Saturday, October 26, 2013

When I Became a Runner

Emotion course through my veins, choking me. I feel so insignificant, a tiny speck surrounded by a million stars. A million suns.

Beth Revis 

Life doesn't come with a remote.
I ran in high school, but not well. I remember my first race, a mile. It seemed like an eternity. I remember the pain in my side and an adult (a teacher?) encouraging me to stop, to quit.  I didn't, I was too stubborn and frozen with the fear of quitting, the fear of the laughter and the teasing. It was my first and only DFL (dead *ing last).  I started too fast and died on the course along with my spirit for running. I limped across the line with my tail tucked tightly between my legs and salty streaks on my cheeks. I remember the shame.  I ran in high school, but I was not a runner.

I ran again while in university.  My room mate was a serious runner.  She ran marathons and had a trainer. She motivated me to lace up the Adidas once again. I ran casually for several years, mostly in circles around the Legislative Building.  I lived in the Village so the Golden Boy was a good enough destination.  I remember running and running, getting lost in thought, but still not a runner.  I ran distance when Walkmans and Commodore 64's were the multi-media of the day. I ran in university, but I was not a runner.

I ran on and off (mostly off) for years following university.  I ran on a Reserve in Northern Manitoba and the kids would ask me "where are you going? where are you running to?" as if a destination was necessary. Running was not a concept on the reserve. I ran in my 30's and 40's but I was not a runner.

I was 46 years old when I next strapped on the kicks.  Twenty pounds overweight on a tiny frame, in the habit of Scotch at 5, bearing stress and tension. I was not not happy with who I was becoming and the direction I was heading. Someone once said life doesn't come with a remote control, if you don't like the channel you gotta get off your ass. Well friends, I got off my ass and haven't looked back.

I ran at the downtown Y.  I ran miles and miles and endless miles in endless circles.  I would count the circles to estimate my distance.  I became dizzy running in circles, but still I was not a runner.

I ran on treadmills and watched the beefcakes do beefcake things, but still I was not a runner.

I ran on ellipticals and watched the aerobic folks do aerobic things, but still I was not a runner.

I ran out side and learned about injury and layers, but still I was not a runner.

I competed my first half marathon and then a full, but still I was not a runner.

I ran hundreds and hundreds of miles, thousands of miles. I ran half marathons and full marathons. I was drunk with running.  I ran at 6 AM and 6 PM. I ran in plus 38 degrees Celsius and minus 40 degrees. I ran alone, I ran with a single friend,  I ran in groups.  I would run with anyone who had an hour to spare. But still I was not a runner.

I was middle age, past middle age. I had shed 20 pounds, 26 pounds. I became vegetarian, but still I was not a runner.

That feel of becoming a runner, it crept stealthily, methodically, like a cat. It just appeared one day on a trail. It surprised me, but I knew it was true.  I had become a runner.  On the trail with tunes worming through my brain, I had become a runner.

I remember precisely where I was, alone, frozen in a Winnipeg winter time warp, on a trail. The feel that I could run forever on that trail elevated my whole being. That feel of omnipotence,  confidence, fluidity, strength of muscle, of mind, and of spirit. That feel of intense happiness in self. That feel of sharpness of mind, of clarity. That blessed feel of the trail coursing through my body, lighting me up, electrifying my spirit....  that feel.... of being a runner... was overwhelming.

I embraced the trail and I became a tiny speck surrounded by a million stars, a million suns. I became a runner.

Why this story? Why now? I'm not sure.. it's just the way the mind works. 

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ted's Run for Literacy 2013

I remember well his indomitable good humour on those ridiculous 18km runs this winter with a wind chill in the mid minus 40s. How did he do it?! Ted was wonderful company – we swapped stories about teaching and travelling, and he offered sound running advice and inspiration. He made just finishing the race – whatever the distance -- into an excellent and worthy goal. I respected his view that it was not possible to run too slowly on the long runs, and appreciated his little ‘instructive’ remarks when I ran ahead of the group. Having spent so many hours running and talking with Ted, I consider him a friend, and am deeply saddened by his much too early exit.

