Tuning Into Your Surroundings

As we are moving into Fall, it is important that we constantly remind ourselves that it is getting dark earlier.  I don’t mind running in the dark but, unlike winter, fall nights can be pitch black as there isn’t any snow for the light to reflect from.  I am careful to run as early as I can after work, wear visible clothing, and not take chances.

Over the past several weeks, the Town has been resurfacing Upper Middle Road, a major road which runs across our little piece of suburbia.  Multi-bar crosswalks, the kind that reminds me of a Beatles’ album cover, have appeared at many intersections along it.  The first morning I saw them, I was blinded by their whiteness and complained about how ugly they were.  That same evening, though, when finishing a run, I realized that I would be that much more visible to cars when I cross those intersections; without a doubt, the bright white lines were going to make things safer.

“Beatle Bars” along Upper Middle, designed to make pedestrians more visible at night.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne arrived at my house for an easy run.  It was still early (6:3o) and we planned to be finished before dark.  In true training partner style, we laughed as we greeted each other in bright pink shirts; apparently, we both knew that we needed to make ourselves visible to traffic.   Kelly-Lynne and I spent a good chunk of time running on sidewalks; we ran facing traffic when we took the road.  With less than a mile to go, we came to a red light at one of the “new” corners of Upper Middle Road.  Both of us stopped, made eye contact with drivers to make sure that they saw us, and ran across the “Beatle Bars” to the opposite side.  The light turned yellow while we were crossing and red – just as we were reaching the other side.

I had just put my left foot down on the sidewalk when a car rushed through a right turn on a red light, barely missing my right leg.  I screamed ‘Hey!’ and looked at Kelly-Lynne, who was on my left and she also jumped out of its way.  A lady who was walking two dogs gasped, yelled or somehow reacted as I bolted after the car, wanting to get its license plate; to my surprise, the driver pulled over and stopped.

“You need to watch where you are turning!” I yelled at her.

“I know.  I am sorry.”  The driver was in her 50’s or 60’s and had a man, possibly her son, in the passenger seat.

“You nearly hit my friend!”

“I know.  I don’t know how I missed you girls; you’re in bright colours.  I was distracted.  Is your friend okay?”  I looked at Kelly-Lynne, asked if she was okay, and she was fine.  I was fine.  Fortunately, neither of us got hurt but this woman made a right turn on a red light without stopping, nearly hit us, and that was not okay.  I was angry.  I looked at the man in the passenger seat again and realized that he was probably the source of distraction.  He showed no emotion – no reaction whatsoever.  Suddenly, I felt sorry for her.  I was still angry, but I got it.  And she stopped when she could have kept going.

“You need to slow down,” I said.  I wasn’t yelling anymore; at least, I don’t think I was.  I felt calmer, still angry but calmer.

“I know,” she repeated.  “I’m sorry.  I was distracted.”

“You need to slow down.  Nothing is worth rushing through a light for.  Nothing.  Just be careful.”

“I know.”

“Be careful,”  I repeated and I turned from her so that she could drive away.  When I got back to Kelly-Lynne, I repeated our conversation.  Kelly-Lynne told me that the driver in the car behind told her, “You girls were absolutely right.”

And we were.  We did everything right.  We wore the right colours and we crossed at the light.  We didn’t take chances.  But more important than anything else is we were paying attention to what was going on around us and that let us react.  Truthfully, I have never felt that I have been in that much danger before; I can still feel the car brushing against my right side as I write this.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne went home to her husband and I tucked my boys in bed.  A split second could have left this with a different ending.

 

When Being Tough Can Be Cool

Night riding: be visible.

A few weeks ago, my son ended up hanging out at a friend’s house longer than planned, which was fine until he had to ride his bike home.  “Can you pick me up?”

“No, but I’ll bring lights for your bike.”  When I got there, he argued that it would be much easier to put his bike in the car, but I wanted him to ride his bike home.  He flat out refused the head and tail lights so I went to Plan B:  drive home behind him so that traffic would see my headlights on him.

