Through the Streets of Montreal
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
So there I was, no runners in front of me, at least that I could see. And I seemed to have an impressive lead. There was no one in sight for miles as I steadily and stealthily traversed the asphalt concourse that made up the 2012 Oasis Montreal Marathon. For those of you who have never attempted such a feat, you’re in for a real treat as I take you along my journey – without the foot pain, leg cramps, awkward bathroom mishaps and heartbreak of finding out that I did not, as it happens, come anywhere close to winning.
The truth is that the only reason I couldn’t see many runners, especially during the latter half of this race, was that they had finished hours before I would. But don’t feel bad for me. I certainly don’t! There aren’t very many people who can brag about the kind of finish I did have.
But let’s go back to the beginning. If I ever do a destination race again, I will be sure to repeat my travel plans from this go-around. My friend and I arrived only the day before. We made a quick tour of the race expo where we picked up our bibs and timing chips. Then it was immediately off to supper with the team. We enjoyed some inspiration (you may recall that I raised funds for the Leukaemia Lymphoma Society along this run. The inspiration came in the form of stories of survivors, cures that have been developed and all of the good our fundraising has been doing.) After dinner, we leisurely retired to our rooms. Somehow and fortuitously, I was exhausted and drifted off to a sound sleep.
The morning’s alarms (we set 3 or 4) woke us early but after a thorough rest. Now is the moment of truth: will my bowels cooperate this morning or not? On this distance of a run, you do not want to be stuck in a port-a-potty. In fact, a large part of my training has focussed on paying attention to how my digestive system works because when it doesn’t, I’m a grumpy runner.
Fortunately, breakfast goes down easy and I’m feeling surprisingly awake, aware and ready to rock! I allow myself to use that cheesy phrase only because this marathon is one in the Rock ’n’ Roll series; great local bands are strategically placed about every 5 or 6 kilometres (more frequently than the port-a-potties, I would later lament.)
We, the team and I, arrive at the metro station and find our way easily toward the starting line. We simply need to follow the thousands of brightly-clad athletic-looking people. Nobody else looks this excited this early in the morning.
Start time is at 8:30 and we’re nowhere near our gate. The only reason I’m not freaking out is because I know that my corral will not be allowed to start until approximately 9:15. That’s right, the fastest runners will start a whopping 45 minutes ahead of me. Well it’s no wonder I’ve never won! (Or at least I like to tell myself that this is the reason.)
Eventually, I arrive at the starting line and I’m off… too fast. But it feels good! I’m a gazelle! I’m at least part Kenyan! I’m… starting out way too fast. Everyone will tell you that this is a distance runner’s demise. So, I slow it down and enjoy a tour of Grand-prix Island, old Montreal and the lead-up to the finish line… for the half-marathoners.
After a swift 2.5 hours, I’m only halfway done. Suddenly the course gets really lonely. It wasn’t so bad when the ‘halfs’ were there, but now I’m out on my own, with but a handful of the slowest warriors. As I twist through the streets of Montreal, I sometimes can’t even see another runner. I thank God for the gracious people of Montreal, out on their patios enjoying the day, as they spot me, they stop their talking and shout their encouragement: “Don’t quit!” Their heartfelt encouragement keeps me going.
Soon enough, I’m joined by one of my coaches on the course. She chooses to run the last 6 or 8 kilometres with me. I’m grateful for the company. Then, as we near closer and closer to the finish, I’m joined, one at a time, by the other 7 Team in Training coaches who have already assisted every other TNT participant to the finish. It’s just me.
And so I get a finish no one else does: a posse escorts me right to the end. They back off as we approach the line, and I’m there, smiling my face off as they surround me. The race photographers are having a heyday. And I’m ecstatic to be done.
I didn’t come in first, but I shaved 37 minutes off of my previous effort. I know I’ve accomplished som ething, and I’m glad for the whole experience. Most of all, I’m glad I get to relax now and enjoy Montreal!
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