AND THE GANG’S ALL HERE

11.30.2016

Well, maybe more like the gang’s all arriving for the Reggae Marathon weekend. Buddy Al and I are safely ensconced at Rondel Village, waiting for

Registration and Package Pick-Up and Chris

Registration and Package Pick-Up and Chris

That Runnin’ Guy to arrive. I mean, it doesn’t truly get going until Chris shows up to crank up the social media from Reggae Marathon action central in Negril. Thinking back, hanging out with Chris has got me into an ESPN (Latin America) TV piece on the Reggae Marathon and onto Jamaican radio (live). Wonder if anything amazing is going to happen this time? Well, of course ‘amazing‘ is going to happen!  The whole thing is amazing. What I meant to say was ‘unusual‘.

The original race banner with Diane Ellis and Alfred "Frano" Francis

The original race banner with Diane Ellis and Alfred “Frano” Francis (2015 media briefing)

It also doesn’t get going until the main organizers arrive from Kingston. As a runner, it actually kind of feels like Christmas and waiting for Santa. Last night there was a news blast that the trucks were on the road (full of race gear), headed for Negril. Had the feel of “Santa has left the North Pole with a sleigh full  of presents for good girls and boys!”

I’ve been good! I’ve been good!

We’ll soon be seeing Frano, Diane, Gina, Jessica and the crew. This is one of the best organized races I’ve ever participated in, over the years and the many places I’ve run/raced. These people (and others un-named) are the reason why.

This time, we are even going to be celebrating a marriage. Yes, Navin Sadarangani, the last of the Four Amigos has tied the knot. I think it wasn’t a done deal until Daivati did the 10K last year, but I guess it’s all good now. Big stuff happening when we all get together!

Speaking of getting together, it is Wednesday as I’m writing this and from experience I know that the bulk of Reggae Marathoners are about to start arriving, some today and lots more tomorrow. Negril is pretty quiet right now, but that is going to change – soon.

Easy Skankin'

Easy Skankin’

Don’t forget about Easy Skankin’. Larry Savitch and crew (not even sure how many this time or who for sure) are headed this way again. Can’t really have a party without Easy Skankin’!

And then there will be the Reggae Runnerz, hundreds of them, under the able guidance of Lisa Laws.

Also starting to feel like a real veteran here! Coming down, I ran into Dave from Toronto, who apparently made a last minute decision to come. Met him a couple of years ago, and touched base again last year.

Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani

Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani

Lawrence Watson, I’ve known since the first time in 2011, but we will stay at his BnB (Castlevue) in Montego Bay when the running weekend  is done. He is a great host and even better runner, although he took pity (didn’t run his usual pace) on me the last time I stayed with him in 2014. He took me out for a Saturday morning run and post-run porridge (Peanut Porridge seemed to be the rage that day, but since it would have killed me, I opted for cornmeal). See how all this is intertwined? I met Lawrence because he is a friend of Navin’s, a running buddy from when Navin lived in Montego Bay.

Even the hotel staff, not to mention some of the vendors seemed to recognize me. Of course it is good for them to act that way, but when they know you are from Canada without being told, well, maybe they actually do know!!

Then, there are new people asking my advice and for me to help them get sorted with other people and activities. Yep, I think I’m almost an ‘old hand’!

ON THE GROUND IN NEGRIL (AGAIN)

11.29.2016
Negril Beach scene, just before sunset on Day One.

Negril Beach scene, just before sunset on Day One.

Six years. Sixth year in a row, this old (seasoned) blogger is in Negril, JA for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Interestingly, the only time I signed up for the actual marathon was the first time. That didn’t work out and if you really want to know why, well here is the link to that story. I ran the 10K that time. Then I ran the Half for three years. Last year I actually signed up for and ran the 10K.

Seems like there is something about getting around the full course (marathon goes twice around) that is special. The first and second halves of the Half Marathon are just completely different. The first 10K is done essentially in the dark, while the second 10K happens (for me anyway) after the sun rises and in full sunshine by the time of finishing. I have to admit that even with a slow time in respect both of advancing age and rising temperatures on the course after sunrise, it is strange to nonetheless FINISH somewhere between 7:45 and 8:00am!

Garden scene at Rondel Village

Garden scene at Rondel Village

Anyway, all the race stuff can come later. Right now it is just about being here and settling in, getting used to the heat and humidity, and getting into the Jamaican vibe. Negril claims to be the “Capitol of Casual”. Probably is, too! Hmmm. If you are claiming ‘casual’ can you also use exclamation points? I’ll just leave that to you. I am just going to be over here relaxing.

Beach just outside Rondel Village - so glad - still there, just like last five times!

