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A runner's diary: 42.2 km later, my legs hurt but my spirit isn't broken

Runner Dave Emilio

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Dave Emilio is documenting his training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 16.

Many hours were spent training, and many miles of road covered. They say that a marathon can break your heart, just as long as it doesn't break your spirit. I have to say that saying rang true for me today.

I realized a several days ago that to reach my original goal of 3:10, the stars would have to be perfectly aligned. And many stars, in fact, did rearrange themselves favourably. My Achilles was feeling good; I was well rested and relaxed. And while the headwinds were brutal, the temperature was ideal.

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I had decided I would stick to a 4:30/km pace. I choose to run alone and just focus on my goal. I reached the 10K-mark on pace, perhaps a bit fast, in 44:30. I continued on, past the Windemere turnaround at 12 km and headed back happy to be out of the wind. The eastbound portion of the run that took us back into downtown along Queens Quay went well: I passed the halfway mark a little over 1:34 and was still feeling good. Then the lights went out.

At 22 km, I felt a twinge of fatigue that reminded me I was needed to refuel. I was coming up to a water stop where I could wash down a gel pack. I stopped momentarily and when I started running again, a sharp pain shot from my left glute down through my hamstring. I couldn't even come close to the pace I had been running.

I continued along, suffering and slowing my pace further. The hordes of runners passing me by caused my spirits to sink even lower. I wondered if I could, or even should continue. I decided I'd run the eastern most part in the Beach where my kids were and hang out with them where I would wait for my wife to come by; I could finish with her.

But in the Beach, my home turf, the support was amazing. I was a bit embarrassed that I had fallen so far behind. With that kind of encouragement, I just had to tough it out. I even briefly hoped that somehow I could still reach the finish line somewhere around 3:20. With nine kilometres left to go, I made a surge. It didn't last long, however as the pain flared up worse than ever. I had to take it easy: I walked a bit, chatted with the spectators and volunteers and tried, as best I could, to enjoy the finish.

The last turn and the view of the finish line was a welcome sight. My finish time was 3:32:23 − a good 22 minutes shy of my goal. I am disappointed and heartbroken, but my spirit is not broken. It may not have been a personal best but it was a feat of endurance and. I can rest now, regroup and look to the future. I am not done with this craziness.

I hear Boston is lovely in the spring.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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