Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nan, The Beav, and The Little Engine That Could

Someday I’ll fly. Someday I’ll soar.

I love it when a plan comes together. Our Running Club’s recent trip to the Blue Nose Half Marathon in Halifax could be summed-up in a single word:

Perfection.

It was an emotional weekend, check that, it was an emotional week beginning with the ups and downs of wondering if we were even going to make it to Halifax. Pea soup-thick fog had grounded most flights for two straight days - we were set to leave on day three - we were worried. Plan B had been devised, but Plan B was not Plan A, and Plan A was what mattered most. In the end, someone or something was shining down on us and we arrived in Halifax right on schedule.

Rain on Saturday caused us to spend most of the afternoon walking through Halifax’s network of sky walks and “sky scrapers” - when you come from where we come from, any building over 6 storeys is considered a sky scraper. We picked up our race kits and headed back to the hotel to freshen-up before our team supper and one last team meeting to prepare for our first ever half marathon.

At our team meeting, we reflected on our training, had a few laughs, talked about Santa Claus, and dedicated our races to people who had left an impact on our lives - we weren’t going to let them down, we were ready.

We met in the lobby on race day, excited about the challenge ahead. Nothing looks better to me than club members in their race colours - they mean business in their blacks and their reds. Isn’t this great?

Just a few moments later, we were in place in the starting coral - just enough time for a last high-five before the gun fired. We were off and running. Just 13.1 miles more to go. Enjoy every foot strike.

It took me about a mile to bring my emotions in check. I spent the first ten minutes choking back tears thinking about my running buddies and how they had prepared for this moment. Every Sunday for the past seventeen weeks, we had pushed our bodies and our minds beyond our comfort zones. This was going to be a great day in all of our lives. If you train, you can do anything.

I arrived at the finish line and met Mary and Chris there - they had finished ahead, well ahead, of me, lighting up the race course in their usual style - and no, thank you, Mary. Also there were Rita and Tony who had just completed a 10-K and Janet who finished her first ever race, a 5-K.

I was happy my race was over; I had struggled for the last two and half miles so the finish line was like an ice cream at the end of desert hike. The thirty minutes that followed watching the rest of the team come home was the proudest moment of my life.

First came Dave. This was his best race ever. Nothing needed to be said.

Then came Heather and a few more tears. As I watched her approach the finish I recalled her struggles with injuries. This was her day. Heather’s love of this sport is so pure that she makes my runs that much better. Thank you Heather. I hugged her and told her that pain is temporary, pride is forever.

Next up were the “four amigos”, one of whom I am married to. Gloria’s running has come a long way - she finishes every run with a smile.

Debbie and Keith were right behind her, they clasped hands and finished together - that was nice to see, even for an unromantic like me. Debbie had been worried that she wasn’t prepared for the distance - her ear-to-ear grin told a different story on this day. They embraced each other, I embraced them.

Ray completed the quartet - our senior runner, the grandfather of the group. Getting Ray to stay within himself has been my biggest challenge to date. Back in January and February after watching him trying to run through countless injuries, I had told others that I didn’t think he would get to the start line.

He showed me.

Ray crossed the line and hugged me and I hugged him back, but we’ll never admit to that. “Ray Lawlor is going to shine today.” Told you so.

Then along came Valerie, Debbie G. and Joan, the little engine that could. Smiles and hugs all around. Joan was in tears, I soon followed her lead. Debbie limped in, determined to finish strong - she did, she’s one tough mother. Valerie finished in usual Valerie style - Paula would be so proud.

Here comes Terry - always smiling - I think it’s genetically programmed into her face. We’ve always respected each other as co-workers, now we love each other as friends. I thank you too, Terry.

Bev arrived in the finishing chute, eyes already tear-filled, this was going to be tough. She crossed and we hugged and we cried - I didn’t want to let go. You did it Beaver. Now go get your medal.

And finally, it was “Nan’s” turn to cross the line. Shirley always stays out behind us to make sure we all find our way home - she bats clean-up for the group. She never missed a step - she’s incredible. Within minutes of arriving and in her most eloquent tone, Shirley announced she would not be doing a full marathon any time soon.

I’m with you Nan.

Let’s savour this one for a while.

3 comments:

Paula said...

wow. soooo sooo proud of you mama! and so sooooooooo proud of the entire t2f crew! way to go. i'll be there to hug you all at the tely. take care and keep running.

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of all of you. Individually you are great... together you are amazing!!!

S

Anonymous said...

Mark, you and all your group did a tremendous job last weekend. I read the newsletter and mopped tears the whole time.

Looking forward to seeing you guys on the 6th. We registered for the run just now. That is after I had both knees x-rayed today so I'll have them to show the bone guy when I get an appointment.

This running gets into your blood, huh?