42.2 k of Meditating and Negotiating

A story on how I managed to run my first marathon and crossed the finish line

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  1. How it started and what I did for prep?

As long as I remember, I have always enjoyed running. I truly admire it. It is not the proxy between being fit and myself; it is more a way of living and appreciating it. I am always down for a jog in the park or along the lake shore. It is my time, which exclusively belongs to me. As a result, as a byproduct, I am getting better health, fit, more enduring heart, sculptured muscles, and elevated mood.

Running is the most natural thing you can do for the sport. I know, it might be debatable, but I think It is also less demanding in terms of the entry-level. You can start running now. Just go outside and do it.

Last year, I decided to convert my passion for running into more measurable, more challenging. Into something that you can hang on a wall as a memory of it. — A shiny medal. My friends and I were visiting downtown. That day the Toronto marathon happens to be there as well. I saw the people getting to the finish line. Some of them were running bold; some were suffering thought it. The volunteers were cheering them up at the last 500-meter distance. I saw a guy running in the Spiderman suit; I saw Batman as well. People who happened to be there that day were supporting the runners, were giving them motivational talks. I thought back then, what would it take to accomplish such a distance? What would it feel like to cross the finish line after being tortured physically and mentally, competing against your body and will?

One year fast forward, I am crossing the finish line, and it seems like not a big deal. It feels like a relief. But it is a big deal. It is a big deal for everyone for my family for my wife. It is a big deal for me. It has been a long journey. It has been a pleasant one. It started with my love for running.

2. Body chemistry and lack of training

Although, physically, my body was not fully prepared for running continuously. My chemical balance and the compound were right on the spot. Before the race day, for about two weeks, I had been taking Magnesium [Mg] and the Electrolyte Replenisher. The latter consisted of Sodium [Na] and Potassium [K]. On the race day, I had twelve caps of Electrolyte Replenisher on me and had been taking them every 30–40 minutes along the whole distance. As a result, my body got extra storage of valuable minerals. The Electrolyte Replenisher I had been taking during the race had a few more elements in it: [Na], [K], [Ca], [Mg]. It helped to facilitate hydration and replace electrolytes lost due to heavy sweating and vigorous activity. Moreover, it maintained proper muscle function. I was able to avoid muscle spasms altogether. As a machine, my body functioned at the full capacity, chemically burning fuel for power, and using minerals to keep up with neuronal activity.

3. The day

Before the day, I had taken a week off of any training activity. I gave my body enough time to recuperate and store the required vital forces. One day ahead of the day, I went to pick up my race kit and some goodies. My bib number was 4134, and I treated it as if it was a good number, 4–13–4. Both fours hug the thirteen situated in the middle. Also, the day before the day, I purchased a small bag. Although it was more like a belt strap with a stretchable pocket in the middle. They call it a flip belt too. It was big enough to accommodate my phone during the race and a plastic zip-bag with my electrolyte pills. I also decided to be as lightweight as I could during the day.

4. 5 am wake up and bowel syndrome

I woke up at 5 am on race day. As a typical runner, I wanted to make sure my intestines and guts didn’t have anything in them that would disturb my race. I didn’t want to spend time chasing toilets either. And what would you think, I had spent a sufficient amount of time sitting on the toilet bowl, but I still had to suffer through the first 14 kilometres of my race, but I will get into the details later.

That morning I had a coffee and a Russian cottage cheesecake bar for breakfast to get me started. You know, one of those chocolate-coated bars we were all getting during our school time back in the old country. The morning was cold, around 6 degrees Centigrade, tempted to put extra clothes on I decided to stick with my original plan to bring only a t-shirt and compression shorts to start.

I put on my windbreaker jacket (temporary), got a cab, and headed to the start line Downtown.

5. No sugarcoating

Listen, I don’t want to sugarcoat anything in my story. I want to tell the way it was and the way my thought process worked that day.

Look at the number of people wearing heavy clothes

6. It is cold, but it is not

I decided to drop off a few blocks away from the start line. I knew the place would be fenced off by the police. So, I took a short walk. It was beautiful, the city was waking up, stores were preparing to open to the customers, and homeless people were still asleep after the night. Getting closer to the start location at the intersection of University Ave & Queen street the number of people had increased. I decided to drop my bag at Nathan Phillips Square. While walking there, I noticed a ton of people getting ready for the race in long-sleeve shirts and pants. Some runners were wearing hats and even light jackets. That made me thinking about whether I was going to make a mistake and freeze to death. But eventually I decided to follow my father’s advice in terms of running clothes and gear. I was wearing a t-shirt and compression shorts for the race and never regraded it.

PacePro strategy suggests the correct pace during the race

7. PacePro Pacing Strategies and my plan

First off, my race strategy was quite simple; it was to get to the finish line by all means. Whether or not I would need to walk a part of the distance. Generally, I had that in my mind all the time. And it will be fair to say; it helped a lot to set up and tune mentally for the upcoming race.

Secondly, I decided to try out the PacePro feature of my new Garmin Fenix 6s watches. The feature offers dynamic, grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity, based on elevation and your personal pacing preferences. In practice, though, it brings up the recommended pace on your screen for each kilometre based on your preferred finish time. You can also adjust whether the pace should increase or decrease throughout the race. For instance, my pace strategy was increasing, starting with 7:47 min/km up to 6.40 min/km.

