It is Monday night and I am still smiling. Did I mention I ran my slowest half marathon ever? And yet I feel like I accomplished great things both mentally and physically. It was an emotional race and one that I will always remember. I had moments of wanting to dance (I refrained), moments when I wanted to cry (I let the tears come) and moments of absolute peace. And yes there were a few moments – though only a few – when I just felt tired. I still can’t believe that I ran a solo run of 11km and then followed it up with 21.1. According to my Garmin I ran a total of 32.33km, the most running I have ever done in one day. There was a half hour break between the two runs, so I know the experience wasn’t quite the same as heading out for a steady long run, but I don’t care. I did it and it felt great!
But before I tell any of my story (let’s face it, blogs are a lot of “me, me, me” time) I will explain the tearful part of the run. Obviously the Army Run has a unique emotional aspect due to the involvement or our troops. It is an opportunity to thank our military personnel and to remember to be thankful for this wonderful country in which we live. We Canadians are a proud group of people, but often in a quiet way. Gathering thousands of people for this special run is a way to display our pride. One of my favourite signs simply stated “Be brave, eh!”
At around the 9k mark in Quebec the meaning of the race struck home for me. A young lady was just ahead of me and the caption on the back of her shirt immediately caught my attention. It stated “My Brother, My Hero”. Below it was a picture of a young soldier. It took me a moment to take in the fact that under the picture was his date of birth and date of death. Honestly, running a race at that moment just seemed so unimportant. I knew I had to say something to her but what? I love writing and I love words, but sometimes words just fail. The best I could do was run up beside her, tell her I loved her shirt, put my hand on her shoulder and wish her a great run. As I crossed the bridge back into Ontario I wasn’t even thinking about the run or how I would manage my longest distance ever.
At the end of the race I spotted the rest of the soldier’s family. His parents had shirts on that said “My Son, My Hero”, his wife had one that stated “My Luv, My Hero” and his little boy also wore a shirt for his daddy. Again I was at a loss for words but went to them to tell them I thought of their lost loved one throughout the race. I wish I could have said more.
So, even now, it seems a little unimportant to review the rest of the race. All of the other events and emotions of the day can only be considered secondary, but the fact is those secondary moments played parts in the whole experience.
For the first time ever my goal was to slow my time down from my current best of 2:03. I had originally planned to add more distance on at the end of race but someone gave me the brilliant advice (thanks Rebecca!) to do the extra distance before the actual race. This was so smart! By having already run 11km I was able to just enjoy the race and not have to think about what would come after. It also allowed me to finish up my long run with the cheers and excitement that can only be found in a large race. What a way to do a long run while training for your first marathon!!!
My solo run was uneventful until the last km. I had set out from the Convention Centre down past Dow’s Lake and back. On my return trip the 5k was well underway, so I was able to run along the pathway while the runners were running towards me on Colonel By. What I hadn’t planned on was a number of runners leaving the road (the official route), crossing the grass and running on the pathway. Suddenly I was running against a wave of runners. I, by the way, was wearing my race bib. I had already felt a little silly running away from the race area on the first leg of my run. I kept expecting people to yell at me I was going the wrong way. But now I really looked like I had no idea of what I was doing. I heard one girl in the race ask her mother why there was a runner running backwards. I think I had a few nasty looks too but I refrained from telling anyone that they were actually off the official course. It was the after 30 min crowd so I put it down to casual runners just not knowing the rules.
Once I fought my way through the crowd I made it back to my car, was able to drop off things I didn’t need and then headed to the finish area to see if I could meet up with my family. The timing worked out perfectly as my son had finished his race and I was able to talk to him briefly about his run. He at first thought he was a little slow, which we had told him could very likely happen due to the crowds. He hadn’t used a watch but told us he had seen the digital clock and it was around 30 minutes when he crossed the line. It took us a minute to clue in that that would of course be gun time. It ends up he ran his fastest 5k ever, coming in under 29 minutes! He was very proud, and more than a little exhausted.
I won’t go into lots of details about my run once the starter’s cannon went off (no wimpy guns here). Suffice it to say I loved the course and loved the supporters. Just as I did at Ottawa Race Weekend I tried to high five as many spectators as I could. Once I got settled into a rhythm I stuck to it and ran the most steady race I have ever done. Large chunks of the race seemed a little surreal. I am not sure if this makes any sense but there were many times where I kind of forgot I was running. And thankfully that wasn’t because I was close to passing out from exhaustion. Somehow the run just seemed relaxing. I loved the scenery and the weather was perfect. With the exception of the first km I never felt overly crowded and considering there were 10 000 people in the race that is quite surprising. My only complaint was the D.J who insisted on continuing to try to blast his music over the beautiful bells of St. Patrick’s Basilica. The bells were magical to run with and thankfully, with the exception of when I was immediately near the D.J. the bells were the stronger musical force. The sound of the bells could be heard well before the church and followed us for some distance beyond.
If I were honest, the food selection at the end of the race I found to be a little disappointing. But maybe I just had high expectations since I had heard the food was very good last year. It was also one of the first races in which I did not feel slightly nauseous by the end. In fact I was starving by the 16k mark. Unfortunately for me I don’t like bananas or power bars and while I like yogurt it is not necessarily something I want to eat immediately after a long run. Since those were the only options I was a little out of luck. But really it did not matter. Why? Well just go back to paragraph three of this post. Quite frankly, the food didn’t matter. This race was about more than the food, more than the final time, more than the run. Perspective is an important thing in life.
If you haven’t run the Army Run, do yourself a favour and sign up for 2014. You won’t regret it.