STWM: Giving Back

pc: C. Bedley

I am always impressed by anyone who can run a half-marathon in 1:15.  But if you can do it in a banana suit, you have earned a whole new level of respect.  On Sunday, at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, American Melvin Nyain did just that.

I spent the morning marshalling at the marathon and was stationed at the 13K point. As expected, the first groups of runners came through about 40 minutes after the start.  There were two groups of competitive men were followed by a third group of men pacing elite women, who were being chased by the second group of elite women, followed by a banana.  Yes, the fastest marathon women in the world were being chased by Melvin Nyain who was dressed in a banana costume.  When he crossed the finish line, Nyain broke the world record for running a half-marathon dressed as a fruit (1:15:35).   This is one of the many things that made me smile last Sunday morning.

As a runner, I am grateful to the many volunteers who drag themselves out in the early morning to help at races.  It’s quite simple; without them, races simply wouldn’t happen.  So it’s important that I give back when I can.  My running club always helps at the Canada Running Series races and the STWM is one of my favourite events to work.  This year’s races attracted  25 000 runners which included a field of elite runners (and several Canadians vying for a spot in the 2020 Olympics), costumed runners like Nyain who were trying to break world records, and thousands more hoping to BQ, achieve a personal goal, target the finish line, or check off a life goal.  Whatever their reason, the runners made the day a fun one for volunteers.

Aside from cheering on friends and strangers, there were many highlights to my morning:

  1. Seeing the first group of elite men come into sight. Fluid and graceful, they left me feeling wowed.
  2. Watching the elite Canadian women run. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of national pride as they raced towards their ticket to next year’s Olympics.
  3. Cheering on the banana man.  “Go, Banana!” And, yes, I actually did yell this.
  4. An end of the pack runner who ran up to me and quietly asked, “Can I give this to you?”  I looked at her hands, expecting to see a card asking for money or giving me some information on some charitable organization.  But she was holding an empty gel pack; she didn’t want to leave it on the road.   “Sure!” I smiled.  How could I say no?
  5. Cheering on my friends as they passed me.  It was such a sea of runners that I felt bug-eyed looking for them a few called my name before I spotted them.  I absolutely loved cheering for them, getting high fives and sweaty hugs.
  6. Seeing the costumed runners, especially this one from “Game of Thrones.”
  7. Seeing the very last of the runners and walkers come through, emphasizing that the marathon is truly a race of commitment and perseverance.  For them, it isn’t about how fast or slow you are; it’s about getting the job done.  It’s about finishing what you started.

The best part of the day, though, was hanging out with my high school friend, Anya, whom I have kept in touch with but haven’t seen in  over 30 years.  When I heard she was in Toronto, I sent her a message to see if she wanted to marshall with me on Sunday morning and she jumped at the chance.   This shows how strong the running community is; we encourage and support each other, whether we’re friends or strangers.    We’ve all been on a race course and benefitted from the virtue of strangers so it is important that we take the opportunity to give back.  And if you can do it on a day when you see a man in a banana suit chasing a group of elite women, you’ve had an extra special day.

Just Keep Running

Yesterday, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was almost at the end of my last week building up to the Chicago Marathon.   Running-wise, I had hoped to make this my highest mileage week but, as a mom and a teacher, this was my busiest week outside of training.  By Wednesday, it was obvious that I had to trust the training that I had done to this point; the goal for the week was just to keep running.

Early morning run
Love the peace that comes from running early in the morning.

Monday was a planned rest day and I spent my after-school time fulfilling mom duties.  On Tuesday, I got two runs in (5K in the morning and 8K at night) as planned, but I coached my first soccer practice on Wednesday night, leaving no time to run.  Despite a busy Thursday, I was able to make it another double day (5K in the morning, 12K at night), followed by an easy 6K on Friday after school.

Friday’s miles were tough.  My legs hurt – right behind the knees, both of them.  Looking back, I think it was from falling asleep late at night on the couch and overstretching the ligaments.  At the time, though, I was certain it was running-related so I did what most runners would do; I panicked.   I couldn’t be injured, not this close to Chicago.

That night, I decided to go to a power yoga class where I could give my legs the stretch that they needed. yoga drop I had been avoiding Friday night classes for weeks as I often end up dehydrated and that effects me the next day on my long run.   But the fear of injury trumped the fear of dehydration.  Fortunately, it did help but not enough.   I went to bed exhausted from the week and frustrated by the pre-marathon aches and pains.  On Saturday morning,  I woke up feeling better but not quite healthy enough to run long.

This weekend, then, I flipped my long run with my recovery distance.  Yesterday, I ran a gentle 15K, using the time to work on my form and stride.  After 30 minutes into my run, my legs were starting to feel more normal and, by the time I got home, they were fine.  I was ready for my long run.

This morning, I headed out the door while the dudes and hubby were sound asleep.  I had 35K in the books and wanted a 20K tempo in the middle.  An hour after heading out, I popped back home to grab some Gatorade before I started; the littlest dude was awake and happily watching television, seemingly oblivious to my presence.  I wondered if his older brother was still going to get up, as promised, and ride with me through the last 10K of my tempo; I was counting on him for fuel.   “He’s reliable,” I reminded myself.  “He’ll find me on course.”

My tempo was on a 5K loop – into the wind for 1K, down a hill and into the wind, uphill, down another less windy hill, and into the wind again until the end of the loop.  I had to run four of them.  The first three were fine;  pacing was exactly where I wanted to be, but I suddenly started to feel nauseous at 17K, probably from the lack of water/fluids; it was obvious that the Littlest Dude was still the only one awake at home.  I pushed through the next kilometre but had to stop at 18K.  I was done.  I decided to cool down and head home, for a total of 33K instead of 35K.  What was interesting is I ended up keeping my pace the same without thinking about it.  Sure enough, by the time I got home, one long tempo and a cool-down later,  the Littlest Dude was still the only one awake!

post long runSo, in my busy week with a birthday, a swimming lesson, soccer coaching (twice),  another soccer game and countless driving commitments from here to there, and work, I ended up with a fairly successful week.   With a bit of creativity and juggling things around, I finished the week with 83K and a tempo that had been a bit of a monkey on my back.  Now I can put my feet up in the air and start to enjoy the taper.