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Will Run, For Food… or Sucking Face

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Veni, ego ran, comedi…

This is a running story.

I came. I ran. I ate. 

It’s also a story about appetites.

It sounds pretty simple but it’s that middle part about running that always hurts. Sometimes the hurt is good, sometimes it’s the shits.

Either way, it’s a lot of work for a banana and some energy juice like Gatorade…

Actually… this year’s energy drink at the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon Aid Stations was called NUUN… as in NUUN of the good tasting stuff… it should be renamed … YUCK.

Finally, this is a story about different reasons for running.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Not all of the words I write in this post will caress the politically correct or gender-sensitive #MeToo notes that will please you all.

Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Running Reason #1 – As a man, I figure it’s important to subject myself – as if I’m in the throes of childbirth labour – yes, to subject myself to a mere couple of hours of discomfort building into a major pain in my lower half by the finish. Surely this makes me more empathetic to the suffering of my female brethren who bravely bear little vernix-greasy ragamuffins.

Understanding in all its forms makes the world a better place, right?

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Running Reason #2 – One of the big reasons I used to run in marathons and half marathons and 10k races was for the food.

They say that running is supposed to make you a healthy stud but MY big motivator after the gun or horn sounded to begin the race was to drive a mad headlong rush towards the food table at the finish line.

In years past, the food table… sometimes called the refreshment or recharge zone, was an enticing spread: lots of fresh fruit and muffins and donuts and bagels, chilled chocolate milk, occasionally yogurt or ice cream, even pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream. Wine or beer. Guilt-free gluttony.

I’d walk the line, sweat dripping profusely and load my arms to the gunnels with carbs aplenty.

Who wouldn’t run 21.1 or 42.2 kilometres for this buffet of gustatory delight?

More recently, on a tragic note, my experience has been a dwindling of the repasts that greet us sweaty, smelling-like-The-Walking-Dead-zombies at the finish line. They boost entry fees ever higher while trashing the carb quotient… WTF!

In future, I’m going to stage a sit-in at the halfway mark and disobediently refuse to run further until the food situation is remedied… or… they institute a tradition akin to that at the Boston Marathon as outlined below…

Running Reason #3 – The Boston Marathon offers another type of buffet… another appetitic (my word!) temptation for the runners.

Thousands of young women from Wellesley College, scholarly ladies all, line the halfway point of the route in the renowned “Scream Tunnel”.

Kiss Me, I’m an International Student”; “Kiss Me, It’s My First Marathon”; “Kiss Me, I’m an Econ Major”; “Kiss Me, I’m Single”; “Kiss Me, I’ll Try Not To Puke”.

Yes, for decades now, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from Wellesley have mobbed and “signaged” the 21k. point of the marathon: screaming, high-fiving… and… kissing the athletes.

Like ghoulishly-garbed kidlets candy-counting their Halloween loot, the young women compare kiss counts at the end of the day.

And a large group of sweaty, blotchy runners get a joyful moment of reprieve from their discomfort.

OK, it’s maybe not #MeToo friendly, but I won’t judge!

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Running Reason #4 – the final, and for me, the most important reason for running is the endorphin-laced sense of achievement.

Crossing the final few metres of a long run where your Prussian blue New Balance shoes feel like they have gooey bubblegum attached, body caked in salty sweat, scanning the timing clock ticking off the seconds, hearing the cowbells and the announcer’s voice and the loud music is high on the heaven-on-earth scale of inner joy.

Running is a solitary challenge to the body, mind and soul.

Solitary while surrounded by thousands of other human passengers all in alignment with their personal dreams and goals, the joys and sorrows that brought them here to persevere through the taxing kilometres.

Solitary while jostling along the imagined food table line, angling for the freshest, yummiest, chocolate-dipped donut on the serving platter. The final endurance test.

Soul food for the soles.

 

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21.1 Step Program … Kilometre by Kilometre…

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Don’t you just love the delicious wafting scent… the blossoming of ammoniacal urine and floral faeces running through Vancouver’s early spring air ?

Hundreds, no, thousands of anxious runners strung themselves out like soldiers in a mess-hall lineup in front of the sky-blue Porta-Potties for one last disposition of “jitter’s urine”.

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The BMO Vancouver Marathon… or in my case, Half Marathon… 21.1 kilometre run.

The daybreaking sun playfully jumped in and out of the clouds… sometimes making itself visible, other times hiding away in the fluffy bushes like a roguish child.