The dude knows how I feel about bicycle safety.  I complain every time we drive by someone who rides without a helmet, through stop signs, doesn’t have a light…  Since that night when he was mortally embarrassed by Mom’s driving home behind him, he has been careful to get home before dark.

Until today.  He and a group of friends were out, lost track of time and were near busy-ish streets.  One mom and I realized that they would be riding home in the dark and started texting.

Mom: I might just head over and pick them up.

Me: There are too many bikes (5).  Some of them still need to ride.

Mom: Yup.

Me: I have headlights.  I’ll meet you down there.

I had four lights.  One came from the Energizer Night Race a few years ago, another from the Trek or Treat Race, and two others were won as prizes.  Fortunately, one of the boys had a headlight on his bike so we actually would end up with each kid being visible, as long as there wasn’t a battle about lights not being cool.

I was slow getting out of the house (after all, I did have to make sure that the batteries were working) and, when I got there, my son must have known what was coming because he ran to me and asked me to wait in the car.

“Um, no, I have lights so you boys can ride home.”

The youngest in the group ran up to me.  “Can I, please, have a light so that I can ride home with them?”  My guy gave in and I looked at the older boys.  “Here’s a headlight for you,” I said, starting with one whom I recognized as a former student of my own school.

“No, it’s okay.”

“All the cool kids have them,” I sang.

Supernova Lights – by Road ID.

“Okay,” he laughed as he took one.  The fourth boy followed.  Then, I clipped the Road ID  Supernova lights onto the backs of the two youngest.

“Wow!  You’re the cool mom!” I was told.

Energizer headlights and Supernova (Road ID)

Success! Within minutes, I went from being told to wait in my car to being respected as the cool mom.  They took off, I followed, and when I saw how visible the posse was, I drove ahead to meet them at the house.

One of the boys, clearly visible on a dark street.

And I might have spied on them, just to make sure that they were still wearing them, and everyone was.  No one complained when they handed them back.  Instead, they thanked me and reminded me that I was cool.

 

The Cynthia Arm

If you have been running with the same person for a while, or if you have watched the same person run often enough, you begin to notice their stride and gait until you can eventually recognize it from far away.  Years and years ago, my husband commented on “that thing I do with my foot.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You swing it out, or you kick it out.  I don’t know.  It’s just weird.  But I can see you from a mile away.”

Of course, I still carefully look at every photo of me running.  Am I doing “that thing with my foot?”  Yes.  And, even though I have known about it for years, I haven’t been able to change it.  I have always attributed it to my one leg being longer than the other; my body has had to accommodate for that when I am running.   You can see it here when I raced the B&O 5K Championships last September.

A few weeks ago, when at a morning practice with TOC, Coach Greg was able to watch my gait more carefully.  “You’re swinging your hips,” he told me at the end of the workout.

“What?!”  I was surprised, but it made sense and tied in with the foot kicking/swinging action that has been going on for years.  Now that my chiropodist has put in a bit of a lift inside my shoe, I am noticing that my hips are feeling straighter and, hopefully, “that thing [I] do with my foot” is disappearing.

These foot kicking/hip swinging idiosyncrasies of mine, though, seem to have created another unique feature: the Cynthia Arm A few days after Coach Greg pointed out that I swing my hips when I run, Monica told me that my left elbow sticks out.  Again, this was met with a “What?!”

“It sticks out – probably because you’re swinging your hips.”  And I swing my hips because one leg is longer than another and….Somehow I felt like singing: the leg bone is connected to the hip bone, and the hip bone is connected to the….

“Don’t worry about it,” Monica said.  “It’s your thing.  It’s like the Andre-arm.  We’ll call it the Cynthia Arm.”

