By Reza Mashkoori
DISCLAIMER: Don’t try this at home.
On Monday, May 6th 2019, myself and good friend decided we would run a marathon. We would run the marathon on that Friday with no training, other than CrossFit. Our longest run in the past 6 months was nothing more than 5km. The first question that runs through most people's minds is, “Why?”
I have always wanted to run a marathon. When I started CrossFit I was an avid runner. I lifted weights here and there, but I spent most of my training time running. The longest distance I ran was a half marathon and my fastest time was 1:32. This was 9 years ago and I weighed about 20lbs less. Running a marathon was always on my bucket list. But, as I fell more in love with CrossFit, my goal of running a marathon got pushed down the list. All throughout my CrossFit career I talked about how, some day, I would run a marathon. Fast forward to 9 years later, I finally ran 42.2 kilometres.
How I came to do the marathon is completely different story, but in a nutshell, my good friend Eric wanted to run one and I committed to supporting him, he just had to name the date and time. On Monday, May 6th, Eric suggested that we run it on Friday, May 10th. I said, “Yes.” I agreed to do this for a few reasons: first, it had been something that I’ve always wanted to do; second, I love the idea of testing myself mentally every now and then and I knew this would be an excellent way of doing so; third, I wanted to use this as an experiment to test the hypothesis that exclusively CrossFit training could prepare someone for a marathon. The final motivation for completing the marathon came a little closer to May 10th, but I eventually decided to use the date to coincide with the launch of the 2019 motionball fundraising campaign. This is an organization that I volunteer for as an Event Director. Another good friend (Pete Shaw) came up with this brilliant idea!
So, we had committed to doing this. We would start running at 9am. On Wednesday, I mapped our route which was basically a tour of the city. One of the first things I did was contact some of the best runners I know to gather as much information as I could. I wanted to be as prepared as I could possibly be. This preliminary research led me to borrow a pair of shoes Mike (another good friend). These shoes were called Hokas and they had extra support. In the shoe, my heel sat about 2 inches off the ground, and as expected, they were extremely comfortable. My wife told me they looked like platform shoes but I didn’t let that stop me. I was only able to get 1.25km in the shoes before the run but they were the most logical option. Other footwear contenders were Reebok Nano 8’s or the option of buying a brand new pair of running shoes. My research also helped me determine what I would wear and bring along for the ride. I would bring a fanny pack for my phone, as well as approximately 5 gel packs. My phone was not for music but to share the story with my social media following. Dress code was nothing special: compression shorts, shorts, a breathable t-shirt and a ball cap.
Now before I start talking about the run, I think it’s important to include my training regimen for the days prior, as well as my nutrition on the day of the run.
Rest Day - I was travelling and wanted to spend my extra time with my family
B) 16 Minutes Every Minute on the Minute
Odd: 18 Cal Row
Even: 10 Toe to Bar + 10 Alternating Dumbell Snatch at 50lbs
C) Front Squat x 3
D) 10 Rounds for time
10 Wall Balls at 20lbs
1 Legless Rope Climb
Build to a Heavy Seated Strict Press
C) For time
21 Cal Row + 21 DB Strict Press with Right Arm at 50lbs
21 Cal Row + 21 DB Strict Press with Left Arm at 50lbs
15 Cal Row + 21 DB Strict Press with Right Arm at 50lbs
15 Cal Row + 21 DB Strict Press with Left Arm at 50lbs
9 Cal Row + 21 DB Strict Press with Right Arm at 50lbs
9 Cal Row + 21 DB Strict Press with Left Arm at 50lbs
D) 100 Ring Rows for time.
4 Sets of 15 Reverse Hypers
Foam Rolled Everything
I woke up Thursday morning and felt butterflies in my stomach and they did not leave all day. I was anxious and excited at the same time.
Friday morning I woke up at approximately 6am. I made myself breakfast which included the following:
2 Slices of Bread
1 Tablespoon of mayo
3 Turkey Breakfast Sausages
1 cup of coffee
Multiple cups of water
I got to the gym at approximately 8:25am, put on my running gear and applied vaseline to my armpits, between my toes and between my legs. I taped up my nipples and I was ready to rock!
As we stood in the lobby of CrossFit NCR, ready to get this thing started, it started raining. This didn’t seem like a big deal at the time as the weather network predicted 10mm of rain scattered throughout the day. On the call of “GO” we headed out. As we got to Bank St., we noticed it was raining pretty hard and at about 15 minutes in, we were soaking wet. We didn’t let this stop us. We felt great. The conversations we were having were positive and we felt unbreakable. About 2 kilometres in I felt a weird feeling in my left knee and I started thinking that using these shoes was a bad idea. But, I shook it off as warm up pain and kept going. That's exactly what it was. By the time we got to parliament hill, we felt amazing. We managed to find a water fountain on Wellington and took a quick sip. Got to the War Museum and took a quick break to update Social Media and this is where we took our first gel pack. This gel pack had 35mg of caffeine in it. We also had to seek shelter as it was raining too hard.
