Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beer Can Angel

Calling all angels, calling all angels
Walk me through this one, don't leave me alone
Calling all angels, calling all angels
We're tryin', we're hopin', we're hurtin', we're lovin'
We're cryin', we're callin' 'cause we're not sure how this goes

Jane Siberry - Calling All Angels Lyrics 

Photo Credit Heidi Hunter of Runs With Scissors
Forgive me, another angel post.

Dino is a lone wolf, a middle aged Wolseley woman, a character with short curly, faded red hair. She watches the neighbourhood and searches the alleys and riverbank for lost cats and dogs. She's a weed pulling pop-up gardener, a flyer delivery girl, and a blue bin scavenger.  Social assistance provides her with the bare necessities while beer cans allow for indulgences. She ekes a meaningful existence, however humble.

Dino is invisible to most.  She tends to lurk in the background and eye contact is difficult for this angel. She will talk, but minimally so.  Dino has an intellectual disability and speech is difficult.

I first noticed Dino many years ago while walking my pretty Annie early one morning. She was deep in the bush in front of Laura Secord School, hidden from all except those who choose to see.  I noticed her red head bobbing among the bushes.

"Good morning" I said, "what are you doing?"

"I'm pulling the weeds" she replied with a tinge of impatience as though I had missed the obvious, and went back to work.

I thanked her for her good work and continued on.

And there I would see her day after day, month after month, year after year. Pulling the weeds in Wolseley public spaces, Laura Secord School, Wolseley School, and others. No matter how rushed, I always stopped and commented on what a good job she was doing and I thanked her for her work.

"Our neighbourhood is more beautiful because of you.Thank you for your work." I said.

"K, thanks" she replied shyly and continued weeding.

She was uncomfortable with the compliment, but secretly I know she liked it.  I continued to thank her whenever our paths crossed.

I commented on one occasion that I hadn't seen her pulling weeds at Laura Secord school for quite a while.

"They asked me to stay away because I was scaring the children". she replied.

"Scaring the children? What do you mean?" I asked.

She explained some parents complained their children were frightened by her presence.  To the parents she looked unkempt (my word) and suspicious, always in the bush, crouched down and hidden from view. Invisible to all but those who choose to see.

What a wasted opportunity.

Instead of welcoming her into the school community they reacted to unfounded fear. Instead of seeing a model citizen for students to aspire towards, they saw a threat. Instead of showing compassion, they showed intolerance.  They failed Dino. They failed the children. They failed our community.

Thus is the life of the beer can angel.

Calling all angels,
Walk me through this one
Don't leave me alone...

Last August I found Dino curbside rummaging through my blue bin.

I approached her and asked "What are you looking for?"

Startled, she backed away from the blue bin, afraid I was angry with her, afraid I was going to yell.

I told her "It's okay, I am just curious, what are you looking for?".

"Beer cans" she replied "They're worth 10 cents a can."

Choking on the words, 10 cents a can, I asked if it would help if I separated the beer cans and hid them from view in front of my car on Sunday evenings, the night before recycling day. Our little secret.

"K, that would be good, thanks" she replied

"It's my way of saying thank-you for pulling the weeds and making our neighbourhood beautiful".

And if a ten dollar bill happens to fall into the beer can container, so be it.

Dino, the beer can angel, now gets my beer cans, 10 cent each, ten will get you a dollar.

I think of Dino as I run and I consider all the good she does and how she is invisible to all except those who choose to see.  I think of Dino, the pop-up weed pulling gardener, the blue bin scavenger, the flyer delivery girl, the cat rescue, dog loving, beer can angel, and I smile.

It's a good day to be alive in my Wolseley.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hecla Half Marathon Race Report by Andrea Richardson Lipon

Thanks very much to Andrea Richardson Lipon for submitting this race report of the inaugural Hecla Island Half-marathon.  It sure sounds like a successful event!  

It's a good day to be alive.


Andrea Richardson Lipon
The Hecla half marathon was the first of my back to back half marathons.  I questioned myself; does this make me full on crazy?  No one really needs to answer that. 

