A year ago, we all got in the van and went downtown early on Thanksgiving Sunday to cheer Barb (my wife) on in her first ever Half Marathon. I was supportive and loved the energy associated with that many people getting ready to take on a personal challenge. She did well and we all enjoyed a hot drink while she ran her 21 kms. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that just 52 weeks later I would be standing in running great waiting to take on my first half-marathon.
I started running in January. I did it as a weight loss strategy. In the beginning it was all about running a mile on the treadmill at the gym. It was a good start but I soon grew tired of looking at the same parking lot. I graduated to running around small lake in our area. I thought it was reasonable. In retrospect, it's a challenging, hilly course. Barb convinced me that running near our house might be a better option and so I began to run more regularly and for longer distances.
By early May I had determined that I would prepare for the GoodLife Fitness Half Marathon scheduled for this past weekend. I trained through the summer and things were looking good. In late August I ran 18kms for the first time.
On Sunday morning I stood with about 6000 other people who had prepared to challenge themselves, the course and those around them over a 21km course. One man was 89 years old. The gun went off and we began to run. I ran with some friends, one has done many races and is a coach. She was amazing at keeping me on track for 5kms. I got separated from them in the crowd after that and couldn't catch up. I carried on at my own pace and enjoyed the run along Dallas Road. I did well until I got to the area where I thought the turn around should be. When it wasn't there and all I could see was the crowd in front of me turning in the opposite direction of where I thought the course should go, I began to struggle mentally. I was discouraged and questioning whether or not I could finish. When we finally made the turn, the trip home went by quickly. (The trip home always feels quicker...) When I passed the 18km mark, every step was a personal best. As much as my hip flexors and feet were hurting, the pain was secondary to the reward of finishing. At around 19 kms our kids were standing on the sidewalk cheering me on. They said that I wasn't as happy as I'd been earlier in the race. My smile had been replaced with a grimace! That said, I was making good progress and the end was near. I ran past Ogden Point and began to pick up my pace. Fisherman's Park is 1km from the finish line. Because we were close to the end, the crowds were fuller and people were cheering, clanging cow bells and waving signs. In the last 500m, something took over in me and I began to charge the finish line. (Sprint would be a strong word...) I started passing people and closing the gap. My goal was to finish at around 2:00 hours. I finished at 2:06. My pace was 5:58/km. My fastest km was my last one.
Having never done this before, it was a tremendous learning experience for me. I was reminded again of the power of encouragement. All of those people standing along the road holding their signs, ringing their cowbells and shouting encouragement really make a difference! The high fives I got from my kids at 5kms and again at 18 kms helped keep me going. They said I was smiling a lot more at 5ks than I was at 18....
I'm kind of competitive.... okay... I'm a LOT competitive. I like winning more than losing. This race helped me see something more important. I had turned the corner and was on my way back to the finish line and was still meeting people who had started with me but were well behind me. I saw one person who was significantly overweight running slowly along at a pace that worked for her. I had tremendous respect for her and shouted some encouragement as we passed on the road. She was had taken on the same challenge that I had and while we were at different places on the road, her progress and pace was significant to her. I was proud to run in the same race.
My most inspiring moment happened when I turned the final corner and came onto Belville St. By this point the pace had quickened as everyone gave it one last push. I was no different. I gave it everything I had. (In my mind I was tearing up the road. On video, it's not as impressive.... LOL!!)The crowds were larger, in some cases 3 and 4 people deep, there was more cheering and most importantly, 500M away was the finish line. All of my training had been for this moment.... I focused on finishing well and gave it everything I had.
On the morning of the race, a friend tweeted Heb 12:1. The verse speaks of our lives as a race and the picture is of a stadium full of cheering crowds. We are running the race, with Jesus at the finish line waiting to welcome us in. Those who are cheering were just like us, except that they have finished the race and they want us to finish well too.
As you probably know, Steve Jobs passed away last week. He's been quoted as saying 'Live today as though it is your last.' For the most part, we don't do that. We live as if our last day is many days away. Reality is that you just don't know when your last day will be, so live like this is it!!
Live Well... Run Well... Finish Well!