The postal carriers’ union would be proud of these two women. Rain, sleet, snow, wind or blazing sun: nothing deterred them in their training routines, en route to running in — and finishing — their first marathon last Sunday.
The two friends were among the 4,866 runners in the annual Vancouver Marathon and they were still well-aware of their feat on Monday afternoon.
“The legs!” they both agreed, were the key reminders of what they had done.
“Going down the stairs or getting out of the car, you feel it,” said Megan Bissky, who finished in the 700 spot, in a time of 3 hours, 48 minutes and 19 seconds. She was 30th fastest in her group of 316 women aged 30-34.
“We said we wouldn’t talk marathon for a week after — but we’re already talking and texting about it,” said Alicia Murphy, smiling. She finished at 4:22:35, for 1,693 overall: 84th quickest of the 276 women in her age 40-44 class.
Their conjoined dream began before Christmas and their first official training run was on Jan. 1, using a plan set out by renowned running writer, Hal Higdon. The weather didn’t quite match the winter of 2016-17 but it sure wasn’t runner-friendly in January and February.
“We’d look where the snow plow would go first and we’d use those roads,” said Bissky. “We ran probably 50 kilometres a week in the beginning. We weren’t always able to run together during the week but we always did a long run together on the weekend: 16K, from Coquihalla school to Flying J’s and back, over Richmond Hill.”
“Our favourite route was the back road to the tunnels,” added Murphy. Again, it worked out to about 16K, from the starting point of Bissky’s house near Coquihalla school. Garmin GPS watches kept the women informed and motivated.
In the last months of training, the duo dialed it up to 100K a week — including a total of three runs of 32K, to get a taste of what a 42K marathon would feel like.
“42.2,” noted Bissky. “The .2 is important.”
Though Bissky and Murphy had often trained together, race rules conspired against them even starting the marathon side by side.
“You put in your predicted time and they put you in the roughly appropriate corral,” explained Murphy, who got appropriated out of Bissky’s group.
It wasn’t quite like a horse ranch — but the runners got roped off into various groups and the thoroughbreds got released first. Sunday’s top male finished in 2:27:38. The fastest female time was 2:50:45.
Every two minutes, another group was released. The timing chip in each runner’s bib started their timer when they crossed the start line and stopped it when they finished the race.
“The first few kilometres were downhill, so it gave you a false idea,” said Murphy. “There was quite a buzz at the start.”
They had run many shorter races before, though, so they knew the value of pacing.
“There were so many people, it was just nice to run your own race,” added Megan.
The two had visited the route earlier, ran about half of it and drove the rest.
“When you drive on the hills, though, they don’t seem as bad,” said Murphy, laughing.
They weren’t laughing when they hit the first big uphill, on Camosun Street.
“It’s a big hill — that some people had prepared for — in the first quarter of the run,” said Megan. “It’s one kilometre with over a 75-metre rise.”
Mapping tools at MapMyRun.com, show a similar rise between the west end of the Fraser-Hope Bridge and the Highway #1 railway overpass at Haig. It’s doable but it messes with your pacing and adds to the overall exertion. Total elevation gain was 200 metres, Sunday.
For beachgoers, Sunday was a beautiful day, though Murphy and Bissky found it uncomfortably hot away from the water. They were thankful for the hydration and electrolyte stations along the route.
“It was a beautiful route, though,” added Murphy, “and along the Stanley Park seawall, the sea breeze was nice.”
Race technology made it possible for the duo’s families to get actively involved in the race, as well.
“We had live tracking, so our husbands and kids were in our van, driving to the different points,” said Murphy. “The kids had signs and it was a great boost.”
Buoyed by their families, the two persevered, outlasting others who had been released ahead of them but had been humbled by the enormity of the task.
“A lot of people were walking, toward the end,” said Murphy. “I think dehydration was getting to them.”
Running a marathon has been crossed off her bucket list, though Murphy said, “Now that I’ve done it, I could be talked into another.”
Just not any time soon.
“Our devoted husbands [Dave Murphy and Miles Bissky] have let us do all the training — and I think they’re waiting for us to return the favour,” she added. Megan smiled in agreement.
Or was she just suppressing a leg cramp?