Angela Hamill is a 43-year-old mother of two and in ten days she’ll run the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon; the first marathon she’s ever attempted. We’ve been training together for nearly a year and she’s the only one from the original Couch to Marathon clinic that will be lacing up for the marathon starting line. Think you might have the stuff to take on a similar journey? Here, Angela talks about what it takes not to quit.
iRun: We’re less than two weeks away from your first marathon. How do you feel?
Angela: I’m overwhelmed with emotions right now, but the two that stand out are excitement and anxiousness.
iRun: Where are you confident and where are you a little less so?
Angela: I’m confident that I will excel at carb-loading. I’m a little less confident about running 42.2.
iRun: Do you have a race strategy for the big day going in?
Angela: Stay positive. Fuel early and often. And maintain forward motion, no matter how difficult it gets.
iRun: Talk about your training. What was your longest run? Do you feel adequately prepared?
Angela: Training has been a roller-coaster of ups and downs, both physically and mentally. I’ve tried to be as consistent as possible, getting out to run at least 3 times/week and as many as 5. My longest run was 33km, but I’ve only done 4 runs longer than the half-marathon distance. Strangely enough, I do feel prepared. I feel I’ve done the best possible training I could given the resources, opportunities, and circumstances I faced along the way.
iRun: What prompted you to begin this course last summer?
Angela: I was sick pretty much the whole winter before the course started, and I was looking for a way to get in shape and stay healthy. I knew I liked running but I was having a hard time motivating myself, so when I heard about the course I was immediately intrigued.
iRun: Where were you at, personally, and what attracted you to the idea?
Angela: There’s always a lot going on in my personal life. My husband and I are constantly chauffeuring our two boys to their activities and social engagements. Plus, we stay connected to our own friends and families as much as we can. My parents live far away, and I was visiting them a lot to help out. I saw this course as an opportunity to do something for myself, to challenge myself, and to do it with the help and support of a group.
iRun: Tell me a little bit about your journey. Did your confidence grow with the increased distances?
Angela: I’m a worrier by nature, so I gravitate towards the safe and familiar. Committing to a marathon was a large and scary step outside my comfort zone. I started to feel a lot of pressure, but it was all self-imposed. A big part of this journey for me has been learning to relax. As soon as I let go of the worry and the pressure, I was free to savour each moment as it happened. The joy in those moments helped me push myself a little further. And the further I pushed, the more confidence I gained.
iRun: Was the marathon something you kept in mind or tried to forget about?
Angela: I’ve always considered the marathon my “goal race” so it was definitely on my mind. I knew I would drive myself crazy if I thought about it too much, so I just tried to focus on one day and one run at a time.
iRun: How did it effect your relationships?
Angela: A positive side-effect of this experience has been the lessons I was inadvertently teaching my kids. For example, they saw that you don’t have to be a superstar at something to find happiness in it. They also realized that you can do anything you set your mind to, even if it doesn’t come easily. My oldest son, Owen, told me he was impressed that I had the “stamina” (his word, not mine) to run a marathon. At this point in his life, I’m mostly an embarrassment to him, so hearing him say that he was proud of me for taking this on really meant a lot!
iRun: As the course went along, we trained through a very cold winter. Did you ever have thoughts about giving it up?
Angela: I got sick twice this winter, probably because I pushed my body too hard in extreme conditions. The first time I missed 10 training days, the second time I missed a week. I also tore ligaments in my toes while running on a snowy, slippery sidewalk. So yeah, I certainly considered throwing in the towel. In the end, it was the advice, support and encouragement of the group that helped me stick with it.
iRun: Are you someone, in general, who would describe themselve as “tough”?
Angela: Nah, I wouldn’t say “tough.” Maybe stubborn and determined are better words to describe me.
iRun: Does running get easier as you go along?
Angela: It gets easier as your body, lungs and mind adapt. There will always be runs that feel more difficult than they should, but those runs should not define or discourage you.
iRun: What advice would you give a new runner?
Angela: Enjoy the process. Trust your training. Stay positive. Find support, either with a local running group or through the larger online running community.
iRun: You’ve already run 5K, 10K and the half marathon. Which of those three events gave you the most profound experience: can you talk about your experiences with racing?
Angela: I had done a few running events prior to joining this group, so I knew what racing was like; the excitement and energy of it all. But I ran most of those events alone. For me, our first race (A Midsummer Night’s Run 5K) was the most memorable, simply because I knew so many people participating! I loved the feeling of community, and cheering on everyone I knew.
iRun: We only had something like seven weeks between the half marathon and the marathon. Finishing the half, did you feel like that would be enough time?
Angela: From day one, I wondered if the two months between Chilly and Goodlife would be enough. I feel better about it now but in an ideal world, I would have liked another month to get ready for the full.
iRun: What does it take to train for the marathon? Do you think its something that anyone could do?
Angela: If you’re like me (i.e. not super-speedy) it takes a lot of time to train for the marathon. But if you have desire, passion and willpower, you’ll make the time. So go for it!!
iRun: Finally: Who will be watching you on race day? What do you want to tell your loved ones who might be cheering you on?
Angela: My husband, Mark, and my two kids, Owen and Emmett, will be looking out for me on race day. I want to tell them, “I love you guys so much. I couldn’t have done this without your love and support.”