“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”Dean Karnazes
The first piece of good news about the Waterfront Marathon was that the weather, predicted all week to be rainy and cold, decided to be sunny and bright. The other good thing was that thirteen of my family and extended family were running either the Half or the Full (one niece calculated that collectively we would travel 358.7 kilometres).
|Duncan setting the pace - one of 13|
in our family who ran Sunday
Once we finally got underway, the first fifteen minutes of running felt reasonably normal. It’s a great course, flat and open, with some typically rough urban pavement along the way to keep you alert. I basked in the collective energy of the thousands like me who were setting off on their adventure.Then I took a large sidestep to hop over one of the zillions of streetcar tracks along the route, and felt my hamstring protest; painfully. OK, I thought, just baby steps today. And so the next 40 kilometres were run with a sort of half stride on one side. I couldn’t extend my left leg much more than 15 degrees forward from vertical, so I adapted.
My shortened gait certainly slowed me down. The good thing was that I wasn’t in a hurry, which was just as well, since I couldn’t have been even if I had wanted to be. If I had tried to move at any kind of decent speed I would have looked like someone running in one of those Keystone Kops movies, shot at 14 frames per second and projected at 24.
|Hurts so good!|
At about 7K I came up on my brother Gord who was doing the Half. He too had been suffering from injuries but had decided at the last minute to give it a go. So we travelled together for an hour or so, which helped pass the time, and the distance. At 20K most of the runners left the course and headed to their Half-Marathon finish, and the marathoners diverged to begin their lonely journey eastward. It was a distinct moment: we had taken the less travelled path that ends at the finish line of a marathon. We were defined.
I have run marathons that seemed effortless, or at least, that have gone by with relative smoothness. Every athlete knows the feeling of clicking on all cylinders, when your body seems totally onside with your heart and mind. This was not one of those days for me.At about 27K, with my left hamstring hobbling my stride, my right foot decided to make it a duet by reminding me of my old pinched nerve, the one that had brought my 2009 Comrades Marathon to a crashing halt. I had to stop at every aid station to take off my shoe and rub some life into my poor metatarsals.
“I am alive, and I’m moving forward”, is my running mantra. It began to feel as if I was barely correct on both counts. I basically shuffled through the closing 10K of the course, moving forward, albeit at a glacial pace. I entered the moments of transcendental solitude I have written about.
At least now I was balanced, with
discomfort on both sides. It was annoying that I had plenty of life in my legs
and could have quite enjoyed the run if not for the mechanical problems. But unlike
other sports equipment, our bodies are given to us for free—and sometimes
they do what they will in spite of our best laid plans.
|No feeling like that finish feeling|
As I ran up Bay Street into the chutes to finish my slowest marathon ever, I was giving an audible thank you to my body for carrying me the distance in spite of the problems. I had been to the well many times that day, but was somehow filled just as much as needed. Marathon number 22 was in the books.
|Basking in the sun at the finish line|