True to form, this will be my rookie version of a race report. Mainly, it is an opportunity to share some memories of one of the best days of my life and to say thank you to the people that got me through one of the most grueling challenges I've ever faced.
On Friday, October 12th at 9:00 a.m., I had my final pre-race correspondence with Coach Mike. We hopped on Skype and within about 30 seconds of getting online with Mike, I was in tears. My nervous energy was running high, I was overcome with the thought of all Mike had done to get me to this point, and I had just received a beautiful email from my dad and mom telling me how proud they were and encouraging me to Run Strong! Mike – as always – gave me amazing advice that I used over and over again throughout the race. He was facing his own epic journey the next day of participating in a 100 km run to raise money for children’s cancers. I left the conversation both empowered and inspired. Mike will forever hold a special place in my heart for his incredible contribution to Run Strong and to my growth as a runner and person.
On Saturday night (night before run day), Eric made me an amazing pasta dinner to ensure I had my carbs. After re-reading texts of encouragement from my brother, Joe, I tried to get to bed early, but tossed and turned for a while before falling into a peaceful sleep, waking up only briefly at 1 a.m. to the sound of our dog throwing up. Realizing that this would likely be the only night ever that I would clearly have a free pass on doing dog clean-up, I poked Eric and gently explained that I couldn't clean up the dog mess because I had to run a really long distance in the morning. :0) Eric is a good man.
I had set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, but my internal clock woke me up at 4:06. I showered, did a last minute check of all my gear/nutrition and by 5:45, we were heading into Toronto. One of the great moments of the day happened right before we left. I hopped online for a quick second to find a note from my mom and dad saying, “See you at the finish line”. Both of my parents had been quite sick in the week leading up to the race and right up until that moment, I wasn't sure if they would be able to make it. I was overcome with excitement and gratitude that they would be there. My parents are amazing people.
Driving into the city, it absolutely poured rain. Part of me was happy for the rain because some of my best training runs had been in the rain, but I was worried about how wet feet hold up over 42 km. When we got to Toronto, traffic had already backed up at the Spadina exit off the QEW. We parked just off the Lakeshore and walked up to the corral area. Another incredible moment happened when we were waiting to enter the corral area and we saw my brother, Scott, and his girlfriend Taryn. Taryn was also running her first marathon and Scott was running the half marathon: both of them had said in the early days of the Run Strong campaign that they would run in solidarity with me and the Run Strong cause. Scott and Taryn are just such amazing souls that their presence instantly brought a sense of calm. When I saw Taryn, I didn’t want to stop hugging her because I knew that she was the only person at that moment that I could hold on to that was feeling the same sense of foreboding about what was ahead of us. I was just so happy to see them.
Taryn, Me, and Scott waiting to enter the race corral.
When the corral opened up, I said goodbye to Eric - and Scott, Taryn, and I parted ways, each of us going to find the space to run our own races. I put my headphones in as I waited for the starting waves (ours was the last corral to go to the start line). Even writing this, my heart is starting to beat faster thinking about that moment. I had thought about this for a lifetime and now here I was.
It was such a thrill to start out on those first 5 km. It had stopped raining and I felt strong. After only 1 km, there was the most amazing cheering section a girl could ask for: Eric; my mom and dad; my sister, Marlo; my brother-in-law, Dean; my niece and nephew, Keelan and Charlie; and my amazing daughter Hannah. I ran over to the side and high-fived everyone as I ran past. At about 3 kms, I saw David Berger, one of my favourite people in the world, and ran over to high five him. I had no idea the amazing comfort and joy I would feel by seeing friends and family along the route. I can’t thank everyone enough for being out there.
At 4 km, I had another incredible race highlight. Chris McGrath, a friend that I have known since kindergarten but probably have not seen in 20 years, was on the route cheering. Chris was an amazing supporter of Run Strong and seeing him was an absolute thrill. I couldn't resist running over to give him a huge hug!
Shortly after I saw Chris, I had my first encounter with the incomparable Jo-Anne Liburd along the route. Jo-Anne is simply one-of-a-kind. I spotted her in the crowd with a sign that said, “You are still faster than the King St. streetcar”. It was the first time (but not the last) I laughed out loud on the route. Throughout the entire race, Jo-Anne found a way to get to the most remote race points, where the crowds and cheering were sparse and would show up with the most amazing signs that kept me inspired, encouraged, and laughing. I think my favourite had to be her sign that said, “Corrie, I think you are winning this!”. If I could have gotten enough air into my lungs, I’m sure I would have laughed for a good 10 minutes at that one.
I was thrilled to see my family again at 5 kms and my dear friend David Berger again shortly after. I was feeling great and trying to resist the urge to run faster than my training pace, as I knew that I was going to need energy reserves in the last 10 – 12 kms.