Well, if it works for Andre de Grasse, maybe I should just leave it alone.  Perhaps my elbow will get me into the same club as the cool kids; maybe that’s my secret to becoming a champion, to going to the Olympics.   I wonder if I need to put an insurance policy on my elbow; after all, it has become my trademark.

Or maybe I should just work at tucking in my elbows more,  straightening my hips, pointing my toes forward, and keep on singing “Dem Bones.”

The Tale of Two Feet

Getting to the bottom of my foot issues.

For the past year, I have really noticed the effects of the aging process, the biggest change being in my feet.  Towards the end of training for Boston, I could barely get through a long run without my feet screaming at me.  I knew that I needed to pay some attention to the balls of my feet, but I wasn’t about to change shoes or add orthotics within weeks of Boston.  But that resulted in a marathon that broke me.  My feet were killing by the 10th mile and the sun was hot; the two were a rotten combination for me and I finished in an hour longer than planned – but I finished.  In Boston, that was all I needed to do.

Bye bye, Orthotics!

Once Boston was behind me, I started to research orthotics and look for chiropodists in my area.  I had orthotics before and hated them; they were heavy and painful to run in as they never seemed to target the part of my foot that was tender: the metatarsals and the midfoot.  Adjustments were done but they made running even more painful so, eventually, they were taken out and I only wore my orthotics for work, not running.  It wasn’t long before I took them out of my shoe and completely stopped wearing them.

Now, though, I was ready to go back.  It had become painfully obvious that I needed some kind of support or padding under the forefoot.  I met with a few chiropodists and decided to work with one who specialized in runners’ feet.   Over the past few weeks, we have started to find a solution to my aching feet.

The black lifts my heels to help straighten my hips.

The first problem seems to have been an easy correction: my left leg is longer than my right so that my left hip sits significantly higher.  Doc placed a heel lift in the bottom of my shoe, between the sole and the insole, to raise my right side.  Now my hips are straight, and it makes a noticeable difference in my running as I don’t feel that I am swinging my hips as much.

The sore forefoot is more of a challenge.  As it turns out, I have developed mild arthritis in my feet so that is part of the problem.  Since there is no cure, I need to find a way to work with what I have so that I can still run.  My feet are also concave, not convex like most, as the three middle metatarsals have dropped.  The good news is my bones are strong.  Other good news is Doc doesn’t feel that I need orthotics because of the way I land when I run – on my forefoot/midfoot.

Week One’s trial was a complete bust.  We added some poron to bottom of my insole to try to raise my metatarsals and create some cushioning.  My first run (4 miles) went well but my second (8 miles with some speedwork) was a disaster; that night I had such a burning sensation through my feet that I was sidelined and icing them in a bucket of ice water for the next two days.  When I started running again, I swapped the insoles for an older pair.

Week Two was better.  Doc removed and built more support under the footpad.  Every run, from an easy 4 mile run to 9 miles with intervals  went as planned, but I couldn’t finish my long run on Sunday; at 6 miles, I was fighting tears and ready to hang up my shoes.  I felt broken.

Later that night, I found myself playing teacher.  At school, I have to look at the strengths in kids and build on them.  Now it was time to do that with me.  Even though I have been having some issues, I still ran 28 and 35 mile weeks during these trial periods and my pacing is good.  My speedwork is getting better and my leg span seems to be increasing.  But on a long run, my feet hurt.

I’m now at the start of Week Three and am only one run in.  Today, things were fine.  Despite a bit of doubt that kicked in halfway through, I finished my run painfree again.  Optimism.

One day at a time, one foot in front of another, I am not giving up and will continue chasing my dreams.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

 

 

 

Keeping Ticks Away

Tick Repellants – Chemical and Natural

While ticks have been common in southern climates, they are still fairly new to those of us in Ontario.  I’ve always been a bit worried about them but, until this year, ticks simply haven’t been a huge problem.  At the beginning of March, that changed.