Cheryl Dueck on the passing of Ted, 2009

As race director I have the pleasure of starting the runners.. on your mark, get set, GO.. such a thrill!
The third annual Ted's Run for Literacy was a smashing success.  With 291 registered runners and walkers this makes 2013 our best ever race.  The seven family teams added a whole new sparkle to Ted's Run for Literacy sporting names such as the MackaPackas, The Poundies, The 4RE's, Jack's Firing Jets.  I even overheard some good natured chirping between two families.. you're going down MackaPackas.... hope those tattoos aren't permanent LJM3 ... all in the spirit of fun and good cheer. Several dozen schools were represented including Teulon, Kelvin, Grosvenor, John Henderson and Balmoral Hall. It is gratifying to see children run to support children living in poverty. 

Carly bringing in her son.
As Stephanie led the participants in a pre-race warm-up the thick clouds parted exposing a summer blue sky. The sun's warmth smiled on the dancers; their feet kicked a little higher, a little stronger as they danced together as one. And the smiles, what can be said of the smiles? To say Ted was there smiling along with his old pals would be stating the obvious.  He was there in the hearts and the minds of all... and he was in shorts with a Viking hat.  Dear old Ted, you are missed so.

Smile x 3 
We invited political folks but Ted's Run is too small for busy politicians. No matter, we had the support of three race directors: Bridget Robinson of the Point Douglas Run, Jonathan Torchia of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Run, and local hero, Jeff Vince of the Diana Stevens Empower Run. We had the likes of David Fielder, Barefoot Bob, Melissa Budd, and many many more.  We had one wheeler whose smiles and positivity lit up the course.  No, we didn't have any politicians, they were all to busy, but we had better, we had the likes of you. We had folks with kind hearts, deep pockets, and unbridled positive energy.  We had moms and dads and kids.  We had a wheeler, and dog walkers. We had energy and spirit. We had the spirit of Ted waft through the course. No politicians though, they were too busy.  
                            What an awesome team!                                     
What can one say of the volunteers who give so freely of their time?  Those who keep us safe. Those that load vans.  Those that hand out ribbons to child runners.Those that cheer and hold up signs.  Those that have beautiful souls. Those who give so much and expect nothing in return except perhaps a smile and a coffee.  I tried to thank you all but I know I missed many, please forgive me. These volunteers we have at Ted's Run for Literacy, we are so fortunate and so grateful for your support.  Ted smiles upon you.
Best volunteers ever!
Ted's Run for Literacy is proud of our $4000 donation to Start2Finish. Start2Finish supports Running and Reading programs in two Winnipeg schools and two First Nations schools in Northern Manitoba. Thanks to folks like you, Ted's Run For Literacy, through Start2Finish, provides high-end running shoes for all children participating in the Running Reading Program.  How does this help literacy? Children living in poverty do not have the same opportunity to participate in high quality, extra-curricular activities that nurture both the mind and the body.  Start2Finish provides a little push to help even the playing field.  Active kids are engaged kids.  Engaged kids are happy kids. Happy kids learn to read in a safe, caring environment.

Barefoot Bob
Barefoot Bod is an extraordinary individual and, I am proud to say, a good friend.  Bob raised an additional $3000 (and climbing) to our pot, raising the total donation to Start2Finish to $7000 (and climbing).  Our race committee is overwhelmed with the kindness and spirit of this beautiful man. His dedication to the running community inspires me and, in the same breath, humbles me. This man, this runner, this barefoot runner, Barefoot Bob, has wormed his way into the hearts and minds of runners across Canada.  His spirt and generosity has no end.  It is a privilege to have Bob support our event

Since it's inception in 2011, Ted's Run for Literacy has raised over $15,000 for Start2Finish. Ted's Run for Literacy... indeed... the little race that could.  

