It was a moment that Kim Doerksen had dreamt about.
The 23-year-old distance runner from Gibsons captured the women’s title at last Sunday’s BMO Vancouver Marathon — the first serious marathon for the up-and-coming running star.
She crossed the finish line on May 4 in a time of 2:37 — a full three minutes under her hope of a two-hour and 40-minute finish.
“I’m still on cloud nine. It still feels like a dream. Someone needs to pinch me because I don’t want to wake up,” she said.
The victory earned Doerksen $3,500 plus a cool $1,000 bonus for being the top Canadian finisher, and although the extra cash certainly comes in handy, the accolades and prestige of winning an event such as this mean so much more.
“I’ve had dreams about this, but did I think I could win? Heavens no. To win a marathon is something that I think every distance runner dreams about, but to win my first, in my first real attempt and to do it, in Vancouver in front of all my friends was just amazing,” she said.
Race day started like so many others for Doerksen — the usual toast and a banana — an endurance breakfast as she calls it.
She then jumped on the shuttle from her hotel for the short trip to the race start area. She met up there with a few of her teammates — the Vancouver Falcons — who she trains with in Stanley Park.
“We got in a good warm-up and got our mental game going,” Doerksen recalled. “The rain and the wind made me a bit nervous. I was running in shorts and a tank top — not necessarily the ideal clothing for the day!”
But she said the weather conditions ended up being OK.
After waiting for the national anthem to be played — “a good motivator,” she said — the runners were off.
For weeks Doerksen and her coach John Hill worked on an extensive game plan and setting a comfortable pace. Doerksen said she got into the pace and everything just clicked.
“I ran for a long time with my teammate Brian Andrews. He was a rock with pacing. I think we separated around the 32 k mark,” she said. “I was leading from the get-go, but that was not my plan. But again, my pace was working and the race was going really well.”
She ran with a good pack of male competitors near the seawall, which also kept her going.
“Running with guys is a huge motivation — you never want to be dropped by a bunch of guys,” she said. “The last five km it started to sink in that I was fatiguing and the last two km were just a battle. The bricks were starting to fall on that finish wall, but the finish line just seemed like a mirage — I never thought that I was going to get there, but the cheering crowd and the yelling really pumped me up and pushed me through.”
Doerksen was exhausted as she crossed the finish line into the waiting arms of officials. As she composed herself, she saw her coach, her roommate and her parents, and the emotions of the moment just took over.
“I had a physical and emotional breakdown — I left nothing out there,” she said. “To win at home is such an incredible feeling.
The last few days have been overwhelming. There have been many tears, but they have all been happy tears.”
As an athlete at Simon Fraser University, Doerksen qualified for the NAIA, ran the Boston Marathon in 2012 and for the past few years has got into serious training for competitions.
She credits the April Fool’s Run on the Sunshine Coast, which she won a few weeks ago, and her great performance at the Vancouver Sun Run two weeks ago, as huge training moments for her marathon win.
“I think the Fool’s half was a huge stepping stone for beating my personal best on a course that isn’t easy,” she said. “John and I talked about running it and the Sun Run so close to the marathon being a risk. But it’s such a great race, so when it went so well, that gave me a lot of motivation and confidence.”
She said they are still throwing around ideas on what the next challenge will be.
“We might try some shorter stuff or maybe another marathon in the fall. We may keep it local, like Victoria or maybe something back East, but for now my only instructions were to soak it all in and that we will talk about it next week. So that’s what I’m doing.”
© Coast Reporter