One night I was playing with Zeda and noticed something on her head.  It was like a giant disgusting pimple that wiggled back and forth when I touched it; I just wanted to squeeze it but I thought I would end up with blood everywhere.  Then I imagined some tiny creature with appendages everywhere slowly crawling out and I screamed for my husband.

“Dave, there is something gross on Zeda’s head!  I don’t know what it is but she needs to see a vet tomorrow!”

Dave didn’t even look.  He simply trusted my panicked tone and took her in the next morning.  To our surprise, Zeda won the first tick of the year award, a fully engorged tick – at the beginning of March, in Ontario.  This was unheard of.  Now it was an unseasonably warm winter but even our vet was surprised.  He removed the tick, bagged it to send it away for testing, and gave us Zeda’s tick meds.  I knew that we would have to do something more to be proactive about preventing ticks this summer.

My boys are old enough that they can handle manufactured sprays which contain Deet, but those contain chemicals.  My oldest, who is often on the soccer field at night, complains that everyone pulls out bug spray after dark; he can see a haze over the soccer field and it is hard to breathe.  So, once in a while, something like Muskoil is okay, but I thought it wise to try a bug/tick spray that was more natural.

So I went back to Dr. Google, who gave me a recipe for a natural repellent last summer.  All I could remember was it had water, vinegar and essential oils.  After some searching, I found it and started concocting what my boys call “Mom’s Witches’ Brew.”  All I have to do is mix up the following ingredients in a bottle.

Mom’s Witches Brew:

2 cups of vinegar (Yes, this sounds like a lot but the scents from the Essential Oils cover the smell of vinegar.)

  1 cup of water

Secret Ingredients: DoTerra’s Essential Oils

Essential Oils (I use DoTerra brand): 10-15 drops of Peppermint, 10-15 drops of Eucalyptus, 7-10 drops of Lavendar.  (There are other EO’s that are recommended, such as Lemongrass and Geranium, and I am going to try those in my next batch.)

I make a new mixture every two weeks and keep it in a spray bottle.  Zeda gets sprayed every morning (this is in addition to her monthly tick meds), I spray my shoes when I head out for a run and everywhere else if I am heading into the trails.   Even my boys don’t complain, but if left to their own devices (like on a recent school overnight trip in a wooded area), they prefer Muskoil.

This is really quick and easy to make.  I may get laughed at by the men-folk at home when I brew my magic potion, but it is doing its job of keeping us safe.

 

 

 

 

The Summer of More

Summer Running with Zeda

When my kids were younger, I thought my time would free up as they got older.   How wrong I was!  With a tween and a teen, I find that I am constantly on the go taking them to soccer, basketball, refereeing, choir, work and – oh, yes – school.  Combine that with marathon training, a new grade to teach, and coaching teams, and you have the perfect recipe for a tired working mom.

After running Boston, I realized something had to go.  So I dropped my mileage to 25 to 30 miles a week – just enough to keep my legs happy – and finished the school year feeling ready to push myself again with my running, to keep chasing my dreams.

Last week was the first of my Summer of More: more sleeping, more eating and more running.   Of these, it is running that is my main focus; the other two naturally come into play as my mileage climbs and my intensity increases.  Last week was the first in a long time that I was able to run with Zeda, coordinate time to run with friends and get in a 10 solid miler. I was so happy to finish the week with over 35 miles; I have just a few miles to go to reach 40 miles a week, when Coach and I can start focusing on some fall goals.

On the weekend, I ran into a parent from school who asked me how my first week of summer was.  I answered truthfully.  “I feel like I have been drugged.  All I want to do is sleep.”  To that she laughed, and I added, “Seriously.  All I’ve done is eat, sleep and run.  It’s my Summer of More.”

 

Return of the short shorts

Last year, I wrote about my then 10 year old son, who exploded when I started to head to a yoga class wearing these shorts.  He threw out all sorts of comments from “Mom, your shorts need to be longer!” to “You’re too old to wear shorts like that!” Since then, like a 16 year old, I have had to sneak out of the house when I plan to wear my short shorts.