The Hecla half marathon was the largest running race in the Interlake and the first time the race was “run”.  Right from the beginning, the correspondence from the race director to the participants was great.  Race pick-up from available in the city or on Friday or Saturday, it was all seamless.

The race course was an out and back and just gorgeous.  I had never been to Hecla before and I was amazed by the beauty.  It made the feeling of lungs burning that much more enjoyable.  The course was nicely marked, you really couldn’t get lost.  😉

There were just the right amount of aid stations and porta-potties.  Coming from someone with a defunct colon, porta-potty placement is key!

There was a part that was around the lake possibly around mile 5-6 and it literally felt like it was uphill both ways.  It was a great challenge, but once again surrounded by beauty!

The “trail” part of the race was the last 2km.  This was the fun part!  There was this part where it was loose stones…..not even gravel…… and it was so close to the end.  I remember thinking….. “I don’t have time for this in my life”……hahaha meant lovingly of course……..we were warned about this last part before the race started.  But still, who really listens to that?

It was a great race, a great venue and the organization and the volunteers were top notch!  They did run out of wine, but we were warned about that before the race started.  I mean how can you go wrong?  Free wine. Free Massage.  And great food……..and surrounded by beauty.  I can’t wait to see how they build upon this for next year!

Race Report by Andrea Richardson Lipon

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Half Marathon 2016 Race Report

Running happy at mile 7-ish with Jeannine.
Photo credit Fern Berard
"Good-morning, and welcome to race day..." the 5:00 AM cheery email from our much loved race director Jonathan Torchia.  I smiled through groggy eyes and thought "does this man ever sleep?" and stepped into the hot shower.

Life is complicated.  Running is simple.

The 5th annual WFPS half marathon (5km 10km) has set a new standard for Winnipeg road races. Jonathan and crew ditched the old blueprints and built a race from the ground up. This race, this event, this spectacular happening, helped make today a memory.

A memory of smiles and cheers, and sweat and humanity.  A memory of laughter and camaraderie. A memory of tears and hurt, and pain, and happiness.  A memory of success and disappointment. A memory of hot coffee and Johnny Sticky buns. A memory of Ted Swain, Joanne Schiewe, and Barry Gordon. A memory of port-a-potty (knees held tight) line-ups. A memory of all things beautiful, all people moving, all people running. A memory positive energy within in a misogynistic era of Trump hatefulness.

Thanks be to this memory of positive energy.

This memory will sustain us as we travel through this cataclysmic time event called life.

Some whine and complain and follow a path of desolation while we run and hoot and holler.

We are the lucky ones.

Life is complicated, running is simple.

I'm sorry for being so rosy and all-blush. I've been accused of going through life with rose coloured glasses many times and admittedly it's curse and a weakness. However, I've come to understand in my 6th decade that it is a virtue and a strength.

I had the distinct honour of pacing the 2 hour group with my friend Paul. Paul ran with 10/1 walk breaks and I paced the 2 hour continuous run. We were simply magical in out timing. I passed him on his walk breaks and he passed me moments later. This leap frog continued 13 times to the finish line. We accommodated the diversity of the group and we crossed the finish line within seconds of one another.  There is no first, there is only together.

Life is complicated, running is simple.
Two of my favourite runners, Connie and Darcie (aka Death Star).
Photo credit Facebook image
There were a number of amazing water stations but mile 8 and 12 stand out for their sheer energy. The volunteers were completely extraordinary.  The noise and smiles and cheers were intoxicating and flooded the brain with oxygen and endorphins. We surge forward on fresh legs with strength and fluidity (is that a word?).

Life is complicated.  Running is simple.

Junel Malapad and See Mike Run
photos credit Junel selfie
My friends sustain me and give meaning to life.  Junel, ever present with a camera and warmth, snaps a quick selfie  and captures a sliver of life... like water through our hands, a sliver of life.... all gone but the memory.

"I do not want to See Mike Run" says a pesky Tim and then adds with a wink, "for the best running friend ever" and we laugh as children at recess.

