Arriving at the Olympic Village after our 10 hour flight, I quickly and easily settled into my normal pre-marathon routine of rest, sleep, easy running (with one workout at the track), and proper eating/hydration. I knew I would have plenty of time to take it all in – the Olympic experience and Rio vacationing – after my event. I wasn’t there just to compete – I wanted to have a great race. Fortunately, Natasha Wodak, my roommate who ran a blazing 31:53 to place 22nd in the 10,000 m had a similar agenda as she was competing only 2 days before me.
Because the marathon start was over an hour drive from the village, Lanni Marchant and I stayed in a hotel with our support team the night before. Prior to leaving we met to discuss logistics and give Trent our bottles/gels, which would be handed to us during the race. To play it safe, I ate my last meal at the village before departing. I had one last tune-up treatment session with Ron at the hotel then settled in nicely for the night, setting out my gear and watching the Games on television. The bed was softer and bouncier than the firm village beds, which I loved and the air conditioner was a bit rattly but I slept well, like every other night in the village.
In the morning I ate my simple bread and jam pre-race meal and started sipping Eload then met Lanni for coffee downstairs around 5:30 am. We got into our race kits, packed up then drove with the crew to the race site. We rested our legs, made several washroom trips, jogged a short warm up, and made our way to the call room to check in, get our chip and new race bib for the front. It was busy and you could feel the nerves in the air. I was calm, feeling good and ready to go. Heading out to the start line was a bit chaotic. It was loud and crowded and they were calling names of the top seeded athletes but few were responding. It was humid, as expected, and the bright sun was beating down. Eventually we made our way to the start and before we knew it, the gun went off. I had successfully spotted my family, high in the nosebleed section and gave them a wave, assuming they likely wouldn’t see it amongst the 157 women who started the race. And there I was, competing in the 2016 Olympic Marathon.
Given the warm conditions that I prepared for, and my level of fitness, I figured I shouldn’t go any faster than 3:35 min/km. The first few kilometres were around 3:30 so I slowed myself down to a more appropriate pace. This was going to be my race; I was going to run my pace, start conservatively, and only be concerned about bettering my placement. And that I did. I successfully got into a steady rhythm, sometimes running with a small group, while other times running alone or with only one or two other women. I consumed my Eload and 7 gels at the 8 stations, positioned every 5 km, and poured an entire bottle of water on my head at every opportunity to help keep as cool as possible. Wearing a visor was perfect for this. The route was flat and consisted of approximately 4 km to the 3 x 10 km loops followed by 8 km to the finish. The support along the route was energizing and encouraging. At the half way point I decided I needed to push a bit more, eventually I made my way down to the 35th spot from 70th, I was ranked 50th and 133 finished the race.
Once I got to the Sambodromo it was all about celebrating my personal victory. I gave myself a little fist pump and the crowd went wild! So I embraced the moment and took it for all its worth. Waving my hands, raising my arms in the air and giving additional fist pumps created the loudest and most exciting roar, more thrilling than I ever could have imagined. I crossed the line with a huge smile on my face, thankful for my performance, then looked to the sea of red to my right. I couldn’t believe it. My family was right there, and I was able to run directly to them! Embracing with tears of joy and cheers of happiness, I lived my dream. On many occasions I’ve visualized running into the arms of my loved ones after a successful race. I was doing just that, and it was the Olympics! Later that day when we were at the Canada House, someone came over to me to show me the picture that was getting a fair amount of views. That is when I really got emotional. The tears started to flow as looked at that picture, knowing that not only did I experience a moment of a lifetime but someone captured it. In addition to my Christian faith, getting married, and giving birth, I realized this was a significant event that I would treasure immensely for the rest of my entire life.
After the race I spent the day with my family then returned to the village for a mandatory security meeting. I then met up with my family again. We really enjoyed our time together, having morning coffee on the veranda with mountains in view, and savouring meals together, some cooked in while others enjoyed out. The house was beautiful and spacious and a mere 5 minute walk from a playground, various shops, and the beautiful beach. The night before my family’s flight, we said our goodbyes and I took an uber back to the village. I did some easy running and swimming, relaxed by the pool with a book, enjoyed some sweets, cheered on our Canadian athletes in the race walk, marathon and at the track, enjoyed a dinner with Natasha and her parents at Copacabana, and celebrated at the Closing Ceremony. It was an incredible 15 days. I am so grateful that I had both a successful race and Olympic experience. It was everything I hoped for and imagined. The love and support I received before and after has been so heart-warming and I definitely felt the strength of peoples’ prayers for health and safety for myself and my family. Thank you to each and everyone of you, particularly my husband, Jonathan. My heart is full. It is well with my soul.