Friday, December 6, 2013

A Different Kind of Race

It always seems impossible until its done.
- Nelson Mandela

I always thought it was impossible for me to be in the same room as Mayor Rob Ford (please note the loose and approximate use of the word Mayor). That is, until last night.

While attending a charity function to raise money for the typhoon victims in the Philippines at Toronto's notorious Virgin Mobile's Mod Club, in walked none other than Rob Ford.

Deadpan and straight-faced, the woman next to me said of the three quarters filled room, “Rob Ford is here? He'll fill out the room.”

Rob Ford is here? I'll try not to crack up.” came another voice along the bench.

I couldn't help myself, I found myself laughing.

I turned around to see the Toronto Mayor standing but 6 feet away from me, larger than life (as the expression goes)...red-faced and surrounded by an entourage of equally space-requiring mammals.

Never in a million-and-one years could I have predicted this set of circumstances even in my wildest dreams. Quite frankly, I just don't run in his crowd.

If nothing else, this was definitely a triumphant Facebook status opportunity if I ever saw one. Thank goodness (and Karen H.) for the modern miracle of cell phones.

"I am in the same room as Rob Ford…not on purpose, mind you."

The responses came fast and furious:

“RUN!!!”

“WHAT?!??

“Where are you and what at you doing??”

“Are you dealing now??”

Wow, this was a stellar status update to elicit multiple punctuation markings at the end of every entry.

I took a picture of John next to the mayor. Expecting John to give a polite “Thank you,Your Worship” or a nod and a “Mayor Ford” or even, maybe, just maybe a casual “Thank you, Mr. Ford” I almost catapulted into hysterics when my ears rang with a broad Cockney accent, a slap on the back and a cheerful, “Thanks, Rob” with a first-name familiarity often only shared by the likes of college roommates or fishing buddies.

Then guilt overtook me. I had been objectifying this man. He was so surreal to me he was like a cartoon character in my mind. But, standing there right in front of me I realized that he and I were in the same race—the human race. He is human, albeit a drug-using, lying, often crass, poor decision-making, sufferer from the illness of addictions, maybe (as in for sure) delusional, best friend of criminals, runs with gang members, extortionists and possibly murderers--human. But human, just the same. He is someone's husband, father, brother and sadly, still someone's mayor. Maybe I was laughing at him to distance myself from what he represents--that humans, my race, our race, are capable of such behaviour. Because if he is capable of such things and I am made of the same stuff, what does that make me? My mind doesn't even want to go there. Is it possible that we could all be painted with the same brush strokes?

My cynical self thinks he was there for good PR but his brother did make a donation (not sure if he used the City of Toronto stationary) but I don't know his heart and should not stand in judgement of that act. I am sure regardless of motive the money will contribute to the good of the people of the Philippines. And, God bless him for that.

Something else happened yesterday. Nelson Mandela passed from this life. What an incredible icon who lived life within the context of the “whole picture.” He dedicated his life tackling racism, poverty and inequity. He spent 27 years of his life imprisoned. But, the greater the grief, the greater the triumph and when he was released he later became the first black President of South Africa. He served one term and did not run for office again, instead, seeing the greater good and worked fighting HIV and poverty through his Nelson Mandela Foundation. Some say, and arguably so, he is the most celebrated political figure ever.

Mandela's life is good news for me because he is also in the same race as I—the human race. There is hope. If I only affect positive change to a miniscule fraction of what he did, I would have lived my life well.

True, we are all in the same race, but how we run it is up to us. We have a choice. I remember the first time running the Ottawa Marathon and noticing people in wheel chairs, another with only one leg, large people, small people, fit people, struggling people. But they were all moving.

Forward.

With purpose.

With the finish line in mind.

Different paces, different resolve, some fast, some slow, some doing a good job, some not so much. We are all struggling in our own way.

We only have one shot during any given race...and at being human.

With communication being unlike any other era, we have witnessed unbelievable human depravity and selfishness. Likewise, we have also seen incredible sacrifice, love and compassion.

