The Saskatchewan Marathon 2015

Ah, the Saskatchewan Marathon. Well, half marathon for me. This was The One for 2015 for me. It was my third half of the year, but had been my target race all along, and the one I had trained for and focused on, using the others mainly as long training runs.

The Saskatchewan Marathon is the Saskatoon running community’s main event every year. Hosted by the Saskatoon Road Runners Association and sponsored by Potash Corp, it attracts more runners than any other race. People from all over the province come to run.

This run came just one week after a very challenging half marathon in Canmore. I can only imagine the words my coach muttered when he saw my race schedule, but I had followed his strict instructions to take it easy in Canmore in the interest of saving my legs for Saskatoon. I was rested, I was hydrated, I dined on pasta with a friend the night before (after spending the whole day hauling cows to our summer pasture! Thankfully my Dad was able to pick up my race package for me). I was ready.

The weather in Saskatchewan at the end of May is usually cool-ish, warm-ish, dry-ish, rainy-ish. You really have no idea what you’re going to get. This year, it was perfect. Sunny, but not too hot, and no rain. In fact, we hadn’t seen any moisture since the huge snowfall that cancelled the Saskatoon Police Run over a month prior. With the driest May in recent memory occurring this year, farmers were starting to stress just a bit. So although the weather was perfect for running, I would have been thrilled to run through a rain storm at that point! (It’s mid-August now, I’m just a tad late writing this report. Our summer continued on just like spring. We have had a few life-saving rains, but this growing season has been the driest we’ve had in a very long time.)

I ran in to several friends before the race began, and found more through text message. When I started running five years ago, I knew no one and always felt awkward waiting around alone before a race. Now it seems so many friends from other areas of my life have started running that the pre-race wait is like a reunion every time! I love it.

We sang the national anthem and were off. Within a couple of kilometres, a man in a red shirt fell in step beside me. He asked my goal for the race and I said I’d really like to run a 1:54. He shared that his goal was sub-2 hours, and we continued visiting as we ran. I don’t know where this man had lived before coming to Canada, but he expressed how amazing it was to live in a country where the only thing holding us back from going out for a run was ourselves. He was so genuinely thrilled with the whole experience and it was contagious. To be here in Canada, on a beautiful day, with a gorgeous river backdrop, cheering spectators – he was right. What a place we live. We take it for granted, and I am grateful to him for reminding me to appreciate my country and the privileges I enjoy every day.

Red Shirt and I ran together off and on throughout the entire race. We each fell back a couple of times, but always seemed to end up side by side again. He waved enthusiastically to my loudly cheering kids along the way, and remarked on the view numerous times.

I had paced myself properly for perhaps the first time ever and felt strong through the last five kilometres – something that my coach had been addressing. The last 5 km is my weakness, so he had had me do several long runs that were longer than a half marathon by a few km, trying to make me stronger at the end of a race. It worked. I was in pain for the last 3 km, but knew I could handle it and pushed my pace. Red Shirt fell back, and I began to pass the 5km runners, whose route joined ours for the last mile or so. (Once again – race etiquette: if you’re walking a 5K, that’s great! I’m thrilled to see people getting out and being active. BUT DON’T walk three abreast in the middle of the road! You’re very difficult to pass. Pull over and walk at the side!)

I took off for the last quarter mile and finished in 1:55:04. I was five seconds slower than my goal, but I really didn’t care. I knew I had run the best race I could have, and it was still a personal best by 1:20. This was the strongest I’d ever felt in a half marathon, and my six months of hard work had paid off.

Red Shirt finished a couple of minutes behind me. I cheered him in, then waited for my friends Glenda, Blair, Chelsea, Mel and Traci to finish. I also saw Dan, who I had gone to high school with, get his ass whooped by his fiancée, which we both had to tease him about a little bit (Jaimes is a tiny little woman, well over a foot shorter than tall, long legged Dan). Red Shirt came to give me a hug and apologize – he thought I’d been being polite and staying with him longer than I should have and missed my goal as a result. I assured him that no, his more consistent pace had helped me a lot, and we were both happy with our new PB’s. He had his friend snap a picture of us, and off he went. He’s not from Saskatoon, but I have a feeling we may end up running side by side at races again in the future. I often wish for someone close by who runs the same pace I do to have someone to train with, but I guess I’ll keep looking.

Glenda and I

Glenda and I

Traci, Mel, and me

Traci, Mel, and me

Red Shirt loves chocolate milk too!

Red Shirt loves chocolate milk too!

My fifth Saskatchewan Marathon saw me finish 324/957 overall, 113/577 women, and 23/91 in my F30-34 age group. I love that the medal was changed this year, after identical medals the past three years it was overdue for an update (I ran the 10K the first time I ran the SK Marathon, and they didn’t give medals for shorter distances until this year). The shirt graphic also changed this year, which was nice to see. The downfall for me every year at this race is the finish line food. This year it was cookies, bagels (or was it cheese buns? Something like that. Hazards of blogging nearly three months late!) and chocolate milk. A friend’s friend is lactose and gluten intolerant, so wasn’t able to eat anything. She inquired about some bananas she saw tucked away in a corner and was told that only full marathoners could have bananas. Even after explaining her dietary restrictions she was denied a banana. People need to re-fuel after a half marathon too, give the girl a damn banana! I did love the cookies and chocolate milk, but was glad to have brunch plans with some good friends (one of whom had walked the 5K. She had originally planned to run the half, but a pregnancy had changed that idea!).

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Good race, good friends, good fun! See you in 2016.

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