It's a 42-kilometre trek through pain, exhaustion and exultation. This test of endurance can be addictive; many runners who make it through their first marathon surprise themselves by going on to complete many more. But whether you're a seasoned veteran or complete novice, there will be moments during the race when exhaustion seeps in and threatens your pace or even your ability to continue. With the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon less than a week away we asked five distance runners how they overcame the challenges and completed the ultimate goal.
Christine Beevis Tricket
Number of marathons completed: 2
Biggest challenge: During her first marathon, Ms. Beevis Tricket's left foot fell asleep for several minutes and she didn't know what was going to happen. She kept her head down and kept running until it subsided.
Best strategy: Ms. Beevis Tricket sets out with a time goal in mind, but if she's struggling, she stops watching the clock and focuses instead on finishing. "For me it's been entirely mental, just having sort of a Plan A and if that falls through, going to Plan B and if that falls through, going to Plan C."
Back-up plan: Ms. Beevis Tricket does "10 and 1s" – running for 10 kilometres and walking for one, a trick made famous by the Running Room – if she's feeling the heat. She also repeats the mantra "To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping."
Number of marathons completed: 15
Pre-race-jitters: Experience can be reassuring. Mr. Cumming completed his first marathon in 1988 and didn't run his second until 2000, the year he turned 55. With many marathons now under his belt, he said he feels excited, but "not too apprehensive."
Motivating factor: "Terry Fox has got me to the finish at Victoria many times," he said in reference to a statue of the late Canadian icon that runners pass on that city's marathon course. "I've always felt very strongly about his contribution."
Goal setting: For many years, his dream was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, the world's oldest marathon, and one that has achieved almost mythical status among runners. He never managed to make the cut, but he said that's okay in his books. "There's just something special about it, the whole feel of [a marathon]is a reward in itself."
Location: outside Lucan, Ont., near London
Number of marathons completed: 8 or 9 (he has lost count)
Most memorable experience: Mr. Lamb has a "great history of crashing" at the end of a marathon, as he did at the end of the 2009 Boston Marathon. His legs were "spaghetti" for the last mile and gave out on him at the finish line. "It was actually quite pleasant going into the medical tent. They gave me chips … anything with salt in it," he said. "I'd do the medical tent again for sure."
Prepping for a race: "As I've done more of them, I'm more relaxed, but I also know the pre-race jitters get you the entire day before the race. Get a really good night's sleep two nights before because you know you won't have a good sleep the night before [a marathon]"
Best advice: Be prepared for anything. "Know how fast you can do the race," he said. But keep in mind the weather on the day "makes a huge difference" and that is something no one can control.
Number of marathons completed: 2 half-marathons, hoping to do her first full marathon next year
Motivating factor: "I love doing races. I guess it's just the adrenaline of being in the crowd. Everybody's really excited and you feed off of that," she said.
Best Strategy: Ms. Baker talks to herself about keeping her pace and finishing strong. She also listens to music when running, but "once in a while I'll turn the music off just because … you want to get the race atmosphere, too."
Number of marathons completed: Four
The mental game: While training is a huge component of feeling ready on the day, he notes that there's so many factors that can contribute to a good or bad race, such as weather, nutrition or nerves. "There's a lot that goes into it that you can't control. Really, you have to try and kind of block those thoughts out of your mind. It's not always easy."
Next step: Mr. Girard's goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon and to keep pushing until he manages to pull it off. "After that, we'll see," he said, adding that with a full-time job and a two-year old at home, "It's not always easy to fit in, but I'm managing so far."
Best Advice: Visualize the end of the race and just keep going step by step.