Beach just outside Rondel Village – so glad – still there, just like last five times!

Now that we’re here, we have a few days to just get dialed into Jamaican time, life and food. For five of the six years I’ve been coming to Negril for the Reggae Marathon weekend, I’ve stayed at Rondel Village. It is a local resort right on the beach and just has everything I want. I am really excited to show my friend Al, what it is that brings me back year after year. I do hope it works like I would like it to do, because we can never forget that one guy’s amazing can be another’s ho-hum.

Al Helmersen and Dan Cumming enjoy local beverage while waiting for final transport to Negril!

Al Helmersen and Dan Cumming enjoy local beverage while waiting for final transport to Negril!

We’ll start with the food and surely a Red Stripe (or two). You can get thirsty on a long flight and shuttle ride along the NW coast of the country. Fortunately that did not turn out to be a problem.

First and foremost, there was watching the sunset (see below). A Negril sunset is always a spectacular thing, even when it is kind of ordinary. Then, a wee drink and dinner.

Rondel has a nice mix of Jamaican and ‘other’ menu choices, but we got right into the Jamaican side with a little ‘stamp n go’, followed by red pea soup and curry goat. Got things off to a great start!

I am looking forward to a short run in the morning, just to start getting the feel of the place well before Saturday. Haven’t decided if the first run is on the road (well, the path beside the road) or on the beach. If it is on the beach, it will be WITH shoes. No matter how great it is to run barefoot, I’m not risking the sneaky, nasty blisters you can work up if you have soft tender feet like me! Anyway, that will be for a later report.

sunset-day-1

Later the same day!

WHAT DOES A BLOGGER DO WHILE WAITING FOR A RACE? BLOG, OF COURSE

11.25.2016
Bolting! - Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Bolting! – Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Here I am with just two ‘sleeps’ left to departure for Jamaica and one of if my #1 favourite races, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. If you want to be picky, it will be three sleeps until I’m in Negril, but there is no saying there will be much sleep on the red-eye I usually take to get from Vancouver to Montego Bay. From here, there is always the trip East, then the trip South. I usually go through Toronto or New York. This time it will be Toronto. I actually quite like the trip. It isn’t as hard as some might think, and let’s face it, when I get there it isn’t like I have to do much but rest and ‘recreate’ for the next several days.

img_2459In truth, the trip could be of much shorter duration if I just wanted to go for the race, but coming from so far and Jamaica being such a great spot to vacation, it seems wrong not to add some time before and after race weekend. This time I get to show my friend of more than 50 years, what I love about this whole thing. We may even have some time to go check out my roots in the more easterly part of Jamaica.

Near Robins Bay, JA. Who knew I had heritage here?

Near Robins Bay, JA. Who knew I had heritage here?

Yep, my great-great grandparents were stationed in Jamaica for about 5 years just around 1840. He was a gunner with the Royal Artillery. Their oldest was born in Jamaica. The first time I visited and ran the Reggae Marathon event, my wife Judi and I visited the area and had a bit of a wander. One of the craziest things was that way back in 1969, we made our first trip to Jamaica and stayed in a village, Highgate, with a university friend of Judi’s who was teaching with CUSO. She took us to Robins Bay a couple of times for a cooling splash. Little did we know that we must have passed right by the ruins of The Barracks that we visited in 2011, and pictured here. I’m hoping for another visit this time, but not quite sure just yet, if it will happen.

Early Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

First and foremost will be Negril. Until the other racers start arriving later in the week, Al and I will have time to explore the area and for him to get a taste of the food. I’m not sure we are going to be there long enough to do the Jamaican cuisine justice, but we’ll do our best.

I know he loves fish, so escoveitched fish is on the list, maybe a steamed fish dinner, and since we arrive later Monday afternoon, there WILL BE ackee and salt fish for breakfast on Tuesday. You never just get the fish. There is always other stuff, so it is pretty likely a bit of fried plantain, maybe a bit of boiled green banana and a bit of festival will show up. Of course there is a range of jerk food, but particularly pork and chicken and while everybody and his brother seems to have jerk chicken on offer, I have one place in mind for the real deal, Ossie’s Jerk Centre. But, we need to leave time to get us some patties too! That may require a trip to Nallah’s or we could just let the ‘patty man’ come to us out on the beach. Wouldn’t be the first time!

Oxtail with rice and peas.

Oxtail with rice and peas.

A couple of my favourites include curry goat and oxtail. Mustn’t forget the ‘food’ though. You probably thought that was what I was talking about already, but you’d be wrong. Usain Bolt claims it is what fuels him and makes him fast. “Food” tends to be a whole range of starchy root vegetables. Some form of it will likely show up in the meal, whatever else may be there.  Hmmmm. Maybe that’s what I need for the race on December 3. Mind you, I expect to be running the half marathon and Bolt-like speed isn’t really what is required.

