In which I run 20 miles

You begged (well, one of you, anyway; and, actually, you just sort of inquired politely why I hadn’t posted lately) and I responded!

Yes, you can thank my one fan for my subjecting you to another training post.  And I know you’re overcome with joy that I’ve decided to grace you with another of my training journals.

But now I need you to settle down and pay close attention to a tale of hardship, gritty will-power and determination, deprivation and, ultimately, victory.

And that was just the part where I managed to choke down my first gel.

It was a dark and stormy day, one in a series of dark and stormy days, when I gathered up my kit bag, my bagel and chocolate peppermint soy latte and drove into Halifax to attempt the holy grail of distance runners everywhere: the 20-miler!

(Never mind that on the same day, all the Epic Dartmouth Iron people were swimming, riding and running ridiculous distances…but for the purposes of this story I must ignore them.  Otherwise, they’ll make me feel…well, strangely inadequate and, er, weak.)

Yes, the rain rained, the fog fogged and the wind blew (Ha! You thought I was going to say “winded.” Well, that’s just absurd).

Someone, somewhere, once said: “Twenty miles is no walk in the park.”

Well, duh, Einstein! It’s 20 miles. Sheesh.

This week I resolved to take it easy, unlike last week when I decided half-way through the run to do my best Prefontaine imitation with predictable results. This week was all about going the distance. Actually it was about crushing the distance. In fact, it was about pulverizing, Incredible Hulking, smashing getting it done.

A group of us set out from the Halifax Running Club and immediately I knew it was game on!

We’d barely entered Point Pleasant Park when Tracy Beaton moved to the front and began a dominant challenge for first place. Everyone else nonchalantly chatted, but I knew I needed to make a move.

At three kilometres into the run I was already forced to throw in an enormous surge that right away split the pack, leaving four other runners with me.

Like four-time Boston and New York marathon winner Bill Rodgers, I’d early on shattered the group and was now setting the pace.

I surged again at nine kilometres on the long uphill on Oxford Street, quickly shredding the pack. At that point the pace was so rich that Colleen DNFed, claiming she was only running 12 kilometres that day.

I had this.

Tony “Chicken Wings” LePage kept challenging me, but I controlled him with some strategic whining. “Tony, I’m running longer. Slow down.”

It worked…sucker.

A minor distraction weakened my focus as we climbed into Halifax’s north end.

Splosh, splosh, splosh.

“Uh, whose feet are making the splashing sound?” I queried.

It had rained hard for two days now and water coated the roads.

Splosh, splosh, splosh.

I expected to see frogs, ducks, even blue herons, bursting from our shoes.

Sure, it was wet, but nothing you’d call Noah about.

Soon, though, even Tony and Brandon (both pleading tired legs from running the Epic 10 km race the day before; what a pathetic excuse!) carved off.

That left me with Marie-Claude.

Like Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar in Duel in the Sun, it was now down to us. Except there was no sun. And it wasn’t really a duel. And I’d actually begged her to stay with me so I’d have some company later in the run.

Still…game on!

At 21 km, she called it quits.

I pressed on. Like every marathoner before me throughout history, it boiled down to a battle of sheer will.

I ran along Halifax’s waterfront. “Oh look,” I said to myself, “there’s a cozy bench where I could curl up and sleep for several hours.”

No. I persisted.

With a gaze surpassing fondness and bordering on complete adoration and love, I longingly and openly ogled a number of the food stalls along the water front.

I pushed harder.

With about a kilometre to go, the heavens opened up. I could use the phrase “Biblical proportions.”

I was nearly drowning running.

The wind heaved and torrents of water much like those that swamped the Titanic washed over me.

I strained against the screaming blasts of gusting wind, while buckets of water crashed down on my head.

My sopping clothes clung to me like those of an entrant in a wet T-shirt contest, while the wind blew harder than John Travolta’s hair dryer.

I threw my puny body against the weather and shook my tiny fist in impotent fury.

“I will prevail!

I will!”

The elements savaged my skinny frame.

But at 31.5. kilometres I turned and suddenly became one with the wind, gusting home to a triumphant finish.

One down.


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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3 Responses to In which I run 20 miles

    • subthree says:

      Thanks. Actually, the real story is almost as interesting as the exaggeration. It was pouring rain when I drove into Halifax, so I turned around, drove home, stewed for about 10 minutes, said, this is stupid, drove back in and got it done. And, yes the last km and a half was in a blinding rain storm. I couldn’t even see through my glasses.

  1. Ryan Jacobson says:

    I too have seen that bench and wanted to sleep on her. It doesn’t matter, wood, wrought iron, they all look like a Seely Posturpedic to me. (Hope all is well buddy)

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