As we got onto the parkway, we ran for about 10 minutes and bumped into our good friend Steve, who generously took time out of his day to follow us around the city. He was parked on our route and had a full on spread for us. Cookies, bagels, m&ms, RX Bars, water, pretty much everything we could ask for. We stopped to talk to Steve for a few minutes. Eric had quite a bit of food. I had a ¼ of a bagel and some water, updated social media and we carried on. It was still raining, and it was annoying, but we were about to bump into our first real roadblock -- the path we were running on was overtaken by water from the Ottawa River. At first we figured this wasn’t a big deal and we decided we would run on the waterlogged grass and on a hill off to the side. This was super annoying. Eric didn’t mind running in the grass soaked water but I couldn’t handle it, so I ran on the parkway. This was obviously not the safest choice. As cars would approach, I would hop back onto the grass. This was the way we ran down the entire parkway. Some sections were not as bad as others, but it got to a point where we were thrilled to run on the path for more than 5 minutes.
We ran into Steve a few more times along the parkway and stopped to grab some food and water. By the time the parkway was done, we were kind of happy to put the inconsistency of the path behind us. As we made our way to Greenbank Rd, our happiness was quickly forgotten because now we had covered about 18kms and we knew our next leg (Greenbank Rd.) was an uphill battle. This is where things started to break down. Erics knee had been bugging him for quite a bit now and he almost had a limp. My body was stiffening up. I didn’t have pain in my joints yet, but my leg muscles were incredibly sore. As we got to the Queensway at Greenbank, I found myself laughing at everything. I have no clue why this was happening. At this point we were continuously looking for Steve, whereas only a few kilometres prior we felt we didn’t need the stops. We finally saw him at Greenbank Middle School and it was like finding water in the desert. Steve had decided to make us hot chocolate as it was pretty chilly at this point as we could see our breath. The hot chocolate was tempting but I decided to stick to my water and bagel diet. As soon as I ate the bagel I felt better. At this point we had cleared the half marathon mark. We said goodbye to Steve and trekked on.
Our next major checkpoint was Hunt Club Rd. Hunt Club will forever be known as the road that broke us. It was so long and truly broke our spirits. This was the first time we asked the question “What are we doing?” We would ask one another that question and always respond with, “You wanted this.” Those three words must've been said over 100 times over the course of the run. As we got to Hunt Club and Woodroffe, we had to run off course for a bit and this is where any chemistry Eric and I had completely disappeared. When we would stop to walk, Eric would walk significantly faster than me, and when I would run, I would run faster than Eric. We wouldn’t allow for one another to get too far away. For me, running and then stopping started to become extremely painful. I would rather just run at a slow pace but then I would get too far from Eric so I would have to walk to allow him to catch up. My legs were in really rough shape at this point. I actually stopped to pee and was looking for blood.
Hunt Club to Merivale was torture. I was in a bad place, mentally and physically. I knew I had to think of something to motivate me to get through this run. All I kept thinking about was how badly I wanted to take my shoes off. They were so wet, as were my socks, and they felt tight from the swelling in my feet. I also started to think about seeing my wife and son. I also kept telling myself that I am fortunate enough to be physically able to do something like this and how some people are not as fortunate.
Shortly after Merivale Rd., I was over the pain and agony and was mentally ready to finish this thing. We had also just bumped into MJ, Dawn and Remi (CrossFit NCR members) and they had brought us some electrolytes. Drinking those was instantly gratifying. Eric was in a bad way at this point. I was trying to do everything in my power to get him to keep running, but the guy was not moving. At first I tried to be positive but Eric and I both know that he fuels off of negativity. It was time to use reverse psychology. For about 1 kilometre straight I just ripped into the guy. Insulted him in ways that have worked in the past, but I got nothing out of him and now I just felt like an asshole. So, we carried on.