The human race has it all—the good, the bad; the in between. But, as Mr. Mandela said himself, “Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

He also said, “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

You certainly can rest in peace, Mr. Mandela. Yes you can.

The human race—our greatest gift is that we get to choose how we run it.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do Less, Be More

My dad has been helping (well, I use the word "helping" loosely. It is more like single-handedly spear-heading) the entire renovation of the ailing, basement bathroom. Taking a gamble on a Sunday night, we drove to a local big box hardware store, knowing full-well it would be closed.

Our pre-conceived notion was confirmed when we saw three lonely cars in the vast asphalt acreage the size of a small South American rainforest.

“Just drive by the doors just in case.” I suggested.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked at the posted hours. Not only was it still open, we had a full half hour to spare.

“It's not supposed to happen this way for me,” my dad said. It's amazing how incredibly happy you can be when you set the bar low.

It was definitely the most memorable and pleasant experience I have ever had in a hardware store. The weather was abysmal so the cavernous, empty store greeted us with 10 eager employees bored out of their skulls, competing at the chance to help us find an obscure mechanism for a toilet. It was kind of like a new reality show: “Survivor Hardware,” “Lowe's Got Talent” or “Home Depot Idol.” It was all about who could find a toilet flapper the fastest.

My birthday was just over a week ago and it was one of those days when all the planets aligned and all the cosmos complied. In the minds of many, a birthday reminds them of the day they were born. Since last year, my birthday is different kind of anniversary marker. It is, and will always be, in my mind, the day my mother came home from the hospital last year. What was supposed to be a day surgery lingered longer, but she was strong and kicking on my birthday and was released. It is a good day. In fact, I consider it lucky.

Since it was my birthday, I had to renew my license. However, I was suffering from a condition known as “Plate Denial”. Although it sounds like a mental illness, it has more to do with not paying your ETR 407 bill on time. However, one could argue that driving on the ETR without a transponder doesn't speak too favourably about one's state of mind in the first place. I was concerned. The bill was the size of the GNP of a developing country and I didn't think I could catch it up in a day.

So, I phoned the ETR and was told that I didn't have to pay the whole bill as only a small portion was overdue. In fact, I could pay it at the location where I renewed my license. Of course, this was the case. It's my birthday.

When I got to Service Ontario, they renewed my license without hesitation. Not even a hint that I was a seriously wanted criminal on the run from the authorities of the ETR. I couldn't help myself. I asked.

“Oh, that's just for sticker renewal, not for your license. And, you bought the two year renewal last year and don't need to renew this year.”

Of course I did. It's my birthday.

A friend awaiting biopsy results got great news and sent me a joyous email. Of course I expected this result. It's my birthday.

Lyndsay texted me from Walmart. She just heard from the vet. Her lovely cat, Eugene's results were favourable. His liver was improving. Of course I knew this would happen. After all, it's my birthday.

It simply was one of those rare days when the flow is all in one direction—mine. I realize that most days won't be like this and sometimes it is necessary to just lower expectations and become joyous for no real reason. We all need a time to re-charge, feel accomplished and whole.

My current goal with running is to just get out there three times a week. I am not worrying about how far or how fast. It is now week three and I'm pretty much on target and it's good. Karen, still spinning from her New York City Marathon, is now trying snow shoe running and Cross-fit. Lyndsay is attempting a ropes class and yoga (however, she informed me that it was more like paying a fee to try not to pass wind for 1 1/2 hours. She was pleased to report, however, that she was able to hold it all in well until the last five minutes of silent meditation, when she had squeezed so hard that the gas was now escaping internally causing a high pitched stomach noise.)

My niece, Terri Lynn, told me that her family was “trying to do less and be more.” I think that is amazing. I know one day I will be motivated and excited about training hard for a race—and so will Karen and Lyndsay. But not today, Today, like my birthday, is a day to regenerate—just a day to rejoice, reflect and enjoy what comes my way. I want to temporarily lower my expectations, and really celebrate the small, do-able victories. I want to just accept my current level of motivation and energy and just “be”.