My friends, and friends soon to be, thank you for believing in Ted's Run for Literacy, thank you for believing that childhood poverty can be eradicated, and thank you for your support.  


It's a good day to be alive.

Save the date:  The fourth annual Ted's Run for Literacy, October 12, 2014, Kildonan Park.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jamie McDonald; Just a Regular Superhero

Keep moving even if your path isn't lit. 
Trust that you will find your way. 
Flash Gordon
There is a superhero in all of us.  It's what makes us get out of bed every morning and live the day as if there is no tomorrow. It why we cheer our friends as they drag their tired bones across the line, it's why tend to our sick children with fevers and wires, it's why we hold tight the ones we love as they fade from their former selves. We don't wear capes, we don't fly, and we certainly don't have super strength. We're simply Joe six-packs with mortgages and dreams.  We dream of a better world, we understand the strength of positive thinking and affirmative action. We embrace inclusion and diversity. We dream and we move forward with strength and fortitude even when we'd rather curl up in a ball... when I run 11 miles home from work... I'm not running... I'm saving the world .... because... the simple act of leaving the car in the driveway improves the human condition an infinitesimal amount... and that makes me glow superhero red.

Jamie McDonald is a superhero of extraordinary character and depth.  He's a man with a dream so big he needs all of Canada to contain it, to live it, to dream it.  Jamie dreams in 3D high definition Technicolor while ours, by comparison, are fuzzy monochrome.  

Jamie McDonald is running across Canada in support of sick children.  To date Jamie has raised about $30,000 for the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.  All money raised in Manitoba will support the Children's Hospital Foundation in Winnipeg.  As a child Jamie suffered from a rare spinal condition called syringomyelia  and a weakened immune system.  He was in and out of hospitals for nine painful years. Perhaps this is the source of his motivation? To dream of a world where sick kids get the best care our planet has to offer? Indeed, no small dream, but this is Jamie we're talking about.

Jamie arrived in Winnipeg today and I had the extraordinary pleasure of joining a group of local runners to escort him from the outskirts of Winnipeg to The Forks. We took our time running that eleven miles.  We chatted and laughed.  We posed for pictures with strangers.  We ran out in traffic -squeegy-kid style to collect donations from smiling if not bewildered drivers. We whooped it up at busy bus stops entertaining the commuters.  We took turns holding the large, faded Canadian flag.  It looked awesome furling (is that a word?) against the blue prairie sky.  We took turns pushing the cart that weighs 35 kg (the approximate weight of a sick kid that Jamie knew). It was a moment that I will cherish.  To have met this beautiful man with a dream that astounds the mundane and reminds us of all that is wonderful.

This man in a beat up faded cape.  This man in a torn and dirty Flash Gordon tee-shirt. This beautiful man with a dream so large it cannot be contained, cannot be denied, cannot be ignored. This man who visited The Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and met a nine year old girl and her mother. A girl sick in hospital.  A girl who should be at home tucked safely in a warm bed with girly sleep overs. Jamie told the girl in no words to dream. To believe, to keep moving even if the path isn't lit.
This girl, who is all girls, all children, crafted a Flash Gordon cape for our intrepid Jamie, superhero that he is. Jamie wears this cape every day, all day.  It has become who he is... a dreamer who dreams superhero dreams. 

Make no mistake, Jamie is The Flash.

Please follow Jamie here and here.  Like his page.  Tell your friends about this awesome man. Go for a run. Toss a toonie in his bin or .... be a superhero and slip him a hundred.  

Come meet the man for yourself at City Park Runners at 6PM on Tuesday, October 8 and bring your cheque-book ... or make a donation here.

It's a good day to be alive, but it's even better now that I have met Jamie.

Mike :) 

Bob Nicol carrying the flag.
photo credit Brian McFarlane
Even super heros need to whiz once in a while.
photo credit Brian McFarlane

The escort.
photo credit Brian McFarlane