We were blessed with beautiful weather today in the Okanagan Valley. This year, like most years, I’ve had enough of winter by now and every little bit of sunshine makes a big difference. Since I am training for the Vancouver Half Marathon on May 5th, Sundays are for running. The Sunday run is the long run of the week, known as LSD (long, slow, distance for those of you who were thinking of hallucinogenic substances). Today, like most Sundays this winter, began with several presses of the snooze button and a tiny pity party because I would have preferred to sleep in.
The Sunday ritual usually consists of heading down to Peachland with my husband Tony and our dog (ok, my dog) Brandy. Tony’s training for a full marathon, so he gets started while I do the first 2k with Brandy, whose nick-name is “Poops-a-lot”. After much starting and stopping, I am always happy to put her back into the car so I can hit my own stride and experience the benefits of a solitary LSD run.
Today was a little different. There was a small 5k race at the Peachland waterfront. It was enough to keep my mind from wandering out of body as I observed and engaged with several of the racers, who were running towards me. Every race has it’s Serious Leaders, and today’s race was no different. The serious leader will make no eye contact with any one. He or she is in the zone, with singular focus and their goal in mind. Legs and heart pounding, lungs heaving, and eyes bulging, these runners mean business. They are working hard and hopefully will celebrate with equal intensity at the finish line.
The middle of the pack was filled with presumably newer runners, putting in at least as much effort as the aforementioned Serious Leader. With much effort, I graduated to the rank of Middle of the Pack last year. There are good days and bad days, but increasingly the good days are outnumbering the bad days. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be out in front, but the rewards of good health, great cardiovascular endurance and permission to eat make the effort worthwhile. The real trick to getting to and staying with the middle of the pack for me has been literally an exercise in patience. I’ve had to exercise patience with my body while it adapted to new levels of physical activity and healed from injury. I’ve had to exercise patience with my attitude, which wasn’t always positive, especially in the beginning, and still can get a little ugly on a really tough running day when I’m not fueled properly.
The runners I enjoyed watching the most today were the runners that were really struggling. You know what I mean – huffing and puffing, frothing at the mouth, eyes rolled back, uneven stride. You know that whatever their time, these people are going for a personal best. These are the runners I celebrate. I’ve been there, and if a random stranger cheered me on, it gave me a boost of energy. Today they needed all the help they could get, because the path was also full of walkers, many of whom function as moving obstacles and peanut gallery.
I was on my second lap of the waterfront and I thought all the racers were gone when I saw her. The Last Runner. My heart was about to go out to her, but then I noticed her radiant smile. She was having a break-through and she knew it. Was this her first 5k ever? Was she on her way back from an injury? I don’t know, but I do know that she was HAPPY. This radiant Last Runner has no idea, but she made my day. If there is a moral to the story, it’s this: No matter what your goal, challenge or race, it doesn’t have to be fast, pretty or graceful to be good for you and the source of inspiration for someone else. Just get out there and get moving!