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“Can’t Fix Stupid”: Legs for Literacy Full Marathon.

October 24, 2017

“Can’t fix stupid.”  Brilliant line overheard at 1km at Moncton’s Legs for Literacy Full Marathon on October 22, 2017.

But why would you even try!?

Especially when this kinda stupid is so fun!

Back up.  I just ran my 9th marathon. This one was so special because it was with my sister Kristen and we had our sister Laura with us for 19km as she raced the half marathon.

Moncton wasn’t the original sister plan.  Another fall plan got derailed by sisters’ work schedules and my time spent in the injury penalty box. The plan became no plan. Kristen would go to PEI for med school placements. Laura would carry on with work. I would recover as much as possible.

3 marathons together: Nashville, Boston, CIM

Then Kristen declared in August that she wanted to do Moncton’s full marathon.  While I was still running 12km for a long run, I immediately knew that I totally wanted to go with her.  But that would be totally stupid.  Kristen had already run 3 marathons and I was with her for each one. It’s our thing. I had started running after my injury lay-off in July, 15 weeks to Legs for Literacy Marathon Race Day. I started at zero. I got to work building mileage slowly and safe

I didn’t even confess my intent to run this marathon to my coach Lee until 4 weeks to go, after I had achieved 25km and 28km runs.  Because I knew it was stupid. I kept it pretty quiet even then. Kristen wanted to run 3:30:xx.  Together with my sister, I believed in my ability to do that.

At Road Hammer Practice, the Wednesday before marathon, I was asking Coach Lee about pacing plans.

Teammate: “Did you just say you are running a marathon this weekend!?”

Erin: “Oh yes. I’m running a marathon. I’m a marathoner (smirks).”

Jer: “Lee, did you give her the green light for this?!”

Road Hammers: “She gave herself the green light.”

But seriously…. Yes I did.  Coach Lee was aware. He remained non-committal as to whether or not I could actually get my body ready to complete a full marathon in…. not a lot of weeks.  He helped me develop a list of things that I needed to accomplish in order to register. The long run build was 25km, 28km and 32km.  That’s all I had time for.

The 25km was completed before and after Maritime Race Weekend and barely counted. I ended the 28km unable to run a single other step after foolishly running fast with Dave in the middle.  It all came down to the 32km run: can I actually pull this off. I went out solo and while out on the COLTA/BLT Trail, I realized that I had been scared of this goal but on that day, the switch flipped. I now wanted this badly. I wanted to cross that finish line holding hands with my sister. I signed up as soon as I got home from this one. Green light.

Over the fall, my sister and I stay connected over training while separated by provinces and life was as it should be.

hotel pre-race zzz’s

Then (quickly) came race weekend and we descend on Moncton.  Three sisters.  My mother.  I took my little team, my son and daughter, with me.  I took one of my favourite running pals Linda with me and my little team.  We were meeting other Road Hammers there.

There was no pressure.  Just lots of sister love.

I lined up with a classic seasoned distance runner’s disposition: overconfident and under-trained. I had enough marathons under my (fuel) belt to pull this off.  What could go wrong, hehe!!  But I would have my sisters with me, that would be the antidote to everything.

Sisters x 3 Race Ready

The full and the half marathon started together which enabled half marathoning Laura to go out with us.  Line up. Gun. Go.

The race is much larger than I expect.  We start downtown and head for the RIverfront Trail along Moncton’s Petitcodiac River.  Us three sisters are together in a row and we talk about how special this is. Who knows when this might happen again.

It’s very easy at first.  Every distance beyond 10km is very easy at first.  We talk and we laugh and we are happy.  We hear this guy say, “Can’t fix stupid” when a spectator asks him what he’s doing out here, didn’t he just run a marathon last weekend.

I’m trying to be in charge of the pace but I’m not always out front. There are 3 of us.  I begin to get after Kristen about running too fast.  Jeez, we all know that it’s so easy up front but easy always ends at some point. So we enjoy running the trail along the river. It’s way more beautiful than I anticipate.  When our first 5km split pops up, I say, hmmmm: #can’tfixstupid.

We pick up 2 guys who are aiming for 3:30 pretty early and they stay with Kristen and I for most of the race.

We cheer our Road Hammer Teammates at the first turnaround for the half.  We laugh when the reeds along the trail become so high next to us that it looks like a corn maze.  I duck into a bathroom along the trail for a quick bathroom break and it’s way more calm then my Boston 2016 bathroom break until I can’t figure out how to get the door back open.  I easily catch back up to my sisters.  We carry on running happy.

I’m still after Kristen for the pace. If I tell her once, I tell her 42 times to slow down.  Too hot. Back off. Ease up. Easy, easy, easy. Not yet.  I try all of these things.  Getting in front was most effective.