Yep, 'tis the season to do less, be more!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Always look for the leopard print shoes


It's been a bad day. Don't get me wrong, not a devastating Armageddon, WW III or even terrible news at the doctor's office kind of bad day but a rotten day just the same. More of a stub your toe, ran out of toothpaste, forgot to get cat food, spilled tea on your new shirt, CRA wants to do a tax-audit, flat tire, speeding ticket, a virus erased all your financial records on your hard drive, Outlook locked you out of your email until you remember the name of your great grandmother's second grade teacher, your electricity is cut off because you forgot to pay the bill on time, the “check engine” light is flashing, your dog got sprayed by a skunk and the toilet overflowed and wrecked the ceiling drywall in the basement kind of day. This may be hyperbole, but sadly only slightly so. There were more ups and down in my day than a Canada Wonderland roller coaster.

Unfortunately this trend has also extended to my running. Instead of a bad day, it has been more of a bad year running-wise. Injury, a tumble on the ice, weather, distractions and flailing commitment has blown me off course. This was never more apparent than a couple of weeks ago. Tim Horton's must be right because apparently I “always have time for Tim Horton's”--especially slap dab in the middle of what was supposed to be a 16 km run.

Instead of completing the run, I bailed, trading in strides and sweat for a cozy steeped tea and bagel, sending Karen and Jan to go tell my ride to come back and pick me up at the fast food joint. Why do 16 when you can stop at 10 and drink tea?

It's funny how it sometimes seems easier to handle the large, catastrophic events in our life, yet the little, niggling irritants can throw us into a spiral of unbelievable discord. Luckily, the unexpected surprises are what can also pull us back up. It can be a just as small, and seemingly insignificant event to turn things around.

It was one such event that snapped me back into consciousness from my coma of sheer misery. While awaiting my grandson's dismissal from school, a parent waltzed by who caught my attention. I was sitting on the curb so I was at about knee level as she passed me.

Wrapped in sunglasses and full jihab, exposing only her face, this demure mother walked on. You might not have been able to see her face, but you certainly could see her soul. She wore it in her feet. From the top of her head to the bottom of her legs, she belonged to Allah, but from the ankle down she was all infidel, baby. Her leopard print, diamond-studded, 10 inch cork platform high heels rivalled anything the Bee Gees ever wore. There was more bling on her shoes than at a Eminem concert. Her bright red toe nails would make for a great poster board on the red light district of Amsterdam. I guess if that's all you are allowed to show, you might as well flaunt it. Although, technically, she was probably following the rules, I'm not sure the spirit of the law was being observed. Those feet were were so unexpected, so in contrast with the rest of her that it made me smile. I couldn't help it.

It is those unexpected, wonderful miracles that add the spice and texture to our lives. They can lift us from the worst pain and agony in a milli-second. All we need to do is notice them.

Lyndsay is running a marathon very soon in Prince Edward County and Karen and Jan are representing Team Fox at the New York City Marathon this year. (If you want to learn more, check out Karen's blog at http://karenhultslander.wordpress.com) Since I am not running far and certainly not racing this year, I want to send along a recommendation to Lyndsay, Karen and Jan—enjoy the unexpected that shows up. Find those surprising moments, the moments that can pick you up, knock you out of a daze and push you into sheer joy—find your version of the diamond-studded, leopard print, platform shoes in a jihab--and I'll be eagerly waiting to hear all about it!

Friday, May 17, 2013

In the Know


As we walked into Nike Headquarters Canada, I felt like I was entering a secret society like the Illuminati, the Masons, or the group of people who can assemble Ikea furniture in less than an hour (and without curse words). Firstly, there was no sign with the name “Nike” on the building, simply a signature swoosh on one corner.

