As I took the final step into the driveway in front of our Sherwood Park home, the Ride GPS app map on my iPhone7 hit the 26.2-mile mark. My long, quiet walk was over, and I had accomplished my goal.
After almost five years of excuses, I finally completed another marathon.
And unlike the first 30, this ‘virtual’ marathon was different in every way.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, everyone entering the 2021 Servus Edmonton Marathon was required to complete the distance between August 15 and 31 and enter their time online.
There was no marathon route to follow, no aid stations and no cheering crowd.
But I was not deterred, thanks to a remarkable octogenarian whose inspiring comments provided the only motivation I needed.
I met Fort Saskatchewan’s Roger MacMillan in 2019 while writing a story for a seniors’ publication as he prepared to enter his 112th marathon in Edmonton.
I made an off-hand comment during the interview that I used to run marathons but had stopped due to damaged, arthritic knees.
My love of running began when I was a child. I loved running races with my friends at school. When I was in grade 7, our gym teacher started a 50 Mile Club, where we were given a certain number of weeks to run 50 miles in order to earn a badge. I had never run a few miles at a time, as I enjoyed sprinting, but I decided to sign up. I was soon running 3 miles a day and loving it. I earned the badge and was hooked on running.
I wouldn’t call myself a good runner — despite my efforts for more than 10 years. I don’t even like calling myself a runner; I describe myself as a wannabe. I envy the real runners. The ones with good form, speed, fluidity and consistency. When I attempt to run, it’s, well, far from graceful. I’m plodding, fairly uncoordinated — overly sweaty.
Twice last summer, my then 15-year-old daughter ran with me. She says I don’t run; I shuffle. About the only thing I have in common with real runners is my consistency. Despite the lack of grace, I never give up. I keep shuffling. Why? My accomplishments fuel me. I feel powerful, post-run. Well, maybe not immediately post-run. At the end of every run, I wonder why I keep punishing my body. But once I’ve recovered, I begin to feel strong, like I have all I need inside me to overcome the obstacles life keeps dropping in my path.
After years of marathon running, I was ready for a change. In 2019, I found the challenge I was looking for: to walk a “camino” in Europe, where there is a highly established network of ancient pilgrim routes. The backbone of the network is the French Camino, or Camino Francés. Historians write that this route was originally walked by St. James the Apostle, and thus it is often referred to as The Way of St. James. The “finish line” is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain.
This walking adventure felt like a natural progression after middle-age marathons, Running Room programs and fitness centres. Come September, I was not going to be a tourist on vacation—I was going to be a pilgrim on the Camino Francés.
As most readers will understand, runners have a slightly warped definition of the word “vacation.” This is precisely how I found myself awake hours before dawn on Boxing Day during a recent family holiday, about to embark on a 14.5 kilometre run around Reykjavik, Iceland.
In the spirit of inclusion, I had invited the entire family to join me, but only one showed even the slightest enthusiasm. As the rest slept off the overindulgences of the previous few days, my cousin Matthew and I zipped across the frozen Icelandic tundra in our rental car. Destination: Seltjarnarneskirkja, a church sitting atop a hill on the outskirts of the capital.
When it comes to marathons, I have a tendency to make big plans. In May 2017, I limped across the finish line of the Ottawa Marathon, hampered by an Achilles tendon injury. At that moment, I vowed to myself that I would be back in 2019 to celebrate my 50th birthday and complete the Lumberjack Challenge.
The Lumberjack involves three races (2K, 5K and 10K) on Saturday afternoon, plus a full marathon on Sunday morning. To save you from doing the math, it’s a total of 59.2 kilometres. I viewed it as the ultimate “Embracing 50” party with my sister, brother, husband, kids and running friends. Continue reading “A Marathon and More”
I’m thinking about reconnecting with an old friend: the marathon.
My first marathon was in 1996, in Victoria. It improved my life in so many ways. I discovered strength and stamina I didn’t know I had. I finished many unforgettable races, including Boston, Chicago and New York City. I became healthier and happier.
And, most importantly, I found true love.
In May 2001, I convinced my partner and best friend, Linda, to join me for the Edmonton Marathon. She had finished a marathon six months earlier and agreed to sign up for the epic journey through Edmonton’s streets, along the same course set for the world-class athletes at the World Championships that summer. Continue reading “An Old Friend”
My two best running buddies are my mom, Helen, and my friend of over 40 years, Julie Michel. All three of us are breast cancer survivors. The pleasure and therapeutic value we get from running cannot be expressed in words; it’s pure emotion and endorphins.
We have run the Ottawa Race Weekend numerous times as well as another favourite, the Space Coast Half Marathon in Florida. A “bucket list” race we’d often considered was the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. This year, we decided to go for it. Continue reading “Words of Wisdom from the Marathon Woman”
It is not often that I talk to you through writing, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for everything you have done for me. I would not have been able to achieve the level of success and happiness I am experiencing if it wasn’t for your constant support and kindness. Recently, I was given the task of choosing one tangible object that is very meaningful and significant in my life. I chose to carry my GPS wristwatch. We both share the same passion for running and cross-country, so you know that this watch means much more to me than a simple device that communicates time and distance. Continue reading “The Watch”
Organizing a one-time Guinness World Record race in September 2019 was a way to cultivate a different image of Pakistan. The Khunjerab Pass Challenge had three distances: 21.1K, 42.2K or 50K. They were the highest altitude road races ever held. Canadian Ziyad Rahim, who holds multiple world records in running, was the catalyst for this event. Continue reading “Pakistan’s Khunjerab Pass Challenge”