Stroller at the Sun Run, Race Report, 2013

Stroller at the Sun Run, Race Report, 2013

I know, I know! Another race report. Last one for a while, promise.

I hadn’t planned on running the Sun Run with a stroller. I did it last year and I swore, “Never again.” It took me over an hour to get to the start line with a cranky baby in hand and a full bladder in tow. The rest of the run was spent swerving, dodging and spending every ounce of energy with the focus of a Jedi Warrior to not run anyone over.

Ama was a little bummed that she couldn’t run the Boston Marathon with me and as my constant training companion, she deserves to enjoy the events just as much as I do.

Saturday was my first day back post Boston. 5k easy. OK, not easy. The quad in my good leg (of all legs) seized up on me 3k in and I had to hobble/walk back. Luckily, my wonderful friend Yun was there to push the stroller and I back home.

I showed up race day planning on walking it, stroller and all.

In a show of support for Boston, all those participating in the Sun Run who were at the marathon were invited on stage to join in a moment of silence to a beautifully played trumpet solo. And after it, we were led, along with the big ticket runners, to the starting line.

They saw the stroller and hmmm’d. I don’t know what John said but something about me being courteous and the world record holder for female stroller push… they let me in and told me to stay out of the way. I of course understood why they wouldn’t want me in front, nothing would grate at my soul more than getting in another runner’s route to a PB.

Luckily I am used to running in tight fast moving packs with a stroller and instead of running for speed (which was not happening anyway), I ran to stay out of the way and send love to the fasties blasting past me like I was the hobbled stroller mama I was.

Ama and I had a great time. I was so happy to have her along to enjoy the moment.

Never has there been a race quite like this one was for me. Seeing the sea of blue and yellow ahead, being out there, running again. Running again with others like me. Those that had felt the pain in Boston. Those whose hearts still ached.

The spectators were louder than ever before, the air fresher, the people happier.

I felt that we were all out there running for the sheer love of it. I know Ama and I were.

Several people in our club got PBs that day. One even lopped 3 minutes off of her time despite being almost 10 years older.

Ama and I ran 46 minutes. No where near my fastest 10k time.

Like most of my best races, it wasn’t the time that mattered. That makes two of the best races in my life in one week. Both injured, uncomfortable and slow… but I was loving every minute.

I am reminded of some wise words I heard recently, “Life is too ironic. It takes sadness to know what happiness is, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.”

Not that I wouldn’t appreciate running injury free, but I’ll appreciate a run how ever I can get it.

My race report, Boston

My Race Report, Boston

It was an emotional race for me all the way round. I started the year with a solid base of long slow miles, perhaps the best chunk of training I have been able to string together since the accident. I managed another post-accident PB at the First Half in February. Things were looking up.

Then came the months of March and April… 10k hurt… even walking hurt. Things were looking down.

I went into this race scared. John treated me every day leading up with a combination of massage and acupuncture. I was seemingly always stretching or foam rolling, some times twice a day.

I went for my typical pre-race shake out jog the day before and was hobbling before even hitting the exit ramp from the hotel. I could hardly run 400m. How was I ever going to make it 42.2k?

In the elevator post shake out run, a man was on his cellphone and I could hear one end of what sounded like an interesting conversation.

“Yes, I’m going to watch the marathon”
“You have to see it”
“These people… they run so far and are in so much pain, but at the same time they’re happy”
“Truly happy”
“Yeah, either that or they’ve got something figured out.”

I resolved that no matter how sore I was, I could move forwards. I could always walk – or if my foot gave out, I could always hop. I could find a way. That’s what the marathon is all about.

The race atmosphere was just as super-charged and awesome as you might imagine. I was so glad to have my good friend Tim with me. He’s just the right mix of calm and enthusiasm. But even after Tim took off, I clearly was not alone.

Usually the marathon is a lone endeavour. Battling demons and overcoming that voice that gnaws at you to quit. The voice of reason. That very loud and convincing voice that has gotten you this far in life. The one you must pay no credence to if you want to run 26.2 miles.

There were make shift booths offering runners whatever they thought they might need: oranges, gatorade, bananas, band-aids, water, vaseline. Free. Just out of the goodness of their hearts.

We loaded the corrals and the gun went off while the volunteers joked with us, encouraged us and collected our garbage.

My friend Tim told me that you could slap the hands of the spectators for 26.2 miles straight. This was, surprisingly, not the exaggeration it sounds like.

I had on my Canada singlet. So for the next 3 hours, I would hear an endless string of anthem singing and various forms of, “Go Canada!”

The people that lined the streets cheered for each and every person with such passion that you would think you were the only one out there. I slapped hands. So many hands my palms were blotchy.

