Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Third Continent Marathon - Pittsburgh, North America!

I wasn't really sure what to do with myself after successfully completing the Antarctic Ice Marathon. It was truly an inspirational, rewarding, outstanding, unique and fantastic experience and I can't imagine undertaking anything else to compare to it. But as some of you might be aware after following my blog I love a challenge and having a plan motivates me to keep going, so this meant I had to come up with a new plan!

After chatting with a number of fellow runners in Antarctica it became clear what my new plan should be - to run a marathon in every continent. For those of you who can't remember primary school geography that is 7 marathons. I had already completed marathons in two continents, Australia (in 2005, 2008 and 2009) and Antarctica in 2009. My next question was - which continent to run next? Interestingly enough around this time a good friend had mentioned she was planning on running her first marathon in Pittsburgh. Now I actually did my first ever fun run (5km) with this friend and I thought it would be a great idea to be there when she and another good friend completed their first marathons!

With my next continent marathon decided it was almost time to start training again - although I did take a month off following the Antarctic Marathon. The timing of the Pittsburgh Marathon (2 May) meant that I could use the training for my annual King Island run (32km) as part of my marathon training. This did mean I was training long runs in the middle of Melbourne summer but luckily I had some great training buddy's to keep me company.

The King Island race came up quickly, this was my 6th time running this event and the race never gets any easier. In fact this year it was my worst ever run. It was quite warm and humid for the first part of the race and I really suffered as a result. I was already struggling by the 8km mark and at that point the only thing that kept me going was the video camera filming the runners. I managed to keep running past the camera and then had to slow to walk - I attempted a run/walk strategy but the rest of the field quickly overtook me and I was now the last person in the race.

I was quite disheartened and was planning my wooden spoon speech, right up until 20km when I finally caught up with a runner. Unfortunately for this runner he was feeling even worse than me and was cramping up pretty badly. Ironically enough just knowing I wasn't the last person inspired me enough to pick up the pace (still run/walking though). At this stage I caught up with a second runner who was running his first ever 32km race and had been ill with a cold all week so wasn't feeling so great. I finally got myself together and managed to run the last 3km into town to finish just on 40 minutes slower than last year!!!

The King Island run really had me doubting my running abilities, and in fact there were moments during the run when I thought I should give it all away. I could do the long-distance running training with no problems but if I couldn't get through a race without my dizzy spells than what was the point! I had already registered for the Pittsburgh Marathon so decided to keep going with the training and hope for the best. Interestingly enough I did a longish run the following weekend and had no problems - go figure! I continued my regular training runs along the beach (see the picture of my beach trail)

The training went quickly and before I knew it I was on a plane heading to America for my next big event, the Pittsburgh Marathon. The race website stated average temps of 10-16C with approx 4000 runners - quite a contrast from my previous marathon in Antarctica -4 to -9C with 20 runners!! Unfortunately for me the race conditions weren't so kind and the temperature was closer to 25C and quite humid for the first 5km.

I caught up with my two friends who were undertaking their first marathon and we all were feeling the tension before the start of the marathon. This was my 6th marathon and I don't think it gets any easier, I still get to the starting line and wonder why the heck I am doing this and 42km is really a long way to run! The gun went off and we started running, I spent the first couple of kilometers dodging and weaving around other runners and then settled into a rhythm. At around 4km it finally started raining and in fact didn't stop raining until near the end of the run but I was actually pleased since it cooled me down - although my shoes were quite water logged!

I have to say despite the rain there was fantastic crowd support along the way and I enjoyed hearing the bands. My favorite was the high school band and I also thought the nuns in full habits were pretty cool too! I was counting down the kilometers and really looking forward to the finish line at about 39km the hash house harriers were offering free beer - I did see a couple of runners take the beer!!! As always the last 2 kilometers just took forever but with crowds lining the streets there was no way I was stopping now!!

I finally got to the finish line and completed the marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes. I then waited and cheered on my friends as they successfully completed their first marathons.

So what do I take away from this marathon experience?
1) I specifically chose this marathon to share the first time marathon experience with two friends and that made the whole experience worthwhile. To see their joy in undertaking this massive effort and successfully completing the marathon was priceless.
2) Although I was disappointed with time I can say that I was really pleased that I didn't have any dizzy spells (I paced smarter and didn't push hard in the humid conditions) and I ran the entire marathon with no major walk breaks.
3)Do I still want to give up long distance running? NO, in fact I signed up for my next race, the Williamstown Half Marathon at the end of May and I am thinking about plans for the next marathon!!!!
4)I enjoyed the big crowd support but ultimately the event is still an individual pursuit, with that constant inner struggle to keep running when all logic says you should stop!!!

1 comment:

  1. Sharyn,
    That was a good run. You are inspiring.I am also thinking of running 7 marathons and do fund raising for primary education.