My First Marathon

Posted: May 5, 2014 in My Story, Race Reports
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Be careful what you wish for! In a previous post I referred to my delight at running in the rain – and rain it was for my first full marathon – the BMO Vancouver Marathon!

In the morning

I woke up to the sound of rain. The previous week had been warm and humid, and there was a general consensus that similar weather on race day would be tough. Well, no worries of that happening!

Most of my prep had been done the night before. I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal made with almond milk, topped with walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Best to be prepared, I also had some toast with peanut butter and honey. Rather than use the free transit pass provided by the marathon, I took a car2go towards the start line – but didn’t realize that I couldn’t cross Cambie at 41st! So I still had to trudge along in the rain with the rest of the crowd…

I had several layers – including an Old Navy plastic bag. Waiting at the start line, I kind of felt like this:

The plastic bag look

The plastic bag look

But after running into a bunch of my Forerunners training buddies, I felt like this:

Plastic bag upgrade!

Plastic bag upgrade!

And after months of training, the moment had come – and we were off!

Start to KM 10

My official first marathon goal was simply to finish. My ‘unofficial’ goal was to break the 4 hour mark (so 3:59:59 was on my mind). With high hopes, I started out following the 3:45 pace bunny. But even with my speed picking up on the initial downhill, he was soon out of sight. Even so, I thought, “Maybe I’m starting out too fast.” That’s the nature of races, though – you get caught up in the momentum and the excitement. I let myself get carried along with the flow.

The straightaway across W49th was scenic, and exciting! Along the way, I saw several Forerunners peeps cheering us on, and I felt strong and motivated. The rain had started to let up, so it was smooth sailing. We arrived at the Camosun hill, but having done a few training runs at this very location, I knew just what to expect. And with more enthusiastic cheerers at the start of the incline, as well as at the top – no problem at all!

KM 10 to 21.1

Despite having visited the facilities twice at the start line, I was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable as we hit 12km and started heading to UBC. All the way up the hill, I had been contemplating the forest on either side – but I’m a shy guy by nature and it wasn’t that desperate yet. Then a porta-potty was vacated just as I was running by, so I seized the opportunity. It was also at that moment that the Run-Walk 3:45 pace bunny passed me…

At Blanca St, there was a little out and back – and I saw two of my awesome teammates on their return trip as I was heading out. The course continued along 16th Ave until we hit Marine Dr – and then the rain started again in earnest. The next several kilometres were so wet, and I realized that I was completely soaked through, top to bottom. Thankfully, the downhill to Spanish Banks made the going a little less tough – and soon the halfway mark was in sight.

The clock told me I had crossed the line at 1 hour 59 minutes. I knew I was a few minutes faster, since our corral left about 5 minutes after the elite wave. But I also doubted that a negative split was in the cards…

Halfway to 30km

The next few kilometres included the short, treacherous uphill to 4th Ave – but again, our training paid off, and I was ready for it. By now, I think the rain had tapered off again. Nearing the 25km mark, one of my good friends was cheering with gusto (thanks, Jessica!), and Emily was there with a camera – and she got this shot of me looking amazingly happy for already having run a half marathon:

Pick up those feet!

Pick up those feet!

Just before hitting Burrard Bridge, the course takes a detour through the residential streets near Kits Beach. While there was still plenty of cheering going on (the cheering station at Cornwall and Arbutus was awesome!), I was starting to feel a bit down. And it had started raining again. And just as I reached the peak of the Burrard Bridge, the unthinkable happened.

My iPhone battery died.

Why this matters

Since I started running, one of my big motivators has been tracking my runs, and seeing my progress online. I especially love the Nike+ Running app, which keeps tabs on my distance and pace, and shows me awesome maps of my routes. At the same time, I’m listening to music to keep me inspired to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The day before the race, I spent about 2 hours compiling my playlist, a collection of over 4 hours’ worth of songs that I knew would keep my spirits up. (I’ll share the secrets of my playlist in a future post!) I know some people don’t believe in running with music for various reasons – it distracts from their surroundings, it throws off their pace – but all of my races to date have included music.

In addition, I have the app synced to Facebook, so any time someone likes my post, I hear virtual ‘cheers’ through my headphones. Another great motivator!

So when that battery went dead, three things crossed my mind:

  1. I won’t get the map of my FIRST FULL MARATHON on Nike+
  2. No more cheers for me
  3. Now I have to run naked

Here’s me relinquishing my defunct piece of technology at 30km:

photo 1 (1)

“It’s dead…”

Incidentally, the song playing the moment the battery died – Timber by Ke$ha (“You’re going down, I’m yelling TIMBER!”)

Running Naked – 30km to 40km

Now it’s just me and my breath and my legs. Yes, lots of other runners. And yes, lots of supporters and volunteers cheering and handing out water, sports drink, and gels. But without the music in my ears, it all seems a lot more real. More vivid. More work.

