Everyone has their own opinion about the most exciting sport to watch during the Olympics. There’s lots of love for diving and short distance athletics – you know, the ones with lots of action – but sadly, the marathon is usually on people’s list of sports to miss.
For me, the marathon is my absolute favourite. I literally watch every minute with interest and hang on every word of commentary. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the only Olympic sports that I’ve actually done myself.
So it is not surprising that I was anticipating the Olympic women’s marathon with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the event aired at 2pm on Sunday afternoon, overlapping with a weekend trip to Prague. But not to be deterred, I tried to live stream the event from my phone. Paula Radcliffe, the current women’s world record holder in the marathon, was commentating and basically every sentence was interesting to me. It was hotter than anticipated and some runners were wearing ice vests to keep cool. The course offered little shade and the sun was directly overhead throughout. It was anticipated it would be a tough race, and slower than most of the times the women were capable of.
In addition to my two much loved Canadian runners, Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene, there were also two sets of twins running the race! It was bound to be interesting.
After a tour of the Prague Castle, we went for cocktails on a boat. I quickly realized that trying to listen to the commentary while also trying to carry on a conversation was impossible so I turned it off. But luckily my very loving in-laws and husband recognized my distress and decided to rush back to the hotel so we could watch the end of the event on TV. This is where the real race begins anyway. It was a nice compromise.
We got to the hotel bar with about 15 minutes of the race left. Sadly, the commentary was in Czech, so I had to continue live streaming on my phone in order to get the play-by-play.
Literally two minutes before the finish, my phone ran out of data. But I was happily able to see Jemima Sumgong of Kenya cross the finish line in 2:24:04. Sumgong, 31, is the first Kenyan woman to win the marathon.
Despite not winning a medal, the Canadian marathoners were inspiring nonetheless. Marchant, who finished 24th, ran Sunday’s race 48 hours after finishing 25th in the 10,000 meters, completing a rare Olympic double. Duchene, who finished 35th, is the oldest Canadian track and field athlete in Rio. She somehow balances her job as a dietitian with elite marathon training and raising three kids.
There’s a reason why the marathon is a universal metaphor. Anything that takes immense effort over an extended period of time is compared to the 42.2km test of human endurance. I’m proud to be a part of the club.
Congrats to all the athletes – you’re all inspiring. And thanks to my husband and in-laws for accommodating my love for this ridiculous sport.