A stranger, a young woman, ran by my side for 13.1 miles depending on me to deliver a sub-two hour pace.  We soared over the magic line at 1:59:44. We hugged at the finish line as old friends, and yet I do not know her name.  A man my age sought me out and thanked me for my pace and we hugged as brothers.  The countless high-fives and hugs, and smiles make me whole.

Life is complicated.  Running is simple.

Let me tell you a secret, but don't tell Jonathan.  Four years ago I received a phone call from Jonathan.  He told me that, due to logistics, he had to change the date of the WFPS to the same weekend as Ted's Run for Literacy. He apologized profusely and was genuinely concerned how this conflict would impact TRL.  He cared enough to call and discuss options and offer solutions when many would not have extended the same courtesy.  I respected his integrity and sincerity then as I do now.  Ted's Run for Literacy is a teeny event compared to the WFPS and yet he was concerned with our bottom line.  That my friends is the definition of integrity.

So my friends, be it known how I love you all.  You bring me joy. You make me whole. You are my people.

Next time our paths cross yell out "I do not want to See Mike Run" and I will laugh.

It's a good day to be alive.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Trail Run Manitoba, Lemming Loop, Race Report

See Mike Run
Beaudry Park, Lemming Loop Ultra-marathon
photo credit Maria Purificacion
All days are good for running, some are just better than others. Such was the October 1st Lemming Loop ultra-marathon hosted by the good folks of Trail Run Manitoba.  Runners race against the clock on a looped trail in their choice of a 3, 6, 12, or 24 hour event.  Each loop measures precisely 5.7 km with a single aid station at the start/finish line. As runners reach the end of their their time they are directed on to a 1 km short course so they're not stuck in the middle of the forest when the bear banger signals 'time's up'. Simple math determines your distance: i.e. (number of laps) x 5.7 km + (number of short laps) = total distance.  Life is complicated, running is simple.

After a two year hiatus due to flooding of the Assiniboine River, the 6th annual Lemming Loop returned home to the gorgeous Beaudry Park, 35 minutes from Portage and Main. The land is low and thick with mature oak trees.  Beaudry, a jewel in its own right, is comfortably nestled within a large u-shaped bend in the meandering Assiniboine River. The trails are mostly dual track with the occasional dip and rise just enough to make it interesting. Street runners quickly learn the meaning of 'be nimble' and watch for roots, rocks and other tripping hazards.  I took a nasty tumble at mile 18 and had several stumbles especially in the latter stages as my body fatigued and I lost concentration.

It is always an honour to share the trail with the humble Bert Blackbird, the joyful Sue Lucas, the infectiously positive Junal Malapad, and the other trail legends whose presence grace this magical forest. It's equally gratifying to run alongside Leaslie McPhail, Mandi Jacobson, Brenda, and Eddie Marion-Gerula.  This latter group may not have the stamina and speed of the former, yet they are tough as nails and do our community proud. Our community, whether trail or street, 10 km or ultra-marathon, is inclusive and kind and we care deeply about one another.

I thank Dwayne Sandall for his dedication to this community and for making our lives just a little better, one step at a time.  The volunteers, far too numerous to mention, are simply priceless.  The likes of Carrie Howell and her twin sister ;) Jo Holmes epitomize the volunteer spirit, cheerful, helpful, knowledgable, a little crazy (okay, a lot crazy) and all around beautiful characters.

It wouldn't be a race report without one tiny suggestion so here goes.  I didn't carry water preferring to rely on the aid station. In reflection, this was probably an error on my part and I paid for it near the end. It would have been helpful for me, and I expect others, to have an unattended water drop at the skier's hut.  My first several laps timed in at about 25 minutes while the last one was a whopping 48 minutes, a long time between water.

As winter approaches.  As days grow shorter. As I grow older. As life moves relentlessly forward, I have memories.

Memory of trails. 
Memory of tall oaks. 
Memory of blue skies. 
Memory of musty leaves. 
Memory of twisting rivers. 
Memory of running. 
Memory of smiles. 
Memory of kindness.

Thank you all for these sweet memories.

Remember also, it's a good day to be alive.