A very familiar route. Along English Bay toward Stanley Park. A very encouraging “Just another little 10k!” as we hit the 32km mark. The Seawall.

Oh, the Seawall. The jewel of Stanley Park (or is Stanley Park the jewel of Vancouver?). Closed to the public today, devoid of cyclists and wandering tourists, it belongs to the marathoners. Now I can really hear what’s going on around me. Laboured breathing. Runners who are still moving at a decent pace, but whose feet scrape the ground at every step. The sound of the rain.

My feet are soaked and squishy. I sincerely appreciate the volunteers – the only other people on the Seawall – and their efforts to give us energy, but I’m finding it hard to smile anymore. Passing under the Lions Gate Bridge at 36km, the most daunting moment of the run, in my mind. And I knew it was coming. I can see Brockton Point in the distance and it looks so far away. It’s less than 3km, I realize – but at 36km I have now run farther than I’ve ever run before.

Rounding the corner at Brockton Point Lighthouse, a dramatic headwind. I think I actually say something out loud. Not a curse, just an exclamation. No one cares, though – we’re all just pushing on ahead.

And there on the Seawall, I hit ‘the Wall’.

To the Finish Line

With only 2km left to go, I feel like there’s no way I can keep going. My legs are leaden. My feet ache. I’m hungry.

I walk.

But only for 10 steps! I have to keep going. The wind has let up, the rain has stopped, I think. There’s a sign that says, “Only 1 kilometre left!” (or something similar) and I swear they’ve made kilometres longer in the last few hours, since this race began. At the final straightaway, heading onto Pender, my guy is waiting for me and I know I can do this. Maybe I’m a bit delirious, but I still manage a smile as I pass by:

photo 2 (1)

Almost there!

Heading into the chute, with people cheering on both sides, a few hundred metres to go, I can see the finish line. What’s the time on the clock? Without my glasses, I can’t see clearly. But it doesn’t really matter. This is my first marathon, so regardless of the time it will be an automatic Personal Best!

And then it’s victory. I cross the line. Someone has wheelchairs ready, but thankfully not for me. A grinning volunteer puts a medal around my neck. There’s Coach Carey, ready with a smile and a handshake. My time? Did I break 4 hours? Nope. But it doesn’t matter. At 4:03:26, it’s pretty darn close. And I’ve done it!

There are hugs and high fives as I find my fellow marathoners, the gang who have kept me motivated through all the training. My inspirations. My friends.

Now I can say: “I have run a marathon.”

Done and done!

Done and done!


  1. Janna says:

    Congratulations Bradley! Way to go, proud of you 🙂


  2. You are such an inspiration! What a beautifully written post, my friend.


  3. egercke says:

    Yaaay! Great post. Loved reading all about it. Welcome to experiencing “the wall!” Who puts that damn wall in the way, anyways?? He should be fired.


    • bjcjapan says:

      Haha – well, having your smiling face and cheerful voice along the way definitely pushed the wall further out! Thanks for your support!!


  4. Gordo says:

    Congrats Bradley! Very inspiring post! Almost enough to make me want to run a marathon. (almost)


  5. Julie says:

    Fantastic post and great job, Bradley! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been meaning to take up running “for real” for a while now and this is very motivating!


    • bjcjapan says:

      Thanks, Julie! I never expected to be a ‘real’ runner – and I don’t believe one needs to do a marathon to be one. I encourage you to push your limits, though, and give it a go!


  6. Andrea says:

    Congrats Bradley! Way to go.

    Now it’s time to sign-up for marathon #2 if you haven’t already!? 🙂


  7. Vieve Pilates says:

    Congratulations! I can only imagine your dismay when your phone died–but you pulled through and killed it! Good job. 🙂


  8. Congrats! You’ve done it!


  9. […] familiar territory now – the route identical to the BMO Marathon, except the day is warm and sunny, and I haven’t already run over 20k! But, as these things […]


  10. […] may recall the slight trauma I experienced during the BMO Marathon when my iPhone quit at kilometre 30, and I was forced to run ‘naked’ the rest of the race. That was unintentional and […]


  11. Jerrick says:

    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing your story. I found it very inspiring and exciting to follow. As a ruuner, I always look for things that inspire me and your blog certainly has. I aim to run my first full marathon in the next year and live to talk about it. Happy running and good luck in Honolulu!


  12. […] bjcjapan on My First Marathon […]


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  15. […] In 2014, I ran my first marathon…followed up later in the year by my second! When I ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May, it rained. It was a cold, insistent rain – but I made it through to the finish. My […]


  16. […] literally register for a race every weekend. Although Vancouver proper has just one marathon (the BMO Vancouver Marathon), there are countless half marathons, 10ks, 5ks, and a variety of other distances. For example, in […]


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