A Midsummer Night’s Run

29 Aug

 

At the finish line!

No matter which way you look at it, fifteen kilometres – almost ten miles – is a long way to travel on foot. For the modern human being, who has all kinds of conveniences available that are designed to help us get places and do things quickly, the  only reason to travel fifteen kilometres on foot is for the fun of it.

Many people just don’t get my preoccupation with running. They don’t understand how I  can actually enjoy the feeling of being on the move for two hours straight, and seeing how fast and  how far I can push  myself. It is beyond their comprehension that I wear my blackened toenails with pride, like badges of honour.

I don’t expect everyone to understand, just as I don’t always understand other people’s interests. I do find it intriguing, however, that many of the people who don’t understand go to all kinds of lengths to tell me all the ways in which running is bad for me.

If only they could see the incredible energy – the special kind of buzz – at the finish lines of races. There is no way you can be in the midst of hundreds of runners basking in the glow of achievement and still think that running is bad for you.

Last weekend, I got to experience that buzz for the first time in quite a while. I participated in the 15K event at Toronto’s Midsummer Night’s Run. Admittedly, I wasn’t too sure about doing this race. Thus far, my season of training can be summed up in one word: abysmal. There has always been one thing or another getting in the way of my training, and I feared that I had simply lost the spark of last year and the year before.

To compound matters, the race was on the same route as a disastrous race that I did last summer and vowed at the time never to repeat.

I knew I was going to be able to go the distance, but I wasn’t too sure how good I’d feel about it.

Despite my misgivings, I started to feel the usual pre-race adrenaline rush as soon as I got to the starting area. As I sat there on the lawn an hour before the start, eating my peanut butter sandwich, I felt the energy of the people around me start to fill me up. By the time I lined up with ten minutes to go, I was literally hopping in my eagerness to get going.

All of a sudden, I was determined to nail this race. I had a score to settle with this route that had soundly defeated me last year.

The run did not disappoint. I followed my usual strategy of running in 2km chunks. This method really works for me. I simply do not allow my mind to think beyond the next 2km. Only in the last 3km or so do I start aiming for the finish line. Running in this way keeps me physically focused and mentally strong.

The last 5km were hard. They were not made easier by the fact that the last water station ran out of both water and Gatorade by the time I got there. Add to that the fact that both my shoes and my orthotics were on their last – um – legs, and you have a couple of kilometres that inevitably felt very, very long.

But eventually I got to the point that I love in any race: turning the corner and seeing the finish line ahead of me, like a shining beacon. Just seeing that banner emblazoned with the word “FINISH” and hearing the cheering and applause of the crowds infused me with the energy that I needed to sprint – yes, sprint! – down the home stretch to the end.

With just metres to go, a well-meaning spectator yelled out that I was looking good.

I was looking like death warmed over, but it was kind of them to say so.

And so I finished another race, carried over the finish line not only by my legs, but by the collective energy of the crowds.

What a feeling. What a magical feeling.

This, my friends, is why I run.

(Photo credit to the author)

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