It was during Christmas break – December 2008 – that it happened. We were lazing at home watching this awesome British comedy, and by the end of the movie I had made a decision. I was going to sign up for a race! Not a marathon (see trailer here, if you haven’t seen the movie) – I wasn’t that crazy – but a…let’s see, gotta do some research now (there may have been wine involved)…an 8k!
For those of you who’ve known me a long time – especially those who knew me through my school years and into university – I would bet that the word ‘athlete’ is not one you would have used to describe me. In fact, I was arguably the antithesis of an athlete. My forays into the world of sports included (and this may, in fact, be an exhaustive list):
- 3-legged races and other related activities at school ‘fun days’
- Trying out for the boys’ volleyball team in Grade 8; I showed up for every practice, and the coach sympathetically made me team ‘manager’ (I never actually played a game)
- Hating every minute of Grade 9 Phys. Ed. class
- Attending a handful of Major League Baseball games, and becoming oddly obsessed with the Boston Red Sox for a season (please don’t judge)
- One disastrous skiing lesson
- Riding my bike daily during my years of living in Japan – it was a mama-chari, one of those road bikes with a basket on the front, and a bell
- Working out fairly regularly for about 6 months in 2001
- Beginner yoga class in Wellington, New Zealand
So, since when am I a runner?
The First Steps
Having irrationally signed up for a race, I knew something had to be done. But what? I’ll be honest – my ‘training’ for my first race was hardly impressive. I think I did a couple of runs in preparation, but I could be wrong. I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy any new shoes. Winter of 2008-2009 was a snowy one in Vancouver, and I certainly had little appetite for running in ‘cold’ weather.
I remember going to a store on Robson and looking at sportswear – and I bought my first pair of Nike running pants. I had no idea what I should be wearing, and I didn’t want to bare my legs (and I suppose I was cold), so pants it was.
Once spring arrived, I have vague recollections of a few jaunts along the seawall in Yaletown. I’m pretty sure I was panting after just a few minutes. But I’m one of those people who will get things done if I know there’s a deadline, or if I’ve already committed to a specific event. So knowing that I had a race looming, I did something – not enough, and definitely not more – but something.
The Unexpected Sun Run
Early in April, one of my friends (who I’d done a couple of little training runs with) informed me that her coworker had had an injury, and dropped out of their company’s Sun Run team. I was offered her registration.
The Sun Run is a big event in Vancouver, with upwards of 40,000-50,000 people doing a 10km run through the downtown core. With an opportunity like this being offered – free of charge – how could I say no?
My first race ever, then, was not the 8k I had expected – but a much bigger, longer, and more exciting event. My only clear memories of the race are waiting for ages for gun time, marveling at how many people were there, and needing to stop at the very first porta-potty on the race route (i.e. immediately after the starting line). My first 10k was finished in 1 hour 17 minutes and 23 seconds (including the ‘pit stop’).
The 8k and after
I don’t remember exactly when it was – sometime in the weeks leading up to the race. A friend had heard that I was running, and said, “Oh, you’re doing the BMO! The half marathon?” (she was doing the half). “No,” said I, “the 8k.” Her response: “Oh, the 8k. That’s cute.”
As a new runner – and still very uncertain of my abilities (both as a runner and as an athlete in general) – this really affected me. Probably more than it should have. It shook my confidence, made me feel small. I know that wasn’t the intention of the off-hand remark, and I don’t think this individual ever knew how I felt.
Years later, with a much longer roster of races under my belt, I’ve come to realize how important it is to recognize and celebrate everyone’s efforts – from the newbies doing their very first race to the elite ultra-marathoners. Everyone has their own challenges, struggles and doubts – and we, as a running community, should support one another.
Finally, the race came. It was a rainy morning. I’d never run in the rain before. About half a kilometre in, I ran through a puddle and felt that cold, damp seeping from the bottom of my foot, the squishing beginning…
I won’t go into all the gory details – this isn’t a race report, after all! Suffice to say, I finished the race. 56:24 was no record time – but, at that moment, it was. In fact, it was a PB – because I’d never run an 8k before! A success, an accomplishment – and, hell, maybe it was cute! Plus, my first ever finisher’s medal!
Today, I looked back through my old Facebook and blog posts, and stumbled across this (self-quote) from January 2009:
Another goal of mine is to complete an 8K run as part of the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Not much of a distance, but a significant aim for someone like me, who really isn’t much of an athlete at all!
2009 will be a year of accomplishment, of setting and reaching goals, of exceeding my own expectations, and of getting on the path to success in as many aspects of my life as possible!
Lofty words from 5-years-ago me.
2009 turned out to have a lot of accomplishments. I ran 4 races (2x10km; 1x8km; 1x5km), raised money for cancer awareness and ran in my underwear, and got engaged.
One month from now, I’m running my first marathon. But that’s another story.