looking for my drop bag that was supposed to be delivered from the overnight aid station to the Stampede location. I had my day clothes in there among other things. Turns out there was a problem getting the bags delivered over so with 10 minutes before the Calgary Marathon start I decided to go to the start line wearing my overnight gear. No biggie, we all must adapt right.
The thing I was looking forward to the most that day was that Sharon was volunteering as the lead cyclist for the final 50kms for the 150 soloists. I was well in the lead at this point which meant I get to share this experience on the course with the woman I love most. For Sharon to easily find me in the crowd, I ran alongside a group of my friends all dressed in pink and all ten of them tied together, These women were setting out to run the Guinness world record for fastest women’s linked marathon, along the way raising money for MitoCanada. These ladies all rock! About 3kms into the race I saw my smiling wife on her bike. I knew from this point on this was gonna be a fun day. Sharon comes out to all my races and if you have the pleasure of knowing her you’d know she is the world’s best crew. But this viewpoint was a very different one; she’ll be side by side with me checking out all the sights and sounds of something I see so often.
The marathon portion proved to be a lot of fun as we zipped through familiar streets, saw many friends, ate popsicles (thanks Glenmore Running Room) and generally had a good time. My pace didn’t fluctuate and remained feeling comfortable. This was key because in my mind that day I wasn’t running 150kms, I was running 270kms and pacing as such. The final 5km stretch brought on a great warm feeling that I now know I’m ready for the world 24’s and that all the hard work and countless hours of running has paid off. I crossed the finish line in 12hrs 18min with an average pace of 4:55min/km. I pumped my fist knowing that I’ve got another 120 in the tank, but lets leave that for another day.