This week, I was able to use his uber-conservative, overprotective side to my advantage when he went to meet some friends at the park.  About 30 minutes later, I asked my husband whether he rode his bike.  “Yup,” he answered.  “Well, his helmet is sitting right here,” I complained.

So I did what any good mother would do.  I walked the dog down to the park to make sure that he got there safely.  But I also wore shorts, not my shorty shorts that he hates, but my slightly too large shorts that hang on my hips.  And I also wore a top that was just slightly too short so there just might have been a teeny bit of mid-riff showing.  I was barely in eyesight when the kid bolted in my direction.

“Hi, Mom!” he called as he approached me.  “What are you doing here?”

“I’m walking Zeda.  Where’s your helmet?”

“Oh….it’s home.  Can you walk the other way?”

“Well, I walked here to make sure that you got here safely.”

“Oh…”

“And if you ever leave home again without your helmet, I will walk to meet you again.  And each time, I will wear less and less because seeing my skin is nothing compared to seeing your brains all over the sidewalk.”

“Okay, I get it,” he laughed.  “Now can you walk the other way?”

That kid better not ever forget his helmet again.

Race Report: Canada Day 5K

The Canada Day 5K in Burlington, Ontario has always been one of my favorite races.  It’s a smaller, local event, which is well-organized by VrPro, on a flat course and, for me, it’s the first race of my summer break.

This year, though, the numbers of runners jumped.  Last year, there were around 500 participants but this year, I heard at the start, there were almost 1000 runners.  Between the constant media and retail reminders that July 1st marked Canada’s 150th and the daily email reminders and facebook posts leading up to the event from VrPro, a lot of people registered at the last minute, resulting in a race that grew too fast too soon.

Now don’t get me wrong, the race director, Kelly Arnott, is quite respected in the Ontario running community.  She puts on the Chilly Half-Marathon in March, which attracts a few thousand runners, and many other races.  Kelly also puts a lot of money from the races back into the community, especially Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington.  Kelly has been directing races for years and she knows what she is doing.  But on Saturday morning, there were problems from the get-go.

First, the volunteers weren’t ready for the crowds at the bib pick-up.  I don’t know how many collected their race kits on the day before, but Monica and I found ourselves at the end of a very long line an hour before the race.  We were told that the race was going to be delayed so that everyone would have time to get their bibs and timing chips.  I felt my anxiety climb as I was worried about having enough time to get back to the car, change into my running shoes (always a good thing at a race) and warm-up.  We inched our way forward, collected our bibs and – what?  No t-shirts?

Canada Day race t-shirt

When I registered for the race, on Monday night, I was able to request a t-shirt and size (adult medium).  Monica registered a few days later and only had an adult XL as an option, so she ordered that.  We really had no idea what kind of shirts we were going to get, but we were expecting them.  If the fabric was technical, I could wear it while working out; if it was cotton, I could hand it over to my son; if neither of us wanted it, I could use it as a prize at school.  By the time we got to the bib pick-up table, they only had youth medium sizing left.  I was given one; Monica wasn’t.  I couldn’t understand the point in requesting a size or a shirt, only not to get it.  In all honesty, not getting a shirt is not a big deal and I gave mine to Monica.  It just irks me that this happened.

After we got our bibs and token flyers, we were directed to a second line to pick up our timing chips.  We assumed that the chip line was for people who got their bibs the night before.  If we had realized that we had to line up twice, we would have split up.  Fortunately, this line moved faster.  By the time we got back to the car, I had just enough time to change my shoes  and do a quick warm-up before the race start.

I always like this course, even with the bit of sand that we have to run through; I don’t even mind the “out and back” route that so many don’t like.  As we expected, the start was packed.  I positioned myself close to the start line, but I still found myself weaving through far too many people for the first mile.  The marshalling and water stations were just fine, but a few of us commented that we didn’t see any medics along the course.  They could have been there, but we did not notice them.

