In direct contrast with California in December, race day took place in a good weather window after heavy rain for the previous 3 days. Slightly chilly at sunrise, newcomers were easily spotted: dressed appropriately for standing still at the start line at 6:45am. They would all be literally wearing their regret later.
There was some kind of Zumba dance at the start line - one of the group came up to me to dance a bit, and all I needed was 3 seconds to show why I'm a runner.
There were 4 or 5 Kenyans who do this race, I took a few steps back from Kip Kangogo (won the half) and Bernard Onsare (won the full) so as not to get in their way. Compact yet lanky frames, I felt like saying hi but didn't want to disturb them for their pre-race thoughts.
A tidy getaway with my camera facing backwards, by the Saddledome 300 metres or so later it was time for my annual standing appointment with Adam, this year with a more aerodynamic haircut. Going for a 1:20, I would loved to have joined him, but that's under my 5k pace.
The world-record attempting group of 10 tethered runners were doing the full marathon at a slightly slower pace than my half. Most of them had individually done 2:40. "Any of you have those shoes with wheels on the soles?" was the wittiest thing I could think of.
Just after 3k near the zoo, is the steepest incline, a c-train travelling parallel to the course gave a blast on his horn. A few spectators by this time were saying things about my camera, Team GB top or even quickly reading my bib and encouraging me by name. Always a nice touch.
The course has been tweaked this year from last year's broad departure from the old one. There are fewer corners, crossing the downtown core is now 3.5k all along 11th ave. There was a nice breeze along here, and just after passing photomeister Neil, the full marathon course branched off. Unfortunately the 2 solid "pacemakers" I had chosen went off on that course. Next time I'll make sure to draw level so I can see the bib and check they're doing the same distance.
Kensington Road is a welcome addition to this year's course. If 17th avenue can be added then it would be perfect. Just after that is a right turn on Memorial Drive and the turnaround just under 2k later. Kip Kangogo flashed past the other way, 4k in front of me just as I passed 2 girls who saw my camera and said "I've always wanted to do that." It's great, but the editing takes forever.
After the turnaround, it was quite a lonely run east along Memorial Drive. There seemed to be no-one within 100 metres of me.
At 17k, I felt a twinge in the hamstrings which is familiar to me from all 3 of my full marathons and one half. About 5 seconds up on 1:26:00 pace, I felt 4k was a little far out to maintain it. I decided to back off just a bit and get the PB anyway but with less risk.
Threading through 10k runners who got in the way from time to time (though not too bad and much improved over previous years), tightness in the legs came and went.
At the 20k sign they got a little tighter, and I tried to keep them a little straighter. Not far to go. With the Stampede Stadium in sight, all that remained was a left curve, about 75m, then a right and another 75m or so. Getting to the right hander, my right hamstring cramped and pulled me up. Not one step further. A quick deep stretch and I glance at my watch I said to myself, probably out loud, "can still get a PB". Rounding that last corner, I made for the line in lopsided fashion as fast as I safely dared, quasi-Terry Fox style.
As I crossed the line to see the clock giving me a PB by 4 seconds, I did the Mobot and let out what I would like to think was a roar, though it might have been more of a meow. Such melodrama.
Doing a few more stretches after the line, I was fine to walk afterwards.
1:26:44, and a PB it is. No matter what, disappointment is not allowed. If on the other hand I had missed it by a few seconds, that would've been annoying. Motivation is what comes from the "what might've been" part of the race. I have a few ideas, such as more hills in my training and negative splitting my next half - matching PB pace then accelerating for the last 10k.
A great occasion once again, the Calgary Marathon weekend gets bigger and better every year. Next year is the 50th anniversary, and I have my eye on a 3:10 in the full, using the Hanson method.