Once inside, I felt like I was a cast member in a sci-fi movie. Everything was modern, glass and chrome and secret doors everywhere. However, I was catapulted by to 21st century when the rep showed up. I found him to be rather an anomaly in this futuristic setting. Half his head was shaved and he appeared to prefer the use of ink to clothe his body rather than the traditional--well--clothes. I found this odd considering he was trying to get companies to buy clothes. He did manage a pair of shorts and a tank top barely covering his hyper designed skin.

Apparently he was a runner. This did not fare well as I was there to learn about soccer cleats, of which he knew very little. But, it was his attitude, not his appearance, that got my hackles up, creating a prejudice that would not step aside.

He was rude, elitist and condescending. I wasn't a happy bunny, especially since I wear Nike almost exclusively. The whole experience made me think about athletic companies in general.

The thing that strikes me about many of these companies is I believe they are trying to create a little mystery, mostly by the pronunciation of their names. They like to keep the general public guessing, as very few of them are straightforward. You hear the word “Nike” said two ways consistently and I am not even able to count how many variations of “Saucony” I have heard.

Why do they do this? I believe it is to create an aura of mystery, elitism and to see if you are really in the club. If you can pronounce it right, you are truly an athlete, a member of those 'in the know'.

Well, I believe we should all be 'in the know' so I am going to crack open the code. Move over Dan Brown, I'm going to solve mysteries even Robert Langdon might find challenging. Forget anti-matter and the Pope, I've got the inside track on how to say “Puma” correctly.

So, let's do this in alphabetical order, shall we. After years of research, I am here to give you the answers you've been looking for. Let's start with the As.

Addidas. Looks simple enough. This one is a little tricky because it depends where you live. If you are in North America, you should pronounce this Add DEE Das. However, if you are European and you said it like that you would be looked at as if you had three heads. In Europe, it is said Addy DAS. Since Puma and Addidas are rival companies owned by two German brothers—a fascinating backstory—I think the second pronunciation is probably how the owner says it.

Asics. The name of the company "ASICS" is an acronym of the Latin phrase "anima sana in corpore sano" which translates to "a healthy soul in a healthy body" or "a sound mind in a sound body”. I nearly choked on my green tea latte one time--while in a store a patron asked to look at the  employee's ASS-icks. I don't know how the attendant kept it together, but he did. If someone asked me if they could look at my ASS-icks, I think I'd slap them. The “A” is a long vowel sound. Trust me. It is. So, please, do yourself, me and the 18 year old part time employee at the sports store a favour and ask for EH-sicks please. Just do it. Oh, wait, that is Nike's slogan...

Nike. This is Greek, named for a god. And, judging by that rep's attitude, some of the employees think they are gods. So, in Greek, anything ending in an e is pronounced 'ee'. So, although many people say Nike, rhyming with bike, it is actually Nike, rhyming with Mikey.

Saucony. A lot of people say sah-CONEY (rhyming with pony). However, the name itself comes from the Saucony Creek in Pennsylvania. The correct pronunciation is SOCK-ah-knee. I've even heard sauce-ney which sounds more like some type of ice cream topping than sneakers.

Puma. Only two options here. One sounds slightly off-colour, kind of in the vein of Asics. Pooh-ma. Nope, not that. It is Pume (rhyming with doom) ma.

There you have it. You are now in the club. No more mystery, no more guessing. You should be good, until, of course, you decide to pick up that Sugoi shirt...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nine



Nine.

Nine is the number my grandson forgot to mention in this video:

video


It is the final single digit in the course of counting.

It is a perfect square, divisible by 3.

In minutes, it’s long enough to make a really good sandwich
or take a nice hot shower.

Maybe to vacuum the main floor of the house, clean the bathroom or drink a good latte,
In nine minutes you can check your emails, facebook, phone messages and twitter.

Nine.

Until yesterday, nine represented the distance in qualifying minutes between Boston and me.

Nine.

Now, nine means something different.

Nine is the number of candles on a cake that 8-year-old bombing victim, Martin Richard will never see.  As he sat there innocently with his family, watching the race, he was robbed of his life, not yet nine.

