Monday, December 31, 2012

2012.. a year in review

First we try to run faster. Then we try to run harder. Then we learn to accept ourselves and our limitations, and at last, we can appreciate the true joy of running.

Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon, 
author of The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life

Here we are on the eve of a new year.  Seems amazing really; the years seem to be zipping along at a 4 minute-mile pace. The older I become, the faster time flies, the less I understand, the more things change, and the more grateful I am for my health, my running accomplishments, my family, and my friends.  

I had lunch today with two of my three brothers. We talked a lot; unusual for us. We talked about the complexities of family and relationships. We talked about building bridges and caring more for one another. We talked about the love we have for our two sisters. Pretty heady stuff for three middle aged guys over a Stellas's coffee, but it's true, we talked and we listened, and it was good... there's something about what happens when we talk*.  

I am struck with the Burfoot quote above.  It's about running but the parallels to life are brilliant.  In life I have run fast and I have run hard, I have run with purpose and passion.  I have run for time and I have run for timelessness   I have run to clear my mind and to shed a silent tear.  I have run to disperse anger and to celebrate joy. I have run to satisfy a primal compulsion.  In 2013 I will learn to run slowly, to accept my limitations, to let go of things I cannot control. 

It was a good year for running, a good year to be alive. I encourage you to set a running goal. Register for a race.  Run strong and with conviction  Run with your feet on the ground and your head in the sky.** Smile at approaching runners because they hurt, maybe more than you.  Like Burfoot says, learn to run slowly. Learn from your humiliation.  Accept your defeats as triumphs.  Learn, as I am trying to learn, the true joy of running... of life.  So my dear runners, for what it's worth, here's my year in review.  

  • I receive an email from Melissa. She says  "I don't ask will I run today, instead I say when will I run today?".  I like that... when will I run today? When will you?
  • First race of the year.  Hypothermic Half Marathon.  My 5th Hypo, 4th really, I had one dnf in 2009. I started off in a frump, but pulled out of it and nipped in just under 2 hours, a first sub-two hypo for me.  
  • I receive an email from Melissa.  She says "running is my own creation".  I like that imagery.  It focusses my energy and emphasizes the individuality of running. 
  • Injured my left calf at mile 17.65 of an 18 mile run.  Three weeks of rest, physiotherapy, massage, more rest, endless rest.  Note: I do not do 'rest' well, but maybe I'll learn in 2013... must accept my limitations.  
  • Sweet Gwen is running again.
  • First ride of the season.  Winnipeg to St. Francis Xavier, return, with Scott.  It wasa great ride. Lots of laughs. 
  • April 17, I'm back running from the calf injury. Slow running.
  • Second race of the year, Run the Rainbow, 10 k.  I ran it slow and very cautiously, calf okay, stiff, but no pain.  Bib number 1509, my birthdate.
  • Third race of the season. Winnipeg Police Half Marathon. Cool drizzly conditions.  Shaved 57 seconds off my previous PB.  Bib number 55, my age.
  • Fourth race of the season.  Fargo Marathon. My goal was to make it to the start line.  Accomplished.  My second goal was to make it to the finish line.  Accomplished.  
  • Fifth race of the season.  Manitoba Half Marathon.  The conditions were hot.  So glad I chose not to run the full marathon.  I returned to the full marathon course on my scooter.  Cheered on all the fulls.  Connie completed her first full marathon.  It was a scorcher at the end. 
  • See Mike Run gets modern. My son sets me up with a new domain name...
  • Training for Twin City Marathon.  Very, very hot July.  I blogged about how to run smart in the heat.  
  • Sixth race of the year. The Fort Garry Rotary Club Half Marathon.  The BEST course ever. The BEST organization ever. The BEST volunteers ever. Shaved a full 3 minutes, 49 seconds off my previous pb for a new pb, 1:49:49... see Mike smile!
  • Seventh race of the year.  The Point Douglas Run. I ran with Connie, David, and Melissa.  The most fun I've had on a 10 k race ever!  This race will stay fresh in my mind for eternity.  
  • We remember Ted Swain. Ted's Run for Literacy. Second Annual. 235 participants, about 50 volunteers.  A huge success for the race committee.  
  • Eighth race of the year.  Twin City Marathon.  I hooked up with David and Melissa at mile 16.  Ran it in together.  Quote of the day goes to Melissa. At mile 24 she says "My mouth hurts so much from smiling"  and then, 20 seconds later she adds "Wouldn't it be funny if tomorrow my mouth hurt more than the rest of my body".  I laughed out loud... how many times can you belly laugh at mile 24 of a marathon?  Thanks Melissa.
  • Ninth race of the year.  The Fire Paramedic Half Marathon.  John asked me to pace a 2 hour group.  I started with about 20 eager runners and ended alone. One runner stayed with me almost to the end but crashed at about mile 11.  My time? 1:59: 57. 
  • Injured again.  Same calf.  This time I'm smart.  I go to physio and massage before it gets too bad.  Feeling sorry for my self.  I'm a big baby when it comes to injuries.  Down for about 2 or 3 weeks. My physiotherapist notices an interesting strike pattern on my shoes.  
  • Bob Nicol, is appointed to the 2013 The North Face Canadian Trail Ambassador.  Bob is one of five Canadian trail ambassadors being honoured for their passion of trail running.  
  • My son moves out. He parts with a casual "Ok, see ya later". I think to myself... 24 years together and it comes down to ... ok, see ya later... Don't get me wrong, it's all good, he's moved out for all the right reasons and he's only a half-mile away, but still, it took a few runs to process the empty nest syndrome.
  • December 27, last run of 2012, logged my 1308th mile of the year.