My sisters and I chat and laugh easily and sometimes loudly.  I tell Laura that we are so impressed with her, she’s going to have a great race.

Laura will leave us at 19km and turn back to the finish line.  At 17km, it’s time to let her go. It’s hard to do, Kristen and I keep going with her.  But we now getting deeper into the marathon, we have to be smart.  We let her go and we shout that we love her and be fierce when she runs back by us.

Kristen and I pass the 19km half marathon turnaround ourselves and the races loses nearly everyone. Shit’s getting real. We’re running a marathon.  We’re now back with new friends Uncle Pat and Chester, also aiming for 3:30.  I talk about how a marathon is divided into 3: 0-21.1, 21.1-32, 32-home.  We knock off part one, back on the Moncton city side of the trail, headed out for adventure through Dieppe.  Kristen and I are killing it with the fuelling. We are smiling and we are happy together.  We say that this is so fun.

Having all the fun

We get off the trail thank god at 24km. Now we run hills.

We started scooping up runners on the hilly streets of Dieppe between 24 and 30km.  At one point, stride for stride with Kristen on a long climb, I turned around and we have an entourage of 6 guys trailing us: life is as it should be. This happens to me all the time at relay races. Kristen and I laughed together and laughter at 28km in a marathon = magic.

28 to 29km is a common mental crash site for me.  I watch these km markers pass me by.  They breeze by. I’ve never run a marathon with a partner before let alone my sister. It was completely wonderful to have each other and just be able to easily rely on each other.  There was no mental crash out there, I had two times the mental power with her next to me.

We see 32km and we are happy.  We’re doing it. I no longer have to tell Kristen to slow down.  She now tells me that we are holding this pace and she’s serious.

We turn back onto the trail with 8km to go and this was the most beautiful moment.  The river stretched before us, its still surface like glass.  The leaves with gorgeous fall foliage popped all around.  The trail had a light covering of fallen leaves. I talk about how in this post-injury world where I am forced to carefully balance stress and rest: all I want to do was run again and see beautiful things and I’m so grateful to be living this marathoner moment with my sister.

Then the marathon really became a grind. The trail sucks the steam out of your already-run-34km legs. Kristen’s stride shrinks and her butt hurts.  She says she can’t open up, can’t run faster.  At 5km to go, I can hardly believe the all over leg pain. It’s overwhelming. I feel as bad as I did when running 3:03:00 and I ponder how a marathon is a marathon no matter the time you run. But the pain is not dangerous.  We are not at all in danger of losing our goal because we’re doing this together.  But there was no risk of giving up. We feel the way we are supposed to feel. Kristen and I were crossing the line holding hands together.

The boys are still with us and Rookie Chester was unintentionally hilarious here and his risk of demise probably helped hold me together.  I’ve been giving Kristen and these guys coaching cues whether they want them or not.  Uncle Pat has pulled ahead. Now Chester is suffering bad.  He’s a few strides behind.

“I want to walk so bad!” He yells.  Like seriously yells.

So I yell back, “Don’t you dare! There’s no walking. You’ll never start running again. You are staying with us.”

He stays with us.  “It’s so hard!” He yells.  I laugh.  “I know, but you’re doing it! You feel exactly how you should. You’re ok”

We come up to a water stop, “YOU!” I yell at him, “You get gatorade and don’t you dare walk.”

We keep running.  We pass an innocent park bench.

“I want to sit down on the bench so bad!” He yells.  The yelling is seriously funny.

“There is no sitting on benches in a marathon! You can sit down, lie down, cry at the finish line.”

Now I focus back on Kristen.  I’m so eager to see each km marker.  I’m working really hard.  Kristen is hanging on.  We hang onto each other.  This is what we talked about.  I wasn’t pacing her.  We were getting each other to the finish line.

At 2km to go, I start to get worried about the time we have left. There’s no way in hell we are a running a 3:30:00, I will seriously never live that down.

1km to go sign, you are impossibly beautiful and jesus the leg pain.  We have 5 minutes.  I tell Kristen we have to go.  We start to go.  I yell at Chester, “Don’t be a wimp! You have one km left.”  He yells back, “You have no idea!!!”  hahaha.

Turn off trail, run 200m up to Main Street and you turn left onto the finishing shoot and that was all joy. Kristen is a little panicked and asks how far it will be when we turn the corner.  I’m so happy we are together. We turn the corner and the finish is there. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so hard at a finish.  My running shoes were smiling.

I grab my sister’s hand with a few metres to go and we crossed hand-in-hand as planned: 3:29:34. It’s glorious.

Surprise: good for 2nd and 3rd females.

New friend pulls off a 3:29:58 and he’s now a marathoner.

That was so very fun.  Kristen and I agree, it was the most fun marathon ever.

Can’t fix stupid. Why even try!

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