Martin is described by neighbours and friends as a vivacious boy who loved to run and climb; he was a member of a little league.

I can imagine him excited, wonder-filled and enjoying the glorious hype that comes with the power of collective racing, running, enjoying, being.

He enjoyed running.

He will never see nine.

Martin, I have never met you but I honour you and cry for your family. I apologize from the bottom of my heart for every time I have ever said, “If I ran Boston, I could die happy.”

I didn’t mean it. I am sorry for my flippancy and lack of respect for life.

My mind can’t handle ‘what if’ when I think of all the times friends and family have watched me race.

If I could hug your family--I can’t begin to imagine their pain--I would. I pray that your community and the world surrounds them and gives them some type of peace.

I am so sorry this happened. You deserved better.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thank God there are also numbers greater than nine.

As I watched footage of the disaster, I saw dozens of support personnel rushing in to help. I saw lists of homes, eager to house and feed stranded runners. I heard of runners, weary from their race running straight to the hospital to give blood.

I saw compassion, love, hope, help, so insurmountable it can’t be quantified by numbers.  On this world stage where unspeakable evil occurred, we also witnessed people performing good in unlimited measure .

Let’s not forget to give our attention to those that saw an opportunity to help, to be of assistance, to try in the most horrible circumstance to be of some good.

They say what we feed, grows. My prayer today is that goodness expands.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Moving Therapy


 
A while back, when Lyndsay, Karen and I walked into a running store, we saw a shirt with the phrase, “Running—cheaper than therapy” across the front. 

Lyndsay, who was nursing a meniscus injury was in the midst of visiting every medical therapist known to humankind replied, “…unless you require therapy in order to run.”

I started to think about it. There is some truth in the slogan. Sadly, I am aware of the price of both activities—running and therapy—and on many levels I believe running is a form of moving therapy.

I think back to my 46th birthday. I went for a run; the most memorable run of my life. It wasn’t a race or a particularly beautiful day. I wasn’t running with friends or in a great mood. But, I was holding onto some pent up stress. I ran. By myself. Fast. Furiously. Crying. Screaming. Out loud. I ran until it was all out, left behind and dissipating with every footstep; stress juiced from every cell, dripping away, splashig into oblivion. It felt amazing.

It’s been three weeks since I’ve been able to run properly. After the Around the Bay race I felt a twinge in my knee on my next run, rendering me useless by kilometer 4. I stopped and decided to rest a few days. The weekend long run was disastrous, leaving Karen to run ahead to get help. Synchronicity was at work that day, because she ran into Denise, one of our running partners, driving home with her family. They came and rescued me. Relieved and a bit embarrassed I hobbled into the van, allowing them to drive me to the safety of the running store.

It’s frustrating because my knee isn’t sore. I can walk without any pain and it only shows up when I’m well into a run. I decided to get professional help so I consulted Dr. Google and self-diagnosed the problem as not my knee itself but a tight IT band probably pulling up on the outside of my knee. 

I should have tried to run again right away but I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to do something that I have loved for the past three years ever again.  It’s a daunting thought—like a world without Kawartha Dairy’s mint chocolate ice cream or no more Starbuck’s unsweetened green tea lattes with organic soy milk. My mind just doesn’t want to go there.

But, it’s time to face my fear. Besides noticing that I am just starting to lose my fitness, my muscle tone—I am totally losing my mind. This became painfully obvious to me yesterday.

Now, generally I try not to engage in fruitless debate or differing opinions, especially in public forums such as facebook.  However, occasionally I involuntarily get sucked in when something gets under my skin. I am generally A-political but sometimes extreme right wing comments can set me off and now, apparently, I can add genetically modified seed to that list of hot topics. (You had to read that twice, didn’t you?). Yep, GMO.

A seemingly innocuous comment set fire to the rages in my brain and I threw up everything I felt about GMO to someone I have never met—all over my neighbour’s facebook page, and not eloquently I might add. (Sorry Sharon). I was like an animal possessed with rabies. I couldn’t help myself. All testy and prickly, I engaged. It was so bad my daughter called me and told me she didn’t need television anymore for entertainment. All she needed to do was watch me on facebook. (I am not joking).

