In which I run 20 miles

First I lifted one foot. And then the next. Then I lifted the right foot again. And then the left, very, very slowly. You could barely even call this running. Hilary’s ascent of Everest was probably lightening fast compared to this.

The wheels had come off about 18 miles in. But the problem started the day before and involved cheerleader costumers, 2,000 women and beer – lots of beer.

That Saturday night (why is it always a Saturday night in these kinds of stories) found me in Burnside, Nova Scotia, dressed in a burgundy cheerleader’s outfit with the letters “FJHS” on the front. I wore a red and white wig topped with a red cowboy hat on my head, and I was dancing to Lady Gaga in the middle of the street. A wave of women ran towards me.

This was before the beer.

But there’s an explanation for all this. Really.

A few days earlier, my friend Randall, talked me into working the Halifax Running Club’s water stop during the Sole Sisters Women’s Race. This is a matter of some importance and pride to the club as the race has a prize for best water station and last year the club won.

“It will be fun,” Randall said.

Whenever someone tells you something will be fun that means you’re headed for some sort of situation straight out of the Hangover series of movies.

Our mutual friend Bruce somehow had come into the possession of a number of cheerleader outfits (best not to ask to closely about these sorts of things, sometimes) and on Saturday night I found myself squeezed into my outfit, setting up cups of water on tables at the 3.8 km mark of the run.

We even had pom-poms.

Gimme an "S"

Gimme an “S”

As the first women began to run toward us, you could see their faces register surprise, disbelief and then burst into huge smiles. A few of us were up the road from our water station, dancing and shaking our booty pom-poms.

But suddenly, a wall of women ran toward us and all of us began grabbing water cups to try and get them into the hands of all the runners. For about five minutes, it was a blur as more than a thousand women ran past the water station.

It was amazing the number of them carrying iPhones or other mobiles and who wanted to stop and take our photo or pose with us. And it was gratifying to make so many people happy. I understand perfectly what clowning is all about now.

We're pretty, oh so pretty...

We’re pretty, oh so pretty…

After, pleased with ourselves, we hit an ersatz Irish pub, where one pint of Harp lager turned into three.

…when I regained consciousness, I found myself in my running gear in Point Pleasant Park with my nemesis, Evil Frank Atherton, beside me.

Three pints of Harp is not the ideal hydration strategy for a 20-miler.

Gamely, Frank and I chugged up the hills, quietly lost in our own thoughts.

But then something amazing happened: about eight km in,  we began to feel good. We suddenly had that rhythm that comes, the one where you feel like you could run the same pace all day.

Or so I thought.

At the Halifax Running Club, Frank left to run home and I picked up a new group, most of whom had been at the water stop and bar the night before. They looked none the worse for the wear.

In fact, at what was the 19 km mark for me and nine km mark for John, the latter decided to pick up the pace. Anyone who knows me, knows I will try and stay with the front-runner. Sunday was no exception.

John is not quite as tall as a small redwood tree. For every stride he took, I had to take about 80. For the next eight km, the pace got rich. Near the end, we were booting it down South Street just above Spring Garden Road while Roger gave commentary along the lines of: “Roger overtakes John and Charles! He wins!”

My face was a mask of suffering.

Of course, about two km later, everyone else, said, “Great run!” brightly, and headed back to the club, leaving me to crawl along for the remaining four km.

Undoubtedly, you want some kind of moral now: something along the lines of “Prefontaine never donned a cheerleader costume and then drank to excess, which is why he was so great.”

You sure about that now? Huh? Did you talk to Pre and verify that with him? Maybe he did. Maybe that’s exactly what made him so great. You don’t know, do you?

All I can say is that as a training technique, it doesn’t work for me.

Next time, I think I’d ditch the outfit.


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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