I had the pleasure of meeting Ainsley a few years ago at a local run club and we hit it off. I love when I meet like minded women who love to run. It’s great when you can chat while running and discuss ways to stay active even with our hectic lives as moms with small children. She has also been a great cheerleader along my journey with my blog and I thought it was appropriate for her to share her story on here. It’s a incredible story of overcoming obstacles and perseverance. It truly is inspirational and I hope you enjoy.
In the years that I have been a runner, I have never attempted the full distance. The half was always my jam – manageable, without a crazy commitment. As one person described it to me: a half is like a boyfriend that you’re sort of on and off with; it’s a commitment but not that major of one. You can skip a run here and there and not be in too much pain come race day. But the full – it’s best to be full-on committed. And so, way back sometime in March of this year, I full-on committed myself to run the 26.2 mile distance at the Manitoba Marathon on June 21. My (mostly) better half, Ty, also took the plunge and signed up with me – a full has always been on his bucket list, and, well, there’s no time like the present, right?
Step one for us was to figure out what exactly the training was going to look like. More specifically, we needed to figure out what our training was going to look like while meeting our family demands. Currently, our family consists of 3.5 year Henry and 10 month old Teddy. I am on maternity leave from work. Ty works full days, which usually begin early in the morning — he’s up and out of the house most days before 6 a.m. And then there was the fact that at the beginning of the training, Teddy wasn’t exactly what I would label a fantastic sleeper; she was typically up 4 times a night and would usually get her longest stretch early in the morning. There was no way I was going to give up the chance to sleep for a few hours uninterrupted, so early morning runs on the treadmill before the kids got up were just not going to happen.
So, initially, our plan was something like this: anytime one of us could squeeze a run in, out the door that person would go. No excuses (well, minimal excuses). We had a mantra (ok, I had a mantra) that I continually repeated to Ty and to myself: I can do anything for 90 days. It’s just 90 days. It’s not forever. I can train hard for 90 days. I wrote the number of days until the marathon on our Command Centre (a blackboard in our kitchen where our lives are organized on a weekly basis) and each day that number would change. I can do anything for 89 days.
We found some rhythms in our training schedule. Ty would usually take the bus to work in the morning so as to allow him the ability to run home (approximately a 6.5 mile run). As soon as Ty would walk in the door after work, I would hand him Teddy, give him some quick instructions about what lego building Henry needed help with, pass off dinner preparations and head out the door. Occasionally, when Ty had evening commitments, I jumped on the treadmill in our basement after the kids had gone to bed and pounded out some miles. There were some other times when I had evening commitments and I made sure that when the kids were sleeping in the afternoon, I would get on the treadmill no matter how much I wanted to nap. For our weekly long runs, we used our babysitter budget on a babysitter that came Saturday or Sunday mornings — I would feed Teddy, put her down and we would head out for our long runs together.
It wasn’t perfect; there were some missed workouts, some substituted runs, some paces missed. But mainly we stuck to the plan and we put in the miles. There were lots of times when the only thing I wanted to do while on a run was pack it in, do less mileage that I was supposed to that day and just head for home. Something I had read just before starting to train stopped me: “you may be tempted to shave off a few miles here and there in your training but stay the course. It’ll only hurt you come marathon day.” And so I stuck it out.
Time flew by and race week arrived. I’m lucky to have the most supportive sister (who is also a 3:06 marathoner, by the way. 3:06, people! Seriously. Take a moment to appreciate how fast that is) who flew to Winnipeg to cheer us on and help us with all our very important last minute marathon questions (should I wear the purple tank or the green one?). My parents, also so helpful, drove up from Kenora to do a hybrid of caring for the kids during the run and cheering us on.
And then it was race day and there we were, standing on the start line. We hugged, took a deep breath and started running. We stuck to the plan the first mile — we went out slow, not wanting to get swept up in the crowd only to pay for it later on. The road was divided and we had a whole road just for the full marathoners, which I really appreciated. No jockeying for position. We picked up our pace after mile 1 and then the miles just seem to fly by. The crowd was great — it always seemed that just when I wanted to slow down, someone would be there cheering me on. I shed tears multiple times on the course – many of our friends and family came out to be there for us and cheer us on. It was truly so meaningful to have that support.
Our pace for the first half went according to plan. We came in at 1:52 and looked to be on pace for the race; we were feeling good. However. It didn’t last. Mile 16 was my hardest mile. I felt heavy and hot. My pace slowed considerably and although I did pick it up somewhat, I never ended up at my goal race pace again. We crossed the finish line, holding hands, in 4:00.43.
Overall, the Manitoba Marathon was such an incredible day and truly an inspiring event. I have always loved marathon weekend in Winnipeg SO much – it solidifies my love for the city and reminds that I’m exactly where I should be. But now I love it even more — I ran my first marathon on home soil, with my amazing life partner, and with my friends and family cheering me on. How lucky am I?
One of things that I loved the most about this whole experience was the impact that it had on Henry. Ty and I always say that we want health and wellness to be normal for Henry and Teddy. I want our kids to think that everybody’s mother skips a shower and chooses running when she knows she only has time for a run or a shower but not both. Wellness is important and it should be a priority. Judging by some of Henry’s recent comments, the message is getting through: “Mommy, when are getting your run in today? Mommy, you need to drink more water before your run tomorrow. Mommy, you’re hungry after that run.”
Will I run another marathon? Yep, I will. I’ve already starting looking at races in the late fall. That Boston Qualifying time isn’t too out of reach.