Monday, May 14, 2007

At least the presentation about what I did on my summer vacation will be easy when I go back to school. I went out a couple of times and then I ran a marathon on the fourth and final day. The Mississauga Marathon is, as is common among marathons these days, takes its participants by the major landmarks of the nation's sixth-largest city (population 700,000). Running by the Square One shopping mall, its parking lot and the strip mall at Burnamthorpe and Mavis were my largest reasons for running this race. Other major landmarks on the course include a couple of cafes on Lakeshore Road and possibly a Starbucks somewhere on the course.

I originally was shooting for a 2:55 finish, but then it was brought to my attention that this particular marathon was 42.195 kilometres, and I revised my goal to an even 3 hours, my second 3-hour exam of the week. I lollygagged my way through the first 5 kilometres in 21:40, feeling very comfortable, though for some reason I was running next to an inordinate number of hectoring, huffing-and-puffing hucksters who had somewhere between 19 and 40 kilometres yet to run.

I slid backwards a bit approaching 10k, which I reached in an even 44 minutes. Another landmark of note was the second-biggest campus of the first-biggest university in the country, which was the 8-kilometre mark of the race. This is the stuff of which cold winter training runs are made: the thought of traversing the hallowed grounds of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, established in that long-ago year when the Leafs last won a Stanley Cup, kept me going on all those runs. All this considered, I realized that I probably needed to speed up a bit and did, reaching 15 kilometres in 1 hour and 5 minutes.

The highly unusual sight of local residents standing on their driveway, presumably interested in the race that was passing by, kept me enthralled for the next 5k. I hit the halfway mark of the race in 1:31 and was feeling very strong. The plan was to run a negative split of approximately 3 minutes. Of course, a marathon being 30 km instead of 42, I surged at the halfway mark, probably too hard in retrospect. Still, this was the best part of the race for me. I reached 30 kilometres in 2:09 still feeling sprightly, this being the turning point of the day. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, I had everything before me and I had nothing before me.

In the event, I had nothing before me, nothing but fading gradually and embarassingly over eight kilometres of rolling hills. I will tell anyone who listens that I could have finished in 3 hours or less if the second half wasn't so hilly, though a more reasonable approach would not have been to dawdle early on, necessitating such a fast pace later. I ran the seventh 5k segment in 23 minutes and the eighth in 27, by far the slowest I have run in a race since grade 9. All this considered, salt stains included, I shook, rattled and rolled my way to a 3:10 finish.

The time was disappointing and to say anything else would be a lie, but I enjoyed trying. With more experience and more miles, that time will come down, the inconvenient truth of marathoning. I'm definitely in the best shape I have ever been in and after limping home as feebly as I did, all I could think of was my next race, one where I dispense the pounding on the road rather than absorb it with good humour.

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