On Christmas Day in 1894, Billy Carroll, the Hamilton Herald Newspaper and a cigar store owner, was the original sponsor of a 30 km run called Around the Bay. It is the oldest road race in North America; its inception 3 years before the Boston Marathon. Its early winner, Jack Caffery, went on to be the first Canadian to win the Boston Marathon. Hoping to make my mark in history, I too, sign up for the Around the Bay Race. And, it does not disappoint. In fact, it turns out to be a historical run for me too, but for a very different reason…
My friend, who is going to run with me, Betty Ann, drops out because of a hip injury. A team of highly skilled experts are trying to put her back together. Her right butt cheek is getting more attention than the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate. Regretfully she trades in her running sessions for physio sessions. Consequently, I trade in my running buddy for a running bunny.
Unlike Bugs Bunny, a chocolate bunny or the Easter bunny, running bunnies are actually pace rabbits and in fact, they aren’t rabbits at all. They are people; kind volunteers who run the entire race wearing paper rabbit ears on their head and hold a sign with a designated time. These poor sods do all the hard work for you. They run the entire race at the pace required to finish at a particular time. And, Shannon, my impromptu running buddy, and I spot a very sporty 3:15 bunny. All I need to do is follow the ears and I will finish my race in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Perfect!
And, we’re off. All is going well. It’s a bright and sunny day, I’m feeling good and I manage to keep my favourite rabbit in my line of sight. Now, Hamilton is a steel town, so I’m sure it is not known for its air purity or sweet smells, but something doesn’t compute. I look around for the farmer’s field that we must be passing. Nothing. Just homes and road. Another waft. No, I’m not imagining it. Then I spot it--or maybe it spots me, I’m not sure. Either way, it is horrifying!
When you run, there is a lot of jostling going on and toxins tend to ‘escape’. And, when it comes to wind, I can out perform some of the very best (ask my husband). Even our dog, Hank, will leave the room in disgust and he’s been caught with his head willingly in the cat’s litter box.
Running can produce hazardous emissions and leakage, but when the whole exhaust system falls out, Houston, we have a problem. And, I am running directly down wind of a problem who is also keeping pace with the 3:15 bunny.
Now this is not an uncommon situation. I’ve had some near misses myself (see previous post The Real Victory) and at first I am full of pity. That poor lady I think to myself. It is obvious, though, that she is completely aware of her misfortune as there is a Kleenex clinging to the offending portion of her running tights. So, I discreetly move to the left of the pack to avoid her tail wind (no pun intended).
Things are going relatively well for the next few minutes until I am again hit with the slap of pungency. I look up and see that she has migrated to my side of the pack. Even the tissue can’t take it anymore as it is now missing and the offensive stain is increasing in size, taking on a life form of its own. I dodge to the right.
Uggg! There it is again. Breathe through your mouth, breathe through your mouth I tell myself. I am finding my empathy waning. Compared to her, a dirty baby diaper smells like Chanel No 5.
I am getting just a little bit resentful. She’s laughing and chatting with runners around her as though nothing is at all unusual. I could understand if she was in the front, running for prize money or qualifying for Boston. This is obviously not the case, because she is going my pace, exactly my pace, only a few feet in front of me! I think I would have been happier if she publicly defecated in the ditch, at least then the malodour would be stationary and I could go past it, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it grew legs and chased me all the way to the finish line.
The other option is to pass her. However I don’t have the gas. At least not as much as she does…
So, for almost 20 km I become a lane changing, swerving freak, trying to avoid the nauseous smell that is taunting my stomach to empty its contents.
I put myself in her shoes (or pants) and I couldn’t do it. I am constantly asking Shannon if I have any remnants of gel stuck in my teeth which doesn’t even register on the embarrassment meter compared to this. If this happened to me I would be wrapped up in a fetal position in a porta potty somewhere crying like a baby or dragging my hind end on the grass like a dog with tape worms. I would have to leave the race, hide in the bushes, then walk back to the start line (at least I would be facing the runners) and wash my pants out in a Tim Horton’s toilet if need be.
In another Hamilton--Hamilton, Bermuda, there is a beautiful subterranean cavern called the Crystal Cave. I was fortunate enough to visit once and was awed by the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, icicle-shaped rock formations hanging from the walls.
Back in Hamilton, Ontario, some stalactites and stalagmites of a totally different nature are forming in one cavern that I would not buy a ticket to see. Enough is enough. It is just too much to endure. I fall back and watch the 3:15 bunny ears hop away from me. Suddenly the air quality improves and I’m feeling at peace. I pass a grave yard. RIP, I think 'Run in Peace'.
I have never run this far before in my life, so the next day I proudly wear my shirt. I go to the grocery store and when I turn around to put my groceries in the cart, the lady behind me smiles and says, “Well, you certainly look good for your age.”
“Thank you.” How does she know my age anyway? I must be emitting a healthy glow from yesterday’s run.
Off to the Mazda dealer to get my car serviced. After paying for the oil change, I turn and the man behind me looks at me quizzically. “Really?” he asks. I guess he is impressed that I ran 30 km!
Into the bank. Leaving the teller, a teenager stares at me and mutters, “It’s possible.”
I am confused by all the attention I am getting. I go home and look in the mirror, the race crest on the front of my shirt. I take off the shirt to place it in the laundry basket when my eye catches the back. It simply reads, “Older than Boston.”
* A special thank you goes out to Shannon who came up with the stalactite and stalagmite metaphor!