A blanket of heavy saturating dew hugged the grass beside the roadway in Queen Elizabeth Park, and despite the breezeless calm, a chill still permeated through to my bones: one part cool air, one part pre-race nervousness.

And then the march began… packed into tight “corrals”, fenced in like cattle on our way to the abattoir, the swarms of NIKE-foot’ed, UnderArmour short’ed, Adidas singlet’ed runners moved enthusiastically forward like a hungry serpent… forward… towards the large overhead banner pronouncing RUN|START.

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We sang O Canada loudly and badly and then bass beats of thrumming heart-racing music cranked up… the gun fired and the slow crowded shuffle began, a shuffle that attempted to look something like a run, but was still really a walk.

Thousands of nervously energetic feet and bodies jostled for space and tried to avoid tangles and tumbles. That’s how it is at the start of any large race.

For the first 10 minutes, intense concentration is needed to ensure a safe progression forward. It would be devastating to train for months only to be injured in the first kilometre, or worse, 100 metres.

And then the concentration slowly drifts and slips and finds itself anchored in shady bays and bright harbours never anticipated.

If you’ve ever participated in a run like the half marathon, or any other kind of race, you know the mental games that play over and over in your head…. kilometre by kilometre… the body at work, the mind at work…

Here’s how my mind “played” while my body worked last Sunday morning.

  • 1 km – I could be sleeping in right now. But I never do… so… Why did I sign up for this again? Oh, right. Food at the finish line. This man’s stomach rules. Well, along with another little part of his anatomy. The song running through my head? St. Elmo’s Fire … Rick Hanson’s Man In Motion theme music from years back… I’m psyched. I feel fantastic!

 

  • 2 km – Hey, don’t they film The Walking Dead in Vancouver? Maybe we’re all zombie extras being filmed for the series… Boy does that Cambie Street Bridge ever look majestic in the sunshine. Vancouver is THE best on a bright day.  I could eat it up.

 

  • 3 km – The first water station… I kinda forgot how I’m really bad at drinking water while running… cough, hack… All systems are feeling pretty good…. You never notice the uphill on a bridge when you’re driving but whilst running? Oh yeah…

 

  • 4 km – That downhill side of the bridge makes me feel like Superman, I must be moving at 20 miles per hour…. NOT! Hmmm… BC Place stadium really is BIG! If I were Donald Trump, I’d say it’s ‘UGE!

 

  • 5 km – I wonder what essay question I’ll formulate for my tutoring student next week? … Isn’t that young couple ahead with the matching running shirts and shorts adorable? I’d better slow just a bit, I’ve done this enough times to know about the killer hill coming up… conserve energy!

 

  • 6 km – I really must set myself down and do some songwriting soon… I procrastinate too much … OMG, there’s a McDonalds, I’ll bet those people clapping and cheering are drinking hot lattes… mmmm… alright, another Aid Station… grape Ultima drink by the cupful… tasty, but nowhere near as good as a latte.

 

  • 7 km – I wonder if I could make up some Gaelic curse words? But how would I start? Oh, they probably would just say “Téigh Dtí Diabhail”, but it would be pronounced “fuck” or “feck” to make it simple and universal. Oh oh, I feel a twinge in my left calf muscle. I hate it when I get a twinge, sometimes they become full out cramps or muscle pulls, please let it pass… Téigh Dtí Diabhail…

 

  • 8 km – OK, we’re coming into Chinatown, just listen to those Chinese musicians playing at the side of the road, they’re good… I could stop and listen to them for awhile… nope nope nope! don’t fall for that trick, keep moving along. Calf settled down now, good… the sweat is making my shirt all clingy. I just hope my nipple bandaids hold on.

 

  • 9 km – And I see the hill ahead… here it is… OK, this is good, the hill is pretty long and fairly gradual, but you’re keeping up a good pace. I’m passing quite a few runners, I like that. Last year, I got passed by a lot of runners at this spot, that deflates the hell out of me. Around the corner now and the hill should be finished…YAY!… What? Oh shit… I forgot, the hill continues for another 2 or 300 metres… alright, dig in, you can do this…

 

  • 10 km –  Is the Oxford comma really important to the world, I know I like it, but is it truly necessary? Conclusion? Yes, we need that comma as much as world peace… as much as political truth… Oh no, my mind is totally slipping away. Shouldn’t there be another aid station by now… and where the hell are the gel packs with chocolate goo in them?
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That would be me humming along in the red sleeves and blue shorts…