I would want to walk many times. I had a cramp in my foot, pelvic floor and back. I would get a surprise zinger just-often-enough-to-not-know-it-was-coming above my left hip. I would want to stop, I would want to walk. But I wouldn’t.

I stopped to stretch every few K near the end, and on every occasion, someone would jump to help me: offering me orange slices, encouragement or a pat on the back. Usually all three.

“You can do this,” they said. And I decided to believe them. Despite everything my body was saying. “I can do this.”

I dug so deep in that final stretch to the finish line. Not so I could run fast. Just so that I could keep running. My time was almost 20 minutes off of my PR – but it was the hardest race I have ever run.

At the finish line, people were dropping to their knees and kissing the floor. They were embracing with such passion. Complete strangers. Tears flowed. People hobbled down the chute, exhausted and yet elated.

My eyes welled under my sun glasses. I was making an odd noise… maybe considered a heave. The whole right side of my body was cramped up from my hip to my shoulder. It was making breathing very difficult. The man beside me threw his arm around me, rubbed my shoulder and walked me down the chute in silence.

Volunteers stepped out to congratulate me with articulate and sincere gestures. My eyes welled some more. I thought about every person that had been there along the route. Every one of them was so sincere. So many connections, brief but powerful. The human spirit.

We met up at the end and hoped the train. This is when the mayhem started.

The marathon is one hell of a boring event to watch. There is hardly any real competition. No body checks. No pushing. No ref. Just people slowing coming unraveled at the seam, trying to find the strength to press on. The sport requires almost no talent save for at it’s highest levels. All it takes is human spirit and the desire to struggle.

And humans are not meant to struggle on their own.

Those spectators were there with us, literally every step of the way, to support us in that struggle, each one driving us closer to the finish line with everything they had. To help us find that strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Complete strangers. There, only to support people in their own personal struggle to finish what is often the most difficult journey of their’s lives. Inspired by that struggle. In this busy competitive world. It is as if the world stopped for that day and we were all there to feel the essence of the human spirit in it’s persistence and connection to one another.

In a world where people feel so removed, where community feels so fragmented – people join up like this every year to embrace someone else’s personal struggle. There is something so deeply touching about that concept. And in that, something so profoundly painful about what happened next.

Boston terrorist attack

I will write an official race report. But right now nothing I went through seems to matter.
After clearing the finish area, we decided to leave downtown on the train to have lunch near our friend Tim’s place. We crammed on a train and set off. A nice man gave Ama and I his seat. Ama was entertaining the whole train as usual. At the next stop an announcement came on telling us to leave the terminal due immediately due to an emergency. Not one person on the crammed train budged. We figured for whatever reason that since we were on the train, the announcement didn’t apply. He meant us and reiterated that. Soon the stairwell up was flooded. Somehow tired marathon legs found the strength to push up a flight of stairs carrying Ama. At this point, I had a feeling there was a bomb, and I continued down the street rather than figuring out where to go right outside. People were rushing around in all directions, some panicked, some confused. Then sirens everywhere, and the police and military sprang into action. It was absolute confusion and fear. We had no idea how many bombs, where or how big. Everyone was being move out but the trains were closed. We lucked out on a cab – but when it came we had to fight for it and thankfully Tim’s wonderful girlfriend Carol Ann, held tight. I held Ama close and buckled her in since we had no car seat. 
Car seat or not, that car ride out of there felt much safer. It was also the first time we figured out what was going on. “I don’t know just get out of here” was all we heard until then. Something about it “being in the bleachers.”
As we rode away, a seemingly endless trail of ambulances and police cars stormed into town. Runners were getting pulled off course. One to the horrific news her friend was one of the injured.
It’s hard not to think about what might have been if the train was a second slower or I would have walked and Ama and John would have wandered over to see me finish. But it does no good. We lost an eight year old girl today along with another 2 lives. And over a hundred were injured. No one should ever have to live or die anything like this. 
The hardest part might be that this attack was targeted at the spectators… and due to it’s low placement children. People don’t come to run Boston for the course. They come for the fabulous people that line the course for 26.2 miles to cheer for each runner like they were the only one out there. They come to offer things to complete strangers for nothing in return. The people that line these streets are the salt of this earth and it pains me so deeply that anyone would harm them.
Tension was still running high on the airplane. It’s the only time I’ve heard an announcement that passengers are not allow into the cockpit and that the door is bulletproof.
You should always count yourself lucky when your family is safe, happy and healthy. Today is a weird mix of immense pain for the wounded, dead and their families -and thankfulness that we made it out.