Feeling good in the first 10 km.
The Waterfront Marathon has a number of places where you run out to a point and then you loop and run back the other way. This gave me an awesome chance as I was running out to see people who were faster than me and running back the other way. At about 12 kms, I was running one way of a loop and coming at me in the other direction, I saw hands flying in the air and heard, “CORRIE!!!!!”. It was my AMAZING cousin, Steve, who had come all the way from Michigan to run in support of Run Strong, along with his wife, Tara (also a marathoner), their girls, and my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ed. Seeing Steve at that moment, I wanted to cry I was so happy!!! We high fived and kept going our respective ways, but his incredible smile fuelled me over the next part of the race. Shortly after I saw Steve, I saw my brother, Scott, running the other way and again was so excited and inspired to keep going.
At 18 kms, there were Eric, my parents, and my sister again. I was still feeling good but needed more hydration, so Eric quickly got me a bottle of Gatorade/water and I was off again. I think one of the most difficult moments of the race came at 19 kilometres, where the course split and runners that were doing the half marathon went one way towards the finish line and the full marathon course veered off to go east, with another 23 km left to run. I missed the bigger running crowd and 23 kms seemed like an endless distance to still have in front of me.
The next 10 kilometres were quiet and I had too much time in my own head. Instead of focusing on the kilometres I had conquered, I was overcome with what was still in front of me. I thought of everything Coach Mike had instilled in me; I thought about the life journeys of women living with violence; and I thought about the commitment I had made to all of the incredible Run Strong donors and supporters. I was not going to stop running. In addition, it was truly the amazing volunteers, the cheering crowds, and seeing Jo-Anne’s white hat and neon signs that kept me going over that stretch. The good news was that the blisters that had plagued me all through my training were somehow not an issue for the first 28 kms. The bad news was that my shoulders and legs were starting to ache badly.
People told me that a marathon really begins at 30 km. Mine began at 28 km. In my whole life, I will never forget the moment of running down the road and seeing my mom and dad and my sister in the distance. They had a massive sign that said, “Run Strong Corrie-Annie-Banannie-Fannie” (my childhood nickname). When I got up to them, all I could get out was, “I hurt”. Their love and concern will stay with me forever. And then, my sister, because she is the most amazing sister a girl could have, threw off her backpack and said, “Would you mind if I ran with you?”. I am overcome all over again thinking about it. My beautiful sister came out and ran with me from just before 28 km to 33 km. She made me laugh, cheered me on, sang to me...anything to try and get me to stop thinking about the pain. That, my friends, is an incredible sister. She told me that Eric was going to run the last part of the race with me and that she would stay with me until he joined me. I wasn’t going to run any more of the race alone.
My mom, dad and sister at around 27 kms. I was hurting and was so happy to see my family.
My unbelievable sister running with me...5 kms down the road my equally unbelievable husband would join me.
And, just as Marlo said, at 33 km, there was my awesome husband ready to bring me home. Marlo and I parted ways and Eric became the energy that got me through the grueling final 9 kms. At 38 kms, I looked at Eric and said, “I don’t think I have 4 more kms in me.” He said, “Yes you do!! You are so close now. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.” People along the route would cheer him on and he would say to them, “Don’t cheer for me. Cheer for my wife.” A wonderful man, indeed.
In the last 10 kms, there was one more hill to climb. My legs were like lead and I couldn't fathom how I was going to manage an incline. And there it was. The white hat. Jo-Anne had positioned herself at the top of the hill with a sign that said, “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.” I just love her for getting me up that hill.
With 1 km left in the race, you turn the corner to go north on Bay St. As I got closer, Eric retreated to the sidewalk to let me do the final kilometre on my own. Ahead I heard my name being called and there were my cousins Stephen and Tara, their girls (Sophie, Ava, and Ella), and my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ed cheering like crazy. I turned the corner hoping to see the finish line right there, but instead found a sign that said “600 metres to go”. I wanted to laugh and cry all in the same moment. For that whole 600 m, I could hear my relatives cheering at the top of their lungs to get me to the end. I put my arms up and gave the thumbs up and the victory sign.
And, then, one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen: to my right, my amazing mom and dad, my daughter Hannah, and my husband cheering at the top of their lungs, (with my dad in tears), and straight ahead, the finish line. I crossed the finish line in a state of sheer agony and elation as the announcer announced, “Congratulations Corrie Schneider, you have completed your marathon!”.
Coming into the finish line
Post-race with (part of) my awesome family
My fellow marathoner and all-around great girl, Taryn.
Enjoying the after party with my superstar cousin, Steve (who, by the way, is running the Detroit Marathon next weekend...he's amazing!)
With heartfelt gratitude and love,
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