Friday, October 27, 2017

Run Pender. Die Happy.

If I had a bucket list -which I don't because life itself is a bucket list - silly concept really -  there would be a big fat check-mark next to Run Pender with the postscript die happy. Herein lies the impressions of a proud and happy flatlander from the centre of Canada, Winnipeg.

Pender Island is next to that other island called Salt something-or-other, a stone's throw from God's Waiting Room, aka Victoria, off the coast of multi-million-dollar-bungalows, Vancouver. 

Hippies in tailored down MEC fashion and Birkenstocks tread the trails of Pender (the rich wear L.L Bean and Eddie Bauer). The preferred ride is Yaris and Prius or, if you prefer, smile and wave at a passing driver and a ride is assured.  Pender's vibe is contagious. Cool is a toque with knee-high white socks and sandals. Pender is wine, cheese, craft beer, blackberries. Pender's beauty is sublime, unparalleled and overwhelming in simplicity of lifestyle. 

We are enchanted with the locals, particularly Old Dave, whose deck we helped rebuild with re -purposed cedar planks, aged Scotch, and homemade hootch. That was a good day, but truly, you had to be there to appreciate the moment. 

Run Pender. Die Happy.  I hope you enjoy this little sliver of happiness from my vault of enchantment.

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

WFPS Half-marathon 2017, 10 km, 5 km Race Report.

I see through the lies of the Jedi.  I do not fear the dark side as you do. I have brought peace, freedom, justice, and security to my new empire.

Darth Vader (episode iii, Revenge of the Sith)

Race Director Jonathan Torchia awards a medal to Ethan.
Photo credit unknown.

Fifth grader Ethan has captured the heart of the entire WFPS Half Marathon 10k & 5k race community. Ethan loves Star Wars, particularly super villain Darth Vader. He also loves his 14 year old sister Jenna (aka Miss. Darth Vader ;) despite her relentless teasing - although I imagine Ethan holds his own against Jenna. All in good fun. Ethan is about as 'normal' a boy as you can imagine.

Except he's not.

Ethan has a rare condition called congenital myopathy unknown.  His mom Lorraine explains.
He has muscle weakness. Normal things people do without thinking are hard for Ethan. Getting dressed, going up and down stairs, picking up his backpack, sitting too long, walking too long, all of it! Every day is a struggle for him just to get through the day. In addition to his weakness he has chronic pain in his back, neck knees, and feet which on some days is debilitating. Exhaustion plays a major role in his life. 
His outward appearance is strong.  He looks well, acts, thinks, and speaks like any other 10 year old boy, but his disease can never be dismissed. "It is" says Lorraine "the elephant in the room". It nags incessantly and anxiety looms large at night between the sheets. Ethan's long term prognosis is tenuous but the family, especially Ethan, remain optimistic.  This is a family that understands the power of love and optimism.

Ethan and his family ran the 3 km 'Shake Out Run' to commemorate the opening of the hugely popular 6th annual Fire Paramedic Run. The pain and discomfort Ethan experiences is symbolic of so many who struggle daily. These people are the true heros of our beautiful community.

The elite runners are gifted and we are grateful for their elegance and speed. We love the fast ones, but our community is about more than speed and personal bests. We are about love and inclusion. We accept all that have the tenacity and the courage to lace up and drag their butt to the start line.  Through pain and struggle we run, wheel, walk over the sweet white line to cheers and tears.

L to R Wanda (family friend), Dad, Ethan, Mom, WFPS Run Ambassador.
Photo credit Cheryl Stewart. 

Showing up is 80% of life. Sometimes it's easier to hide at home in bed. I've done both.  Woody Allen, 1977, Annie
Today we showed up.
Today we were simply amazing.
Today we cried and laughed.
Today we danced over a line in ecstasy.
Today, as all days, we are grateful for the Ethans of the world.

Yes, Ethan is a hero, but so too are you. We persevere and we move forward.  We accept what life has given us and we run happy. We show up when it would be so much easier to roll over and blissfully sleep away life.

I leave the last words to Ethan's mom, Lorraine.

Today we continue to fight. We fight for a boy with a rare muscle disease. Fight to get him the support he needs at school. Fight for others to understand, friends, family, teachers. Fight for the medical community to understand what it's like to watch your son struggle with strength, fatigue, and chronic pain. Fight for them to understand we often feel forgotten. Fight when they tell us our son is getting weaker. Fight when they tell us a day will finally come when he requires a wheelchair. Fight when they tell us his heart and lungs may become affected.  We fight for E and we #staystrong. Always.
See Mike Run
Photo Credit Junel Malapad
With gratitude and thanks to Jonathan Torchia and his 700 volunteers.  You make us happy.

It's a good day to be alive.


For more information on Ethan's condition click here.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sparking the Dream; An Autumn Marathon in peg City?

If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right.

