Friday, October 24, 2008

Travel Day


I don't think there is anything I enjoy more than participating in an organized road race, whether in my hometown or somewhere not-so-close to home.

One thing I am not so fond of (read hate) is the physical act of traveling. I'm not so fond of airports, crowds, four dollar coffees, eight dollar sandwiches and airplanes, well actually, I think airplanes are cool and I love the actual flying part, but I'm not so fond of limited leg room, uncomfortable seats and having no control over any aspect of my life for the duration of the flight. And I'm not a germ-a-phobe, but why is it I always end up with a head cold or something a little worse a few days after a flight? Like right now, I'm feeling a tickle in my throat. C'mon immune system, kick in already.

And because our flight takes us over water, they decide to give us a special demonstration on the proper use of the life vest, yeah, 'cause that thing's gonna' save my bacon when we drop out of the sky from 30,000 feet. On the one hand, they think we're too stunned to know how to buckle our own seat belts, on the other hand, during your last few minutes of life, they expect we should be able to figure out how to operate our oxygen masks, inflate our life vests and follow the in floor lighting to the nearest exit, before gently swooshing down the giant yellow slide into the cooling waters of the Atlantic Ocean. And I just got a look at the guy sitting next to the emergency exit -- we could be in trouble, he looks a little more stunned than the rest of us; they may have to go over all this a second time for this guy.

And when you live where I live, unless you're flying to Halifax, a trip anywhere else is always more like a transatlantic journey taking the better part of the day to reach your final destination. Here I am, on the second leg of my flight to Hamilton. Upon arrival in Steeltown, I pick up a rental car and head a little further west, well, actually more southwest, for an hour or so, arriving in Niagara Falls at approximately 9:00 PM Newfoundland time; I will have left my house in St. John's a little over nine hours ago...puleeeze!

One thing I've done today is really notice people. It seems we all have somewhere to go, somewhere important to be. People shuffle in and out of airport corridors, cell phones attached to their ears rushing for the gate or the baggage carousel or just the washroom. And while a few faces look familiar to me, most of these people I have never laid eyes on before, and most of them have still never laid eyes on me. Makes you realize how big the world must be; how insignificant our little place on this planet really is, to them at least.

And kind of keeping with the "rushing around" theme, I noticed too that there are an awful lot of people requiring pre-board assistance these days. Now I don't know what their issues may be, but a requirement for this privilege should be at least a noticeable limp or two or three screaming young ones hanging off you. And while contemplating this, a vision popped into my head -- it's September of next year and our Running Club is returning home from completing its first marathon. There we are in the airport and out goes the pre-boarding call. Next thing, twenty or so souls outfitted in red and black jackets let out a collective wince as they attempt to prop themselves up on their feet before limping a slow, penguin-like stride to the gate. Kind of makes me smile.

Take advantage of the privilege, gang. You will have earned it. Just don't forget your life vests.

Run for you life.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Raise the bar


Whomever it was that said a red sky in the morning is bad news, probably wasn't a runner and certainly never saw the sky I saw last Saturday morning.  

At times it was like I was running inside of a photograph that was being worked on in some photo editing software and different levels of sepia tones were being experimented with to find what looked best.  It was simply spectacular, a great way to end off my training for the Niagara Falls Half Marathon.

As I look back over my training log, all I can say is man, I nailed it.  I reached every training goal, ran smart and injury free.  I've always tried to instill in our Running Club members that they should talk more openly about how proud of themselves they are.  Sometimes, modesty, well, sucks.  So let me follow a little of my own advice and get my celebration going a little early.

I've never run better, or stronger.  I've never been in such good shape.  It's all down to the calorie management and the miles, no doubt, but more than that, it's down to my mind.  I have figured out that running and physical fitness in general is not about sweating and panting and achey muscles, it's about having a strong mind, raising your bar, and working hard to clear it.  As I read over the comments I wrote in my log, one really stands out to me:

"Best run of my life. Who is this guy?"

There were times, during my longer runs, I didn't know who I was, or where it was coming from.  If you want to run faster, you have to run faster, if you want to run longer, you have to run longer.  Don't be afraid to ask your body for more -- we're bigger than our bodies and we're as great as our minds will let us be.