I can’t afford therapy and my shoes are paid for. It is time to start running again. 

Four kilometers and no knee pain. The neighbour kid came by trying to sell me ‘meat’ for a fundraiser for his baseball team and I didn’t bite his head off. Things are getting better on the western front.

In a phone conversation with Karen this week, we talked about the most blissful place to be—where the spiritual and physical world collide. And, that is sometimes where running takes me—it’s moving therapy; a sacred space. I’d like to leave you with a post by Karen that is absolutely beautiful:

The other day I was asked "what are you running from?". I gave the standard runner’s answer of "it is what I am running to." I am positive they walked away rolling their eyes. On a spring run like today it was all about where I went. Not the forest I run by or the scenic street...you can't see it with the plain eye. There are only a few doorways to get there. Call it meditation, connecting with the Universe and feeling the essence behind what is. It's a secret lying inside that you somehow understand. So it doesn't matter if it is 5K or 42.2, you can still travel far off this planet. But I do think that explains why some choose to run a longer distance, it is more time in the sacred space.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Choo Choo...(train to race, race to train)



I know she must be a special client when Logan, the chiropractor’s nine-year-old daughter brings over a magazine and two packets of candies.

“These are for you,” she politely says.

“What’s that dear?” the patient answers.

“It’s your favourite magazine and the ginger candies you like,” Logan persists.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet and the candies looked good. I wonder what I need to do to get on this preferential client list. I didn’t know chiropractic offices offered Club Class. It is obvious I am flying Economy.

It doesn’t surprise me, exactly, as Mildred (I would later learn her name), demands attention the second she enters the waiting room. I am not sure if it is her flashy, high tech New Balance running shoes or her fluorescent pink faux fur fuzzy hat so much as the confidence that sloughs off into the air with each step she takes. The incongruence between her high fashion ware and her white hair whispers to me that she is probably in her seventies. 

It isn’t long until she, Mildred, starts chatting up the man next to her. 

“These are ginger candies. I like ginger. I’ve used it for years.”

The man smiles politely and nodded.

“The doctor askeed me why I’m in such good shape.” She didn’t wait for the gentleman to jump into the conversation, “I told him I am fortunate.”

Ah, what a lovely thing to say, I think. It was the next part of the conversation that floors me.

“I’m ninety-four.”

After I picked my jaw off the floor I sneak another peak. Her skin could give Cindy Crawford a run for her money. Maybe Aveeno made a mistake in picking their next poster child! Move over Jennifer Anniston, here comes Mildred!

“I fold the napkins for dinner at the home.” She continues. “I get lots of compliments on them.”

The man beside her doesn’t know how to carry the conversation on.

“Well, you look fantastic,” I jump in. 

“Yes. I am fortunate. I believe life is what you make it. You know? Life is what you make it.”

With that exclamation, Mildred sprints into the next available exam room.

I learn from her kind nephew that Mildred Jardine has been coming for acupuncture/chiropractic care for years. She and her husband lived about four doors down from the office. After her husband passed a few years back her younger sister moved in and the two got along splendidly until her sister was tragically hit and killed by a bus about 5 years ago. Mildred then had to move out of town to a care home. Her nephew has been taking her into the chiropractor once a month ever since.

“She used to go more often, but this is all I can handle with work and everything.” He confesses. The journey each way is at least a 45 minute drive.

I only spent a few minutes with Mildred but I know I like her. I find out she lived a healthy, active life, ate well and did things like juicing and paid attention to herbs such as ginger.  She made me smile and feel good and that was exactly what I needed on the day I headed down to Hamilton to prepare for the Around the Bay race.

At the best of times this is a precarious race. History has repeatedly and consistently taught me that I run marathons at a faster pace even though marathons are 12.2 km longer than this 30 km jaunt. Maybe it is the distance that messes with my head or the crazy hills--some barely passible by mountain goats--that come in the final third of this gruelling test of mind and body.

