Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Running Life

“I’m about 6 years old. I’m running on the street with my friends. They are all in front of me. Why can’t I move my legs faster?”

“A few years later, walking to school, one of us starts running. We follow. We all jump through someone’s hedges. The house’s owner is on the other side. I’m slowest. I get caught.”

“Grade 11, the English teacher starts a jogging club after school. I go to the first meet. We all run around the gym for 10 minutes, then we all are completely wasted. Nobody goes back.”

“In University, a guy I know tells me he ran a marathon the year before. Unbelievable. He must be crazy.”

“1984, I’m 20 years old. I'm doing a work term during my 3rd year in University. I’m so out of shape it’s not even funny. I’m trying to start running. I can’t get past running 10 minutes. Someone at the office says it gets better. When?”

“A few years later, out of school, someone gives me a training guide from the Montreal Marathon. It has a beginner’s program. This is a revelation. A training program. Who knew? There is a method to this madness. I start running regularly.”

“Couple of months later, I’m running my first 10km race. I turn around, the police motorcycle is right behind me. I pick up the pace a bit and I pass an old guy with a few hundred meters to go. I’m not last.”

“After a long run a few weeks before the Montreal marathon, my IT band hurts like hell and I decide to take a few days rest. I won’t run again for 2 years.”

“New contract at work, a few people run at lunch so I start again. I’m now 25, maybe 26. I’m running my second 10k race ever. I started way too fast but I hung in there. I see the finish now and it’s under 50 minutes. Unbelievable. I sprint as hard as I can and finish in 49:55.”

“I’m 31 years old and I’m trying to start running, yet again. My youngest one just won’t sleep and I’m so tired all the time. I’m pushing a double “running” stroller with both kids in it. They loved it last time. Now they’re fighting and it hasn’t even been 10 minutes. Damn.”

“June 2000. I’m in the middle of a lake in Sydenham, Ontario. I’m sitting in a kayak so tippy, I can hardly move. I’ve signed up for the master’s program of flat water sprint kayaking. I’m on the starting line for my first race ever. The gun goes off. I lean forward for my first stroke. I tip on the line.”

“Three years later, I’m paddling in a canal, down in Florida. A bunch of us came for a ‘training camp’. I really enjoy the long 2 or 3 hour outings. Maybe I’m more of a distance guy.”

“August 6, 2007, I go out for my first run. I’m trying to improve my cardio for kayaking.”

“September 2007, I’m in a sea of people for the Run For The Cure 5k. Unbelievable. Never seen so many runners in one spot. They say there might be 30,000 people. I believe it.”

“Early 2008, browsing the Burlington Runners website, I’m looking for a medium distance race in my ramp up for my first marathon, which I would like to run in the Fall. I find the Sulphur Springs Trail Run. They have a 25km trail race. They also say they have a 50k, 50 miles and 100 miles race. What the fuck are they talking about? Nobody can run 100 miles.”

“May 2008, 6:00AM. I got to the Sulphur Springs race early so I can see the 50 and 100 miles start. What kind of people do stuff like that? They look ridiculously ordinary. When the race starts, some just start walking. I don’t understand.”
“October 2008. I’m about 30km into my first marathon. I might have to punch the guy behind me right in the face. he’s been huffing and puffing for the last 2 hours right in my ear. Pfff! Pfff! Pffff! He hasn’t said anything, he’s just right there, a foot behind me. I finish in 3:27 and qualify for Boston. Unbelievable.”
"April Fool's 5km run, Burlington. My lungs are on fire. I turn the last corner and I see the finish line. The clock says 19:something. Jeee-zus. I dig even deeper, finding energy I didn't know I had and I finish in 19:52. Unbelievable."

“May 2009. I had signed up for Boston, but got sidetracked in my training and never made it there. I just finished my first 50 miler at Sulphur Springs. Hard as hell, but not as hard as I thought.”

“July 2009, Triathlon Saguenay. I just finished the race ahead of all those same childhood friends who used to be ahead of me when we were kids. I feel vindicated. I'm 45 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life. Only took me 40 years to finally run faster than them.”

“September 2009, mile 35 of Haliburton Forest 50 miler. I hear: ‘Are you allright?’. I reply: ‘Sure, just a bit tired.’ Fuck, I’m not all right. I might pass out right there. How the hell am I supposed to finish that race? I think I will sit on that rock and cry a bit. If only I could be sure that nobody else is coming...”

“January 2010. You know there’s something wrong with you when you wake up in your backyard, in a sleeping bag and bivy sack in -20C weather. It’s 2am and I’m driving up north for a long run in the dark. I’m registered for my first 100 miles race up in Alaska next month. Like that makes it ok.”

“A month later, around mile 45 of the Susitna 100. It’s about 1am. It’s -20C and the snow is nice and hard. Perfect running weather. I see the incoming light of the first runner going back towards the finish. I've seen a lot of cyclists and skiers but no runner yet. It’s my new friend Dave. We exchange a few words, then we go our separate ways, he to win the foot division, me towards the turn around. Can’t believe I’m here. Sometimes, I stop, turn my light off and look at the sky. This is definitely the craziest thing I’ve ever done.”

“July, Creemore, Ontario. I’m listening to Kinga, who’s been talking non-stop for what feels like hours. I sometimes give a feeble reply, threatening to quit. I’m experiencing a total system failure in what should have been an easy-ish 50k race. The 30C+ temperature got the better of me. If I quit I will probably have to walk to the finish anyway, so I keep going.”

I’m not sure where running will take me now. The Haliburon 100 miler is in 10 days. After that, I don’t have definite plans. All I know is that I wouldn’t trade my running memories for all the gold in the world. Unbelievable.


Sara Montgomery said...

That just made my day. What a great read!

Derrick said...

That's what it's all about. Love it!

Congrats on the journey....and what's still to come!

HollyV said...

very cool! thanks for sharing.

Rick Donnelly said...

That was one of the most insightful and entertaining bits I've read in a very long time.
Thanks for sharing.

Sank said...

Thank you so much for the post. I absolutely loved it and can visual my own running history with each of your posts.
Thank you for taking us along with you.

Eliza Ralph-Murphy said...

As always loved the post.
Have a great run at Hali.
It is going to be a great test for all of your hard work and I know you will rise to the occasion.