It's a good day to be alive, this last day of another year. I wish you all well.


*Lucinda Williams
** Talking Heads

Sunday, December 16, 2012

These Runs We Do

Home is where i want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb - born with a weak heart
guess i must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's ok i know nothing's wrong . . nothing

Talking Heads, This Must Be the Place, from the album Once in a Lifetime

With feet on the ground and head in the sky, home is where I want to be. It's ok, I know nothing is wrong.

These runs we do, they make us strong, they make us weak. Through urban forests heavy with hoar frost, along ancient trails by a white Red River, with heart pumping, and mind empty.  These runs we do, they make us whole in spirt, they they make us strong in muscle, they make us weak with love. With oxygenated blood flooding our brains, they elevate us, they transform our minds and our bodies. These runs we do, with feet on the ground and head in the sky. 

These runs we do, they make us strong, they make us weak. We run to remember, and to try to make sense of the incomprehensible. With tears brimming we consider the 26 dead,  a marathon of pain. Google images show the unbearably beautiful, smiling faces of children now gone. Their parents' anguish frozen in photographs; dozens and dozens of painful, indescribable painful photographs of the tiny beloved gone and the families left behind to mourn. Will they ever recover?

The hearts of parents everywhere are broken. We want to reach out to them, to say it's okay, we love you, and we care so, so deeply for you, your loss is unbearable. We want to embrace them as if, through osmosis, we can absorb some of their pain. To share their grief. Just to hold them, to embrace them, to wrap them in a warm blanket of love and comfort. To say... I... am... sorry.

These runs we do, they make us strong, they make us weak. They help us reach deep, deep into the cellar of our brain and heart.  These runs we do, in silence and in complete devotion to peace, we think and we pray.  With feet on the ground, head in the sky, home is where we want to be, home is where we want the children to be. Home, with their parents. Home is where they cannot be.

My friends, you do what you need to do, but take a moment to reach out to your child.  To lightly brush your hand against their back as they walk by.  To quietly touch their head as they sleep. To tell them you love them.  With feet on the ground and head in the sky, our hearts are shattered.

It is a day. We are alive.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cards For Kenny

Minister Jason Kenney 
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Prime Minister of Canada, Office of P.M.
80 Wellington St.
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

(postage free if mailed in Canada)

Those darn students; they're up to their shenanigans again!  When I was their age I was... hmm, what was I doing... oh yeah, I remember, I joined millions around the world in Peace marches demanding an end to the Vietnam War and guess what?  

We were successful.

Now, back to those rascally students.  

On July 1, 2012 I wrote a blog in support of the student led, 59 Cent Campaign (click here). What is the 59 cent Campaign?