I want to complete this race in less than 3 hours. Sounds easy enough, but this race beats me every year in one way or another. However, this time, I have a plan. I will start out slowly, conserve my energy but stay at a pace slightly faster than required. Then I can slow down for the final 10 km and still make my goal.

We’re all a little worried. And, by ‘little’, I mean ‘enormously, lose control of all bodily functions’ nervous. I had been sick, hadn’t put the required training in this horrible winter. Karen just came back from a vacation in Mexico, literally getting off the plane the night before travelling to Hamilton for the race. She had taken carb loading and taper week to a whole new level. She was convinced she would be sweating mojitos. And, Lyndsay had the worst condition of all. She had been throwing up the day before, thinking it was possible food poisoning from bad cold slaw from a restaurant. (I need to talk to her about eating anything remotely related to cabbage the week before a race).

My weakness--well, one of many weaknesses--is I have a tendency to bolt out of the gate too quickly. This especially becomes a problem when I attempt to stay with Karen. So, I make a solemn pledge to myself to stick to the plan. In the first few meters into the run, Karen looks back at me and says, in realization, “You’re not even going to try to run with me at the beginning?”

I shake my head shamefully as I hang back. I feel like I just murdered a puppy or turned my best friend into the police for rolling through a stop sign. How could I not even try?

No, stick to the plan. Stick to the plan. Stick to the plan. Lyndsay  kindly keeps me company.  The weather is amazing and I decide to take in the views and sunshine. I am so proud of myself for making a plan and sticking to it. What is it they say?:  If you fail to plan you plan to fail.

The idiot that said that didn’t bother to check the schedule for the Canadian National Railway. 

At approximately 9 km I blink. 

“Is this for real?” I hear myself say aloud.

Before me is a sea of probably a thousand runners all stopped as a very long train rattles across the road.

What I experience next is magical and the most memorable part of the whole race. Expecting anarchy; an angry mob throwing the vehicle off its tracks, I am amazed at what I see. 

I witness people smiling, laughing, dozens scattering into ditches and nearby brush to ‘take care of business’, groups clumping together, taking pictures of their smiling faces with the train in the background, friends chatting, strangers laughing, people hugging, drinking, eating, calling loved ones on their cell phones!

A few flat cars go by, making it look like the last of the train has gone by to those of us near the back of the pack, only to see more full-sized cars show up. The collective laughs at our folly!

It could have been a moment of disappointment, anger or resentment. Instead, the group chose to use these five minutes (Karen timed it) as a gift, a thing of beauty, a moment to do something important. I smile. Mildred was right, “Life is what you make it.”

I still try to achieve my goal of 3 hours, but I can’t quite make up the time before I am knocked back by the hilly terrain. Instead, I give every kid with an outstretched hand a high five. I notice the wonderful cheering squad of Keith, Jane and Linda at km 18 and the amazing sign Linda made for us, complete with sparkly letters and a map. I take the time to look across the bay, notice the beautiful homes, and the rolling--and not so rolling--hills. 

I run into Copps Coliseum four minutes after that 3 hour mark has passed. Eager not to have a repeat performance of last year (an unfortunate incident in the back seat of Karen's mom's car. Fortunately we had a bag handy) I pop two gravol pills and find my wonderful people.  Karen, Lyndsay and I laugh about the train, the day, the race.

I didn’t realize it at the time because I was so transfixed on my 3 hour goal, but all three of us actually had a personal best finishing time for this race despite the train (and lack of train-ing). We are so fortunate!

Life is what we make it and an unexpected, beautiful by-product of this happens to be we are fortunate. 

Thanks, Mildred. I guess after ninety four years you certainly know what you are talking about.

What a great day! A special shout out to Lyndsay for running with me, Karen for the endless rides, support and guidance, Jane, Keith (and Mitsee) for the wonderful hospitality…I think I left my pillow at your house, and to Linda for your enthusiasm and high quality signage!