So as I head to Niagara Falls this weekend I've laid out three goals for myself -- one that I will be happy with, one that I will be thrilled with, and one that I will be over the moon with.  Whatever race day brings me, I will run smart, stick to my plan, finish strong and leave everything on the race course.

I've read that achievement is the result of dedication, hard work and constantly raising the bar.  The achievement was the training.  This weekend's race is the celebration.

One cheeseburger and a chocolate shake, please!  I've earned it.

Run for your life.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Warm souls


I've written in the past about how anywhere, anytime, a run can grab hold of you and warm your soul. After standing at the finish line of a recent 10-K road race, I should expand that to read “anywhere, anytime, a runner can grab hold of you and warm your soul.”

It was just a few days ago that an annual Turkey Tea 10-K took place and a number of our Club members were participating. A challenging twelve-miler the day before in preparation for a Niagara Falls event left me unable to participate, even if I had wanted to. But that's cool, I love to take pictures of my teammates “at work” and help out in any way I can to get them to both the starting and finishing lines.

Krista, our newest member, was first to arrive at the starting area, nervous as usual. She didn't say a whole lot, which for Krista is out of the ordinary, maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was the panic that had taken over her body. She did comment that there seemed to be a lot of "real runners" at the event. A quick glance around led to my conclusion that skinnier, faster people are what Krista qualifies as real runners. I reassured her that she too was a runner. She told me her goal was to keep the back of the pack in view at all times. I told her not to worry about that, just put one foot in front of the other and run her race.

As the event got underway I moved into position for some starting line shots and then moved further along the race course for some more snaps before heading for the finish line. It was there that the soul warming occurred.

Everyone in our group finished as expected, almost as if scripted. Bruce flew in first--I’ve often wondered if he has wings now I’m sure of it. Judy followed that up with a great race, one of her best in fact. DG was right behind her, talk about picking up the pace. Next it was sisters Heather & Mary, both of whom, on separate occasions, had told me they were struggling emotionally with the race because they had registered for it last year but their mother's passing kept them from participating. I told them I saw it as a wonderful opportunity for the two of them to get together and honour their mother's memory by running it every year--they both finished with smiles on their faces. The Beav and Nan made their way in next, just another finish line, no sweat for them. That left just Krista and the ambulance on the race course.

Most of the other finishers had already gone inside out of the cold for post-race refreshments. I noticed a group of five or six runners heading back out onto the race course; figuring they were running back to the starting area to pickup their cars, I didn't give it a second thought.

A few more minutes passed and no Krista--her "keep the pack in view" goal had escaped her. We stood on the curb and chatted amongst ourselves for a little while longer. Just a few moments later a small group of runners came into view turning down into the finishing chute, all being led by our Club's newest member. I then figured out that those five or six runners had run back out onto the course to encourage, support and run with Krista as she moved closer and closer to the end of the race. And just as they neared the end, those other finishers that had gone inside for post-race refreshments came back outside to cheer as Krista took her last few steps toward the finish line.

It was another running moment that I will never forget. The true spirit of running was captured by those who participated in that 10-K race on that day and I'm glad I could be there to watch it all unfold. Krista was in tears (another ordinary occurrence) with a smile on her face from ear to ear--it was one of her longest runs ever.

One hundred people finished that 10-K event, and every one of them was a "real runner".

Run for your life.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The difference between you and me


Hello? Are you there?

I understand you've been calling me. I've been thinking about you lately too.

We've never met, but I've heard a lot about you, some good, some not-so-good. I guess we're similar in that way, but that's where it ends.

You're cold-hearted, some say unforgiving. You're ruthless. Brutal even.
I am merciful.

You're sadistic and cruel, callous in your approach. You're a bully.
I am compassionate.

You're vicious, a barbaric-like being.
I am civilized.

You're evil, almost diabolical.
I am virtuous.

You bend the strong, break the weak and bury the unprepared.
I am unbreakable.

You're the steepest of hills on a gently rolling route.
I am a hill machine.

You're a mountain of a challenge.
I am a mountain climber.

You're inhuman.
I am super-human.

We will meet in the near future -- count on it.
Bring everything you've got -- I'll do the same.

There can be only one winner, and I don't lose.

Run for your life.