To review, in April of this year The Right Honourable Jason Kenney cut spending to refugee healthcare. The law applies to all refugees arriving on Canadian soil from a country that our government deems unacceptable.  Kenney proudly announced that this will save taxpayers 20 million dollars a year, or roughly, 59 cents per Canadian annually. In response, a group of concerned students urged Canadians to mail Jason Kenney 59 cents with a letter expressing their concern (go here for my letter). 

What do these refugees have in common besides coming from some of the worst environments on the planet?  Well, here's a starters list...

  • They are in dire need of medical care.  
  • They have witnessed  atrocities that have left deep scars.
  • Many have lost their sense of community.  
  • Most have have a limited social network.
  • Many have no family.
  • Most don't understand our culture or our language.
  • Sadly, many are broken spiritually. 
  • They are in our schools, our churches, our temples, our synagogue
  • They have no health care.

So what is that darn Generation Y up to now?  They've embarked on a new campaign... what else would you expect of a group of beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, young Canadians?  Here's what they would like us to do.

In the spirit of joy, love, and peace, send The Right Honourable Jason Kenney a seasonal card asking him to grant one wish: 

To restore full funding to the 
interim federal health program. 

I can't think of a better way to honour the spirit of this season than gathering family and friends around a table to make cards for Jason?  You can change the world and your children can help (teachers, take note).Please, send a card, postage free.

Wait a second!  This is a blog about running!  What the heck does Cards For Jason have to do with running?

That's easy.

Run, don't walk,  to the mailbox with a card for Kenney!

If you're still with me, take 1 minute to watch this student video.

It is a good day to be alive.  It's also a good day to be proud of the young Canadian students for taking non-violent action to change a wrong.  They are the future of our nation and you know what? 

The future looks rosy. 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

This and That

I love the intensity and spirituality of running on unforgiving terrain, looking for and finding the trails less travelled and pushing myself to, and beyond my limits.

Bob Nicol
Bob Nicol, Treherne Half Marathon, 2011

Congratulations to Bob Nicol, affectionally known around here as Barefoot Bob, for his appointment to the 2013 The North Face Canadian Trail Ambassador.  Bob is one of five Canadian trail ambassadors being honoured for their passion of trail running.  

While running the Treherne half-marathon with Bob in 2011 I mentioned at around mile 7 that I was registered to run the Bismarck full marathon in a week.  And then, just to be polite, I added You should join me, not expecting him to bite.  And why would he.. who would want to run a marathon with a week's notice? Who could run a marathon with a week's notice? Bob replied that he'd have to think about it and he would need to talk to his wife. It didn't sound too convincing, but somewhere between mile 7 and the finish line he agreed to join me in Bismarck.

Why the anecdote?  Because it shows Bob's passon and complete devotion to running.  I don't know too many people who can jump into a full marathon with a week's notice, and run it barefoot!  

I'm involved with an early years school in a neighbourhood with challenges. Last week the principal mentioned to me that she provides countless mittens and hats not only to the kids at her school but also kids from the neighbourhood middle school. She told me that they're in particular need of mittens, especially extra small mittens for the kindergarten kids.  I sent an email out to my running friends and they replied in kind.  I have about three dozen pair of mittens, most of them for tiny hands in need of a little love.  Many of the gloves are brand new,  Now that's compassion.  Thank you all for helping!

Trail along the Red
Speaking of trail running, I ran 8 miles yesterday and another 10 this morning.  I found myself on a lovely trail in an Elm tree forest that hugs the south bank of the mighty Red River.  It winds this way and that, it bumps up and down... yellow tall grass poking through white snow... red bushes... a galaxy of branches...snowy trails... soft and quiet... alone.  

Was it happenstance that I found myself on this secluded trail with all the beauty of a W.J. Philips landscape... with K.D. Lang singing the iconic helpless, helpless, helpless on the iPod?

Or was it simply meant to be?


And finally, in the spirit of awards... the ugliest cake of the year award goes to ....


It sorta looks like someone... umm... how shall I put it.... delicately... barfed on the cake. It's my wife's lemon birthday cake.  Apparently it's a big no-no in the baking world to add the wet ingredients before the dry ingredients are mixed.  Who would have figured?  It tastes great, and she loves it (at least that what she tells me), but the image is kind of scary.

You all are wonderful folks with good, kind hearts.  I hope you have a peaceful week and, as always, it IS a good day to be alive.