About 20 minutes after finishing and talking with some friends, I noticed that they were wearing medals.  “You got a medal?” I asked.  “Why didn’t I get a medal?”  Somehow, between cutting the timing chip off my shoe and handing me a bottle of water, nobody gave me a medal.   I borrowed a friend’s to take the “medal” picture as that was really all that I needed.  Again, I think the race grew too fast (in a week) and the volunteers weren’t ready for the numbers of people coming through the finish line.  I heard later that they did run out of medals and the race director is ordering more for those who want one.  Will I ask?  No, but for the first timers or people who don’t race often, I know that getting the medal will be a big deal for them.

Will I run this race again?  Absolutely.  As I mentioned above, I like the course and I like VrPro’s races.  This year’s event simply had a few hiccups which can easily be corrected for the next one.

 

Values Win

Several years ago, I raced the Acura Ten Miler in Toronto on a particularly hot summer day.  With 1-2 miles left, I noticed a female runner about 400 metres ahead of me, who was weaving in and out from a group of people.  She looked drunk.  As I caught up to her, I asked if she was okay, to which she slurred back that she was fine and to leave her alone.  I realized that she was dehydrated and didn’t realize it so I did leave her, but I stopped at the next intersection where there was a police officer, told him about her, waited until she was close enough that I could point her out, and he immediately called for an ambulance.   I ran off, wondered how many people passed me, and how much time I lost, but I knew I did the right thing.   Looking back, I don’t remember my time (I think it was 78 minutes) and it matter any more.  What I do remember is every detail of helping that lady.

Cooling down after the race with Monica.

This Saturday, I raced the Canada Day 5K in Burlington.   I’ve raced the course many times; it’s close to home and it’s a great race to kick off my summer holiday.  My friend, Monica, and I went together with goals to run competitively; I wanted to finish faster than I did at the Moon in June, where my 5K time was 21:57.  This was a flat course, and with my feeling stronger than I did a few weeks ago and pumped up about a few weeks off work, I felt that beating that time was realistic.

When the horn sounded, I went out fast – a little too fast with my first mile in 6:53.   I got my pace back under control and found my spot in the pack, and I happened to end up running shoulder to shoulder with my friend’s 14 year old daughter.   We spent some time jostling for position until I pulled ahead just after the turn around.

Shortly after, though, I knew something was wrong.  My mother senses kicked in when I thought I heard “Somebody please help me” come from behind.  My friend’s daughter has a peanut allergy and is asthmatic.  She is very athletic, but she is also just learning to run faster with her asthma.  Knowing that she had trouble at the Waterfront 10K,  I came to a full stop – dead in my tracks – and turned around.   “Are you okay?” I called back.  She shook her head.  “Come on, I’ll run you in.”

Approaching the finish.

So we finished the last 2K together.  I wondered if she actually did verbalize “help” or if I imagined it, and I thought about all of those people who just ran past her.  It bothered me when the winner of my age group passed me, and I hated having to stop – twice – to walk with her for a bit.  But in the end, my time didn’t matter.  Doing the right thing was more important.   Making sure that she was okay was most important.  So I talked her through the rest of the race, we finished together and we cheered for her mom as she crossed the finish line.  At that point, I handed her off; she was okay.

In the end, my time was a bit slower than I wanted but I’m okay with that.   If I base my time on my age group’s winning time, I would have met my goal time (assuming that I held my pace).  Monica later gently reminded me that I chose to stop and she was right.  I made the decision to help this girl get to the finish line safely.  For me, that was what mattered on Saturday morning.  There will always be another race.

Waterfront 10K

Months ago, when the Ontario Masters Association announced that the Toronto 10K was going to be its 10K championship race, I knew that I wanted to do it.  Even if my recovery from Boston was slow, I knew that I could be ready to race a 10K more than 8 weeks later.  However, I waited too long to register; by the time I sat down to enter, the race had sold out – 10,000 runners were all set to go and I wasn’t one of them.   Never did I imagine that the race would sell out so quickly.  But I really wasn’t all that surprised; Lululemon had come on board to sponsor this Canadian Running Series (CRS) race and, when Lululemon is involved with any race, it sells out quickly.