8. Start and the first 3k

Right after I checked in my bag at Nathan Phillips Square, I headed out right across the road, where I had spent some time in the closest hotel lobby meditating and prepping for my race. Prepping to battle against myself. My irritable bowel syndrome got worse. You know, it’s one of those things that would force you to go to the bathroom quite often when you are nervous and getting ready for a big event. That was exactly it, what I was experiencing that morning. I was literally trying not to lose my shit. Having visited the bathroom a couple of times, I decided to move to the start location and find my corral.

A corral is basically a colour-marked starting position which is based on the predicted finishing time. My predicted time was 4:30+, which is greater than four hours and thirty minutes. It took me a while to get there since people started getting there ahead of time.

The sound signal went off, and the race has begun. I don’t particularly remember my first 3 km. I knew it was a 3 km mark when, after a cup of water, I needed to use a bathroom. The organization was at a good level; portable toilets were along the way pretty much every 2–4 kilometres. I pressed pause on my Garmin watches, used the bathroom, and joined to the race again.

Running in the downtown core was absolutely astonishing. Toronto was beautiful with its historic and heritage buildings around you, cheerful crowd, and volunteers making your day memorable.

9. 7k to 13k

Seven-kilometer mark. Getting closer to the Lake Shore. I just had taken my first Saltstick pill (electrolyte replenisher) and was moving along with the pacemaker, which was shooting for 4:55. I got that from the sign plate he was holding above his head. I was wondering back then if I would be able to stick with him throughout the entire marathon. But on the other hand, I kind of knew, I would need to stick to the plan instead. Although the plan to finish at a 5-hour mark was optimistic too.

10. 14k to 20k

The fourteen-kilometre mark brought me a boost of energy, which lasted up until the twentieth kilometre. Which I think was the effect of my body switching to burning carbohydrates. I met my friends at the twentieth kilometre and forked out to the right. The path there has split out into two branches: the half-marathon and the marathon. I felt like 70% of the runners made the left turn to finish their half-marathon distance. I was so happy for them; their torture was about to end. Mine was only half a way through.

Staying strong, staying bold

12. 23k

Starting with the twenty-third-kilometre mark, my pace started slowly declining. All the overhead I had accumulated by that time began to melting as well. I was losing the fire. After the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth kilometre mark, I started seeing people doing static stretches against the curb. Myself, on the other hand, was okay; I didn’t feel an urge to stop and start stretching. I did feel pain in my soles, which started being more pronounced.

13. 30–31k and holding on

After the twenty-eighth kilometre, my brain started negotiating with my body, or it’s fair to say it was vice versa. My body was the one who asked the brain to stop, take a rest, do some static stretches. I felt like I was a third-party observer in the negotiation mentioned above. It felt like I was not even participating. I didn’t have anything to weight in. Even if I did, both my body and the brain would ignore me. Can you believe that? My own brain and flesh bullied me. They were coming to terms with each other in this negotiation without asking me. “Okay,” I said, “Let’s get to the thirty-second kilometre, and you’ll rest.” That’s what I did.

14. 32k to 37k walk and static stretching

I don’t feel particularly proud of this interval. However, I had to take that one to work out the lactic acid in the muscles. The race never gave me any spasms or muscle cramps. I saw a guy running in front of me for a while, and then he would stop instantly and would cripple to the curb moaning in agony. I thought, “wow, that’s what it looks like when you are running out of electrolytes, and your muscles are giving up on you.” It must have been the worst for him that day. Never happen to me that day, though.

Getting to the finish line

15. 38k to 42.2 I am running again

The terms of the agreement between my brain and my body came to an end. The thirty-eight-kilometre mark had emerged my second wind, or maybe even the third one. I didn’t even count. I had no more reason to slack and push back; I had no reason not to run. The feeling that I had was genuinely inspiring as if it gave me the energy to run twenty, thirty kilometres more.

Last two kilometres, I ran in the city core again. The number of volunteers had increased; they were cheering me up. And if you paid attention to it, gave them eye contact, gave them thumbs up, they would go nuts, and they would cheer you even more vigorously — just random people who happened to be there.

Three hundred meters more to go. Two hundred meters more to go. One hundred. “Man. I am doing it,” I said. “It’s almost done.” An awkward turn between the buildings and the finish line. I was met by 5–10 people there; some would put a medal around my neck, some would suggest a foil wrapper to keep me warm. A second thought, I should have taken one for my next marathon. Someone said there would be pizza at the end.

16. No pizza, no beer

That’s a disadvantage of running late. You get no pizza and no beer. Nothing left. People like a wave of locust would annihilate everything, every food item. You only get a banana.

17. Plans for the next marathon

The plan is simple: get to the finish line continuously running the distance, no more stretching, no more negotiating.

Someone had asked me ones, “Why are you doing this? Why do you need a race, why not to stick to casual running? Are you trying to prove something?” First of all, it’s fun. I am doing it for myself. To prove that I can set goals and accomplish them. If you have a goal, you build a path towards it, develop a plan. If there is no plan, there are no goals.

I observe the world around me, note imperfections, and strive to fix them. Or at least I try. The original author of "The Rules," started in 2010 in Russia.