Cousin Laura’s First Marathon

My cousin Laura is pretty much my fitness idol. You will understand why, in a moment. It doesn’t matter that she’s almost half my age (22) – I admire her greatly for her sports prowess!

Technically, Laura is my second cousin: her Dad (Karl) and my Dad (Erv) are first cousins. Seeing as I come from a very small family and only have three first cousins (i ♥ u, kate, joel & alex!), I fudge the familial lines of distinction and just refer to second cousins as “my cousins.”

file photo from father's day, 2010, at the waterloo classic running events; i am on the far L and laura is beside me

On Sunday, May 15, Laura completed her first marathon at the Mississauga Marathon. Her finishing time (chip time) was 3:56:08 – a fine result, for sure! So proud of you, Laura! ❤

I love hearing race reports. What makes telling a race story so fascinating is that every single person experiences a race unique to them. We truly are each an experiment of one. Plus, there are no “givens” on race day: you can have all the stars align perfectly, you can have the wheels fall off completely, you can luck out or have bad luck befall you. You show up and do your best, and that’s the story of the day.

Laura is spending the summer out west, so I emailed her a bunch of questions which she graciously agreed to answer for the blog. The following is our “interview” about Laura’s very first marathon. Enjoy!


In what other sports have you participated, in your life? I know you’re quite accomplished in gymnastics, for example.

I have done soccer almost all my life, I started gymnastics seriously when I was about 12 and have since reluctantly switched to varsity cheerleading. I played ringette for a few years before switching to hockey when I was 13, I did track and field (80m and 300m hurdles) and made it to OFSAA 2 years in a row. I started roller derby last year. I also had shorter stints in various sports such as field hockey, basketball and volleyball. [See what I mean?!]

i wonder if laura has seen the movie "whip it?!" i have not - but am now inspired!

What made you decide to run a marathon, and why now? Why Mississauga?

I decided to run a marathon because my Dad has run over a dozen. He even ran one in the year following his heart attack. Ever since he qualified for Boston the first time, I have wanted to run that particular race with him; however, last year he said he was going to stop doing marathons and switch to trail-style racing instead. I realized that I was in a now or never situation, and that if I wanted to do a marathon for/with him it would have to happen very soon. I moved to northern Quebec in September 2010 to May 2011 and so it was the perfect opportunity to train in secret. Mississauga was simply good timing for me in terms of probable weather conditions and time of year. [Laura was at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi; the exact same place I spent my own 3rd year of uni!].

What kind of training plan did you follow?

I made a combination of training plans I found online with tips I had heard from my Dad’s training. I chose a plan that is for beginners (a 0 to marathon in 6 months type of deal) and I did some strength training as well as speed work, but not intensively. The longest training run I did was 2:40.

Did you have any specific goals in mind for the race?

When I first started training, I was aiming to qualify for Boston, and I was very confident; however, I got hurt part way through the training [knee tendonitis] and lost a bit of confidence. I always wanted to finish in under 4 hours but 3:40 [the Boston qualifying time for Laura’s age group] was the primary goal.

Was your family at the race?

My brother, sister, Mom and Dad were at the race, and my Dad ran the last 10km with me.

Take us through race day, from wake up on.

Race day started the night before because it felt like I didn’t sleep at all. [Many of us can relate, Laura!] I got up at 5:45a.m., ate breakfast (2 pieces of bread and a lot of water), drove to Mississauga with my Dad, and got into the starting corall. The race started at 7:30a.m. and I was literally shaking with fear. I had heard that marathons were really painful, and I was dreading the after-race situation. During the race, I was constantly looking for my family watching from the sidelines. My mom had an orange table cloth she was waving around so they were easy to spot. [I love this idea!] Every time I saw them I got a burst of energy.

What were some high and low points while you were running?

The beginning was really fun when we were still with the half-marathoners. We were chatting a bit – once they split off though, conversation dwindled. I ran with the same person for the first 27km and we talked about his past accomplishments including ultras, biathlons and 100km races. It kind of inspired me, especially at the end because he told me he was planning to run another marathon the next weekend. I decided if he could finish and run another one in 7 days I could finish the race, too. I was feeling really good at first, but I was used to a 20min walk-run cycle and I think that is the reason I got tired around 27km. From then on, my pace got significantly slower, and I lost some confidence. When my Dad joined me around 32km I was really thankful. He helped me finish, and encouraged me a lot. The finish was interesting because somehow I managed to “sprint” across the line (I’m sure it wasn’t that fast but it sure felt like it!)… then pain, and lots of it!


How did you feel when you were done? What did you do the rest of the day?

When I was done, I was just thankful I didn’t have to run anymore. [:)] I was prepared for muscle fatigue, but I was not expecting the pain to continuously get worse for about 20mins before beginning to subside. Walking to the car was really difficult and felt like I would never make it. [Oh yea!] The rest of the day, I lounged around, still thankful I wasn’t running. Then my family and I went to see a movie.

[Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to paste in Laura’s marathon photo; but click here for a wonderful pic of Laura and Karl]

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is about to start training for their first marathon?

I would tell them to make sure they have more motivation than simply to “try to finish”. I know during training and during the marathon I was thinking about how great it would be to run Boston with my Dad and how proud he would be when I finished. I would encourage anyone who is running for the first time to make sure they have a firm goal in mind and a reason to run. I personally didn’t have a training partner but I know for a lot of people that is key.

Will you do another one?

I am not sure. I will probably do a half-marathon, and focus on speed, but the marathon maybe was too far. On one hand, I feel like I have unfinished business because I am young and there were certain factors that prohibited me from being my absolute best (injuries, training indoors, lack of experience). I want to train harder to see if I am capable of qualifying, but I also really disliked that last hour of running during the marathon itself. Only time will tell.

What did you feel you did right in preparing for Mississauga, and what would you change for next time? (if there is a next time)!

I feel like I stuck to my program very well, considering I was training on a 200m indoor track with no training partner. [Chicoutimi winters are beyond belief, let us tell you]. I did almost every long run and got my speed up to a 5min/km pace from approximately 5:50 or 6min. I think I also dealt with injury very well and didn’t get discouraged.

Next time I would do a program that is not for beginners because I know what I am getting in to, and I think it will make race day a lot easier if the training is more intense.

What did you like and dislike about the Mississauga event? (organization, course route, etc).

I really liked the event. Not only was the officially organized stuff (food and water stations) really well done, but there were also fans along the way in no way associated with the event who were handing out snacks and water on their own. I have no complaints!

Thank you, thank you, Laura, for sharing your Marathon Story. I am so proud of you! Maybe we’ll do a marathon together, some day. But roller derby? You’re on your own there, darlin’!


Team individual sports: which domain is your forté? I sincerely have two left feet when it comes to team sports or anything involving equipment other than body parts.

Have you ever ran a marathon, or do you wish to complete one? I have raced eight marathons and two ultras. Stories for another day.

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  • Joel Cressman  On June 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Great inteview Cathy. As an inexperienced runner, you did a good job of painting the picture of the entire experience. Also, thanks for the shout out!

  • Dorry  On June 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    p.s. I’d LOVE to hear your marathon and ultra marathon stories someday. 🙂

  • Dorry  On June 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    I loved reading this! After running 2 half marathons, the idea of running a full has definitely crossed my mind, but honestly, I don’t know if my knees can take it! I miss training (and running at all, for that matter), but the last time I ran, my knee pain was back and I don’t want to be injured and unable to ride my bike, yoga, etc. We’ll see!

    • 1970kikiproject  On June 8, 2011 at 5:37 am

      thanks for sharing, dorry! yes: definitely tradeoffs to consider when contemplating a marathon…i hope you can find a “happy medium!”

  • Johanna B  On June 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I’m like you. I love to read about other folks race experiences. The longest race I have done is a 10K. My first race was the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans with a field of about 10,000 runners/walkers/wheelchairs, etc. It’s a great venue. Starts in the French Quarter (aka the Vieux Carre) and ends at Audubon Park. They’ve changed the route since then but for years it ended at the Mississippi River in the park. I will always remember throwing up my hands when I crossed under the banner. I encourage people to participate in races whenever they can. Thanks for sharing Laura’s experience. Maybe someday I can do a race in Canada.

    • 1970kikiproject  On June 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      wow – a 10k with that many participants would be so cool!! and that route sounds so scenic. i’d take photos along the way, on that one! vancouver, ottawa and toronto host the most races in canada; however, i do find americans are much more proficient at race organization than in canada!

  • thehealthyapron  On June 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I think why I never attempted a marathon is bc I have no other reason for wanting to do one than to “try and finish.” I know I would get zero enjoyment out of training and the race would seem torturous to me. I’m glad that there are people out there who find this is their passion, but running competitively, esp a marathon…is not my bag o chips lol

    • 1970kikiproject  On June 7, 2011 at 10:07 am

      i think it’s great that you know yourself well enough to know a marathon would not be your thing – absolutely cool, and thumbs up to you, erin!

  • Holly  On June 7, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Under 4 hours is a great time! I’m hoping to finish in under 4:30 — but to be honest finishing AT ALL is always my goal for races!

    • 1970kikiproject  On June 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

      i’m getting so excited for you, holly! you’ve followed a solid training program, and done everything in your power so that you’ll be able to achieve your goal.

  • Zo  On June 7, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Congratulations, Laura!
    I am definitely more comfortable as an individual than as part of a team. I don’t see myself as athletic or coordinated, two things that help team sports.
    I just finished my first 5k and have thought about what else I might like to try…at the moment, I think the most I would try would be a half-marathon…but that’s a long way away!

    • 1970kikiproject  On June 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

      i hope you get a chance to try another 5k soon, zo! your first one was a success! half marathon is a great distance: far enough that you need to train smartly, and it’s a challenge, but the recovery is not as long (or as painful) as for a full marathon.

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