HALFWAY MARK

  • Great! I loved that nice long, gradual downhill into Yaletown… and the aid station had GELS… I can suck on that chocolate goo for 2 or 3 kilometres and I’ll feel great again. Hey, there’s that restaurant where I played at Open Mic last year. Hmmmm, I think my pace is slowing a little. Holy Smokes that view over the Burrard Inlet is gorgeous…

 

  • 12 km – the crowds are getting bigger at the roadside… I loved that sign back there that said, “Run like United tried to take your seat!“… or another… “Worst Parade Ever!“… the cheering folks help to lower the pain levels… thanks everyone… drinks on me at the finish line!

 

  • 13 km – time for a full physical assessment. Checklist: Lungs are doing great, no hard breathing or going anaerobic… that’s the Devil’s Kiss. Upper body is relaxed and comfortable. Nipples are still bandaid’ed and happy. Feeling some stiffness in the hip flexors, I’ve worked hard on building strength in those babies, maybe not enough though… I’ll have to keep monitoring that area… Mission Control says all systems still GO!

 

  • 14 km – Let me overthink a bit here… Investing in my head… is Apple becoming too expensive to continue holding, did I inadvertently buy L Brands (Victoria’s Secret) for “boyish” reasons other than a great investment thesis? What was that song that Johnny Cash sang? 25 Minutes To Go… a countdown to an execution, a certain death… why would that song be coursing through my head right now?

 

  • 15 km – Good thing I released that blog post last night and didn’t wait until early this morning. I wonder what I’ll write about next week… hey, perhaps a chronicle of this race kilometre by kilometre… maybe? OK, just entering Stanley Park, the sun on the tall cedars ahead is so lovely. I’m in a good group of runners right now, we’re all pacing each other perfectly.

 

  • 16 km – I wonder if all of these runners know that the BIG secret to having a successful race is to have a complete BM before the run… so important… the look on some of their faces says to me PROBABLY NOT! What an enchanting tunnel of trees we’re passing through… I feel like Anne of Green Gables riding a buggy through the Lane of Apple Blossoms.

 

  • 17 km – OK, this is where I know I often run into huge fatigue, should I slow my pace to conserve some energy for the finish… did my track training do enough to boost my stamina for the last 4 kilometres? Decision time? OK, I’m gonna stay on this pace for as long as I can and we’ll see if those old hip flexors hold up… fingers crossed.

 

  • 18 km – Damn, I hate being a guy, the tight bums on the two young ladies ahead of me are mesmerizing. I’ll try to use them for distraction to cover the pain that’s seeping in and make the next kilometre pass quickly. I really think those chocolate gels give me a boost. I may not have the energy that I had at the start, but I rarely feel this good this far into the race.

 

  • 19 km – Jeezus, even these small climbs in Stanley Park feel like mountains now. I can look over the water to the North Shore mountains, but the scenery is losing its awe-inspiring luster. I can feel dry salt on the palms of my  hands… dehydration signs. We’re heading into survival mode from here on out. The discomfort levels are climbing… climbing… climbing…

 

  • 20 km – Gimme a break buddy… we’re on a narrow pathway just before we veer into downtown Vancouver and you just have to take a selfie while you’re running… and veering back and forth in front of a few of us runners who are looking ahead to the finish… IDIOT, you could have caused a major crash and for what?? OK, I can tell I’m getting really tired and grump…. wait a sec…. I can see the FINISH LINE!! Pick up the pace lad, you can do it!

21.1 km – THE FINISH – the crowds are as big and loud and as enthusiastic as ever… hey, I see my gang over there cheering… Hi Guys, it’s me! I hear Steve King’s famous announcer’s voice calling out our names over the loud rock music as we near the line… there’s fire raging through my lungs, lead weights in my legs…

Keep pushing, faster, harder, stronger… and… AND…. we’re there!!!

YAY! Holy Smokes… sunshine and orgasmic exhaustion, a pretty special combination, a good combination, a life affirming combination.

OK, 2:02:16, not my best time ever, but I feel pretty good, maybe a bit wobbly, nothing a sandwich, a cookie, a banana, and lots of fluid won’t correct. Thanks for the finisher’s medal, smiley lady! Look at all the race photographers snapping pics of us beat up but smiling finishers.

I think I’m glad that I got up this morning.

It’s a Téigh Dtí Diabhail’ing good morning.

 

 

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