Just before Hunt Club and Bank St., we bumped into a rather large group of friends and we stopped and chatted for a bit. It was here that we acquired a new friend. Derek, one of the coaches at NCR. It was so nice to have a new person with us. This was huge for me, as Eric was completely depleted at this point. He wasn’t talking much and his walk had transformed into a death march. Derek and I kept up the strategy of Run, walk, Run. At one point, I felt like we should have been done. As we slowed down to meet up with Eric, the sun came out and I felt myself starting to sweat. I took my shirt off, like the CrossFitter that I am, and took in the sunshine which felt great. Steve was just up the road and he kindly took my soaking wet t-shirt for me. When Eric caught up to us, he informed us that we were approximately 1 kilometre away from finishing the Marathon. Thank God it was almost over. Little did we know we were actually ~2.5 kilometres from the gym. Just as I realized this, the sun disappeared and dark clouds took over. It started to rain again with a vicious wind. I remember being so cold and morally defeated.
The work was done, I ran a marathon, but we were still 1.5 kilometres from the gym. I wanted so badly to stop, call an Uber or Steve, and call it a day, but I knew we had to finish. This was probably the lowest point of the entire run for me. I was freezing, I was mentally defeated and for the first time I was angry. But, I knew dwelling on these negative emotions would get me absolutely nowhere so we trekked on. At the corner of Heron and Bank St. we met up with Eric and I begged him to run down Kaladar (approximately 800m away from the gym). He reluctantly agreed to do it. Eric actually ran so fast that I couldn’t keep up with him. Later, Eric told me that sprinting was the hardest thing he had ever done and that last little sprint wrecked his body more than anything. Together, we walked into the gym where we had a crew of people waiting for us with all kinds of treats. I walked straight to the couch, and sat down. Biggest mistake ever. The pain that hit me then, was worse than anything I dealt with throughout the run. I couldn’t even bring myself to get my shoes off. Something I had been looking so forward to do for so long.
I could feel my body shutting down. People were handing me donuts and chocolate milk and telling me to eat, even though I did not want to. I forced about 3 Suzy Q donuts down. I love these donuts and I would never say no to them but I had such a hard time eating them. After eating some food I started to get really cold, so I hobbled my way up to the office and changed out of my clothing. I lay on the couch for a bit. I had to coach at 4:30pm so I had about an hour to myself. As I lay there, I started to get really cold and began to shiver. My teeth were chattering. In all my years running, I never understood why runners wore those shiny blankets after races but it was all starting to make sense. I started to get so cold that I decided to take a hot shower. I got in the shower and stood under the scalding water for 40 minutes. This made me feel like a champ. I got dressed and now it was 4:30pm and time to coach. I coached 3 classes back-to-back that night. The first class was great, the second class was with kids so it zapped my energy a bit and by the time 6:30pm rolled around and I had to coach my last class, I was done. I grinned through the teens class and then it was time to go home. Eric also had to work immediately following the run so he set up his laptop and had been working straight since 3:30pm.
When it came time to leave, Eric had offered to drive me home. At this point we were both starting to develop a little bit of hunger and going to McDonalds seem like the best idea. So we did, got a bunch of burgers and crushed them effortlessly. Eric really wanted some Epsom salts so we got some of those as well. At this point, walking was a battle. For me to get out of the car and go into Shoppers Drug Mart took about 10 times the amount of time it would normally take. I finally made it home and at this point I was starting to feel the shivering coming on again. I filled up the bath with Epsom salts and warmed myself up again. I managed to eat a little bit more food and decided to call it a night. As I was trying to fall asleep, my body began to shiver again and I asked my wife to get me extra blankets.
Before I knew it, it was 5am and my son was up and ready to take on the day. Months before I decided to do the marathon, my wife and I planned a trip to Montreal for Mother’s Day which was two days after our scheduled run. That Monday, I told her I was running a marathon on Friday and she was not happy as she knew it would affect our trip. I politely promised her that I wouldn’t let it. I thought about this as I heard the baby crying. I opened my eyes, and made an effort to go get him, I couldn’t move. I turned around and looked at her and told her this, and she got up to get him. As I lay there, I realized that if I didn’t get my ass into gear, I would be proving her right, so I forced myself to get out of bed. I was in rough shape. I slowly started loading up the car and eventually we were on our way. In the car ride, I remember feeling better, but as soon as we got out of the car, everything stiffened up again. I ended up walking 6 kilometres that day and it was probably the best thing I could’ve done. I woke up Sunday and felt fine. On Monday, I did the NCR workout which was 1.25km Run, 100 Wall Balls and 50 T2B for time.
I want to conclude by thanking everyone that supported us. Whether it was a donation to motionball or a pit stop on the run, you guys are all awesome. In terms of the experiment, I would say we failed. However, I would like to re-test it as I don’t think it’s possible to run a sub 4:00 marathon but sub 5:00 is within reach. The first difference would be to run an organized event. This would eliminate the stopping at rest stations. It would also allow for the runners involved to run at their own pace and dictate their own rest. I know I want to re-test but I’m not sure when. It will happen, so stay tuned.