I took this as a sign.  First, maybe I did need more rest (and as time progressed further into the spring, it was obvious that I did) and not getting into the race simply forced me to take more time.  Secondly, it gave me a chance to volunteer with my club, Toronto Olympic Club, which always sends marshals to the CRS events.

One of the lessons that I learned from my father was the importance of volunteerism.  As a teacher, I luckily see it at my school on a regular basis; teachers volunteer their time to coach clubs/teams outside of school hours; parents come into the school to help in the classroom, with lunches, fundraising….But I also see a huge lack of volunteers in other areas of my life and it is often the same people who give their time again and again and again. So when I have the time to give back, I like to do just that.

Honestly, though, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about waking up early on Saturday morning.  Since the race started at 7:30 a.m, I had to be out of the house by 5:45 at the latest.  After many days and late nights of testing kids, marking, and writing reports, waking up before 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday was the last thing that I wanted to do.   But I had committed to helping so I set three alarms before falling asleep.  At 5:30, I was out the door and on my way to meet Monica, who was one of the lucky ones, and her boyfriend so that we could head into Toronto together.

One table of water cups ready to go!

After dropping me off, I walked to my post – about 3.5K into the race and just past the first water station.  On the way there, I realized that my bag of cowbells and noise makers was still at home, sitting by the door so I wouldn’t forget them.  Hmmmm….. Fortunately, I did have my teacher voice with me and was all set to put it to work on its own. By 7:00, the volunteers at the water station were almost finished the task of pre-filling hundreds of cups of water.  It was going to be a hot morning (it was already close to 23C) so the runners were going to need it.

I headed to the intersection where I was stationed with another TOC marshal, Chris.  He was organized enough to bring cowbells and, while I hesitated to borrow one, I found myself ringing a “Bell” bell within 15 minutes of the start of the race.

The Waterfront 10K had a variety of participants.   The wheelchair athletes started at 7:30 and they whizzed by on their machines.  They were followed by 6 waves, beginning with the elite athletes and ending with the walkers.  For Chris and me, there seemed to be a never-ending stream of runners.  We watched the tags on the bibs change from red to green to yellow and so on, each colour representing a different wave.  When we saw the first orange bibs come through, we knew that we were close to the end.

While marshalling, we noticed that all runners, no matter how fast or how slow, were giving their best.  We cheered the typical encouraging phrases such as good job, way to go, and you’ve got this.  But knowing that there were designated cheering sections after us, with groups like the Argos cheerleaders, a Jamaican band and a spin bike club, I decided to turn my cheering up a notch: “Good morning, runners!  Let’s wake up Toronto!” and “Let’s rock this town!”  We were simply the opening act for the entertainment to follow; we had to set the cheer standard.  Of course, our bells were ringing loudly and I was told later that they could be heard two blocks away; I’m surprised that I didn’t go home with a blister on my finger.  Every now and then, someone smiled back at us and we knew that our cheering, while a bit crazy, was appreciated.

When we were done our shift, I walked to the finish line at Ontario Place and was able to catch the spin bikes as they were wrapping up.  Ontario Place was busy – after all, thousands of runners and families were going through there – so we left as soon as I found Monica and Stefan.  She ran a speedy 40ish minutes, making her one of the top finishers in a huge race.

While the early start was a bit of a pain, I loved that we were back on the road by 9:30 and heading home.  Looking towards next year, I’m not sure if I do want to race this event.  There was a lot of positive feedback from those who did, but I think the flat course in downtown Toronto may not be what I want in a 10K.  Maybe I’ll return to volunteer again instead.  I have loads of time to decide – well, at least until they open registration for next year’s event.