"I will never forget the high fives, the laughter, the tears, and the hugs of encouragement".
On the Right Track
One day while skating with my son at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, I began watching the runners on the running track. I had participated in long distance running in the past and I felt this soulful call to get back on the right track.
I began with 20 minute running adventures in my lunch hour at work. How refreshing that was. Running takes me to a place that is so calming and inspirational. These 20 minute moments have now turned into the physically and mentally exhilarating experience of running a marathon.
The emotional momentum was the biggest
factor in my journey. I have been the single parent of a son who has
changed my world in the most wonderful way every single day since he has
given me the gift of being, Mom. Parenting and a full time job have
taken my time and energy over the years
This thought of crossing the finish line of
a marathon remained with me for three years. The journey began with my
first 5K entry. It was Mother’s Day. There was a cold wind that literally
took my breath away. My son ran by my side. My muscles burned, my lungs
ached, my mind exhausted, but my spirit was lifted higher than ever
before. How I love this sport of
I am going to run a marathon for my 40th birthday. This would be my gift to me. I have chosen the Royal Victoria Marathon in Victoria, British Columbia.
The greatest place to start was a running club. Their guidance got me through the intensely difficult moments and I loved celebrating all the personal bests. Best time, longest distance, no pain, healed injuries. Everyone had their moments. I celebrated every run from a strong 34K to a very tired and difficult 6K. It never is easy but always a celebration at the finish line. Stretching, coffee, warm clothing, hugs, smiles, tears, in my heart, always a celebration.
One group leader ran with me when I was struggling on a 3 hour trek in a cold drizzle, our shoes covered in mud and I had become eternally grateful for Motrin. My attitude is positive but that day hit me hard. We were sliding back and forth through the slick rain soaked surface of a repaving project when I said aloud…”Why did they have to do this today!” This leader of pure heart who was not only supporting me but was running the same distance in the same conditions just turned to me and said, “We will all benefit tomorrow.”
The morning that I arrived home from that adventure in the rain and mud, soaked, tired and shaking, my son greeted me at the door with a steaming mug of coffee and my favorite blanket. Stay warm, feel loved, and yes, celebrate.
I will never forget the high fives, the laughter, the tears, and the hugs of encouragement. The echoing calls of the running groups along the trails sounded of “shake it out” and directives like “runner left”, “biker right”, “post”! Then there was my favorite, “we are healthy, we are strong, we are training for a marathon.”
I was scheduled to attend a clinic on the
art of stretching. That evening, while rushing through dinner, I noticed
my son seemed to be disappointed that I was going out. Just as I was on my
way I picked up his bike and said, “Let’s go!” My stretching clinic
quickly changed to a training run with a bicycle escort in Bowness Park.
What a beautiful
Hills are a runner’s best friend. The hill not only makes us stronger but for me the hills were the soul of the run. I loved going out once a week just to go up and down my favorite hill. Each week another repeat run was added until that magic number of 10 consecutive hill runs was achieved. How exhilarating!
The final long training run was 34K. Beginning at Glenmore Landing and ending at the lagoon in Bowness Park. The day was gray with a fall breeze that would pick up every now and then. I welcomed the cold. After working hard and keeping up the pace it felt impossible to stop. Muscles will seize up quickly and momentum can be lost 3 hours into a run. I felt strong. I believe that day was my strongest run. It felt magical. At journeys end there was food, warm drinks, cheers and a dear friend of mine there to return me to car entirely exhausted. Celebrate.
My focus was to cross the finish line healthy and smiling. This begins and ends one step at a time. Training, with all other responsibilities, is a challenge of balance.
A difficult decision that I had to make was to leave my son in Calgary with his Grandma while I traveled to the start line. I needed to be clear and focused on what I was about to accomplish and I could share this experience with him when I returned.
It was now time to pack my bags. I was
offered advice, “Do not put your running cloths and especially your shoes
in your suitcase!” Carry these items with you at all times during travel.
Good advice. How distressing it would have been to arrive without the
shoes I had been training in. It is
I arrived at the hotel to find a note left for me by my friend and fellow runner who had traveled from Calgary a few days earlier. The note read, “One more sleep!” This was a first marathon for both Heather and I. We took care of each other.
Finally the day was before us, October 13th, Thanksgiving Day, 2002 in Victoria, British Columbia. The 2002 Royal Victoria Marathon was about to begin. I was ill. Smiling and laughing but my stomach churned and my nerves were on edge. My sister was visiting Victoria and volunteered to pick us up from our hotel. She arrived and drove me directly to the nearest corner store for pepto bismol before proceeding to the start line.
It was a cool refreshing morning. I was
grateful to have chosen such a beautiful location to enter this event and
that Heather was with me. We gathered with all the runners and soon we
were on our way. 42.2 Kilometers
Heather kept me company so many times on our training runs. She would tell me interesting stories about her travels and we would share with each other the details of our lives. This day would be no different.
I would settle into a pace, listen, chat and make sure that Heather and I took our breaks. We trained with a schedule of run 10 minutes then walk one minute. This method of long distance running helps to keep up a runner’s energy throughout the race. It is difficult to stop and walk 10 minutes into a marathon but we took out walks and I was thankful for those one minute moments 5 hours latter.
The ocean views along the way were breathtaking. Smell the fresh air. How inspirational.
It was soon that I would realize how many invisible hills there are in the city of Victoria. I was told to expect rolling hills and it was hard to visualize while running but we were ascending or descending at all times. The hills added to the challenge being the soul of the race.
Thank you to all the volunteers and fans along the marathon route. The encouragement that they provided brought a smile when it was difficult to smile and brought a rhythm to each step. I loved the music.
The rhythm of the day was brilliant. Heather and I fell intopace and I loved every moment. Eventually, as is my pattern, my pace started to slightly fall. Heather, running ahead of me now, would hear my wristwatch timer and yell back, “Was that us?” I would confirm and we would walk, one minute. Soon she was too far ahead of me to hear my watch. I don’t think she took another break. We were almost there.
The last 6K of the race was difficult,
rewarding and so exciting. Difficult because of exhaustion, my walks
were getting slightly longer. Rewarding because I was going to
finish and overall, I felt great. Exciting, I was focused on reaching the
top of a long hill. The house at the top was in my line of vision and I
saw nothing else. I heard my name.
The last few moments seemed to be real life slow motion. I had been running for 5 hours and I did not want to finish. The feeling of visualizing the finish line, the people cheering, photos being taken, smile.
5 hours and 3 minutes and it was over. I had crossed the finish line of a marathon.
Celebrate this gift of courage, strength, perseverance and love.
For Adam, For Heather, For
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