Jonathan Torchia, RD WFPS Half Marathon (5 km 10 km)

Jonathan Torchia WFPS Race Director
The Common, Winnipeg

Several weeks ago See Mike Run waxed poetic about a made in Winnipeg Autumn full marathon. I imagine a dreamy course with no holds barred; a course that showcases Winnipeg's strength and diversity. Having run thousands of miles along ancient river trails and achingly gorgeous cityscapes, I feel compelled to share the dream.

Jonathan Torchia also has a dream, but his dream is hampered by bureaucratic red tape, sponsors, time away from family, and dozens of other considerations.... more of a nightmare really.

"The trouble with dreaming" says Jonathan  "is your dreams quickly get crushed."

Jonathan's dream of hosting a full marathon began on November 3, 2014 and nags him incessantly to this day.  This is the day he first plotted a full marathon course. My blog prompted Jonathan to "restart the conversation" and "spark the dream".

We met at The Forks Common for a pint of Torque Red Line. We dreamed audaciously, laughed, talked, and sipped.  The outcome of that pint? We both believe an Autumn marathon in 'peg city is entirely possible and, in fact, imminent.

Despite his bubbling enthusiasm and kryptonic credibility in the running community his dream stalls out in bureaucratic quicksand and complicated logistics.  The naysayers are a dime a dozen and pray hard on positive energy. When all you hear is 'no' time after time, year after year, one's confidence wanes and needs the occasional spark to remain alive.

I Have A Dream was that spark.

I suggested the WFPS RUN offer an option to run the course twice and call it a full marathon to which Jonathan replied,

"That's garbage! The WFPS RUN Race Committee would lose all the credibility we've built up over the years. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right."

To be perfectly clear, planning and executing an event of this magnitude is daunting. Like fallen boulders on the path to success, multiple obstacles need to be tunneled under, climbed over, traversed gingerly, or just simply blown to smithereens. It will take pluck, leadership, and an unwavering commitment to accomplish this herculean task.

Street closures, police support, signage, volunteers, medical support, municipal government, red tape, money, time and dozens more all block the path to success.

"People don't realize the cost of closing down a street" says Jonathan. We need someone with "deep pockets" and then rattles off the names of Winnipeg's wealthy in the hopes they would commit or at the very least, lend support.

Smaller races like Ted's Run for Literacy cost about $5000- $7000 to host, plus another $4000 to $5000 which we donate to literacy programming in Winnipeg's inner city. We require about 70 volunteers to run smoothly. WFPS RUN costs between $150,000 to $175,000 and requires approximately 700 volunteers. Both are gold standard events which could be delivered cheaper and with fewer volunteers, but you the runner would notice. You would vote with your feet and be inclined not to return.

You can get it cheap or you can get it good, but you can't get it good and cheap (to borrow a carpenter's phrase).

"What would it cost to host a full marathon?"  I asked, "what's your ballpark number?"

"Probably an additional $50,000 to $75,000" replied Jonathan.

There's a reason why most running events in Winnipeg are in the south west quadrant of the city. Neighbourhoods like Wellington Crescent, Wolseley, Fort Garry, Lyndale, Kingston Row, Churchill Drive are in the south west quadrant of the city and all hug the Assiniboine or Red Rivers.

"Road races in Winnipeg" explained Jonathan "hug river neighbourhoods. They are quieter streets requiring fewer closure and less police presence".

My Dream Marathon is not going to happen anytime soon. You may recall a recent film shoot on Arlington Bridge created about 7000 street detours. Closing Portage and Main and other downtown streets for a marathon would be a logistical nightmare.  I maintain it's possible, but won't happen until our population exceeds one million.

Jonathan receives no financial compensation for the weeks of planning. In fact he happily donates much of his vacation time to the WFPS RUN. He loves our running community and is passionate about road racing and cycling.  He's on call 24-7 for weeks leading up to and following the RUN. Heck, he's a triathlete with his eyes on IronMans and BQs and he holds down a full-time paramedic job.... wait... there's more.... he's recently married with family on his mind!

When I asked if he would add a full marathon event to the WFPS he replies "No one in their right noodle would take this on in a volunteer capacity."

There wouldnt be enough time in the day to hold down a full time job, tend to his family life, and manage a full marathon on top of the annual sell-out WFPS Run. The demands on time would be staggering. Think for a moment dear reader... would you raise your hand?

"What if you were offered a stipend equivalent to half a year's pay?" I asked.

Silent pause...

"I would have to go down to part time" he muses.

"We'd have to cap it at 200 runners. Our first priority is safety and the impact on our citizens. Can we make this happen?" he asks.

And then answers his own question.


Mike and Jonathan
Sparking the dream or pint logic?

We're just two guys dreaming with a pint in hand. I wax poetic while Jonathan considers logistics. I dream while Jonathan calculates. A  right brain/ left brain match made in marathon heaven don't you think?

An Autumn Full Marathon is imminent.  Mark my words, it will happen.  The only question remaining is who will own it?  Will it be 10-10-42 event, an MEC event, or the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic RUN event?

My money is on the latter.

It's a good day to be alive,