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

The beach outside our hotel, Rondel Village, is made for taking the sun and just relaxing, but it is also great for an early morning run, or just a stroll while it is still cool (relative term, probably about 25C) and relatively abandoned. Actually, the Reggae Marathon has extended the tourist season for Negril. It doesn’t officially start until a week or so after the event, so the beaches are relatively uncrowded and there are plenty of runner types around.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

If you can get yourself up early enough the sunrise is generally amazing. Early in the morning there tend to be a few whispy clouds around, just enough to catch the first sunlight and turn delicate pink against an otherwise ever bluer sky. At least in my experience, the seven mile beach is never a place of hectic activity. It is almost always laid back and easy going. Because there is a reef a mile or so off-shore, unless there is a serious storm, there is no big wave action. All you get is gently lapping waves sliding in over the blue of the Caribbean.

Chris Morales

Chris “That Runnin Guy” Morales

By Wednesday/Thursday I expect the other Reggae Runners will start showing  up. That’s when I expect to welcome That Runnin’ Guy, Chris Morales to the party and to get down to serious exchanging of stories. We keep in touch all year, but live far enough apart that we never see each other except in Negril. For Chris, it is not really a vacation since he is the social media guy for the Reggae Marathon and official blogger. He’ll get most of a day with little to do, and by Friday noon, he will be ‘on duty’, but by then things are starting to hop at package pick-up at Couples Swept Away, followed seamlessly by the pasta party. That may not be so seamless this time because of some construction at the package venue. The pasta party is across and just down the road at Cosmos. It will be interesting to see how that works. It is right at the beach and right beside the start/finish venue at Long Bay Beach Park. The pasta party is always fabulous and with this venue may be even more amazing.

Early Morning Beach Runners - my Favourite!

Early Morning Beach Runners – my Favourite!

Whatever, I’m looking forward to it. AND, I’m looking forward to meeting all the other people we may or may not have found by then, or just run into (literally)  by chance. I can’t tell you how many times Chris and I have been out for a morning run, just for the acclimatization, and bumped into other running friends we’ve come to know over the years. For sure, the Four Amigos will hook up again at the pasta party.

All of this is going to be new for my buddy, Al. He has a knee issue and while not a runner, was planning to walk the 10K on Saturday morning just for the experience of the whole event. We’ll see how that goes. I really hope he can do it. There is no time issue. Lots of people walk the 10K and there is plenty of time. As I told him, stop for a coffee or a chat as you go. I’m going be running the half marathon, so even in that, there will be plenty of time for him to do 10K and still get there about the same time as me.

Christmas lights on the Reggae Marathon route.

Christmas lights on the Reggae Marathon route.

There is truly something special about the start in the full-on dark (it IS 5:15am!) and then being out there as the dawn comes up followed by the tropical sun. I mean, you can experience that anywhere, but doing it on the move with a crowd of happy runner/walkers and all the energy of the race is special. It is hard, as it often is for northerners to reconcile tropical nights with Christmas decorations, but all along Norman Manley Blvd. (the race route) the hotels are getting out the Christmas lights and decorations. So, as you break out in an almost instant sweat as you head toward Negril town, you are soon running by lots of bright and festive lights signifying the soon to come Christmas/New Year season.

Sweet Reggae Music - so hard to resist!

Sweet Reggae Music – so hard to resist!

Getting down with the Reggae Sound.

Getting down with the Reggae Sound.

After crossing the finish, the party is on with live Reggae Music, or as they like to say, sweet, sweet reggae music. The sounds are infectious and while some people intentionally get close to the stage and dance, you can look almost anywhere and see people moving to the rhythm without even realizing they are doing it! Of course once Navin, Larry, Chris and yours truly have finished our respective races, we will assemble for the traditional ‘race count’ photo. That’s the one where we all hold up the number of fingers to represent the Reggae Marathon events we’ve done. Everybody is going to have to go to two hands this time. Three of us will be on six and Chris will be showing eight race fingers.

Strolling 'home' for breakfast.

Strolling ‘home’ for breakfast.

Once the post-race party is done, I am looking forward to the stroll back down the beach to Rondel Village. Usually, that is without shoes, just at the water’s edge and at a very, very easy pace. I mean, nobody has anywhere to go. Notwithstanding what we get after the race, by the time we get back to our home away from home, we are usually ready for a full-on breakfast. After that, it is back to the beach and a lot of nothing but sunshine, Red Stripe and a cooling dip from time to time.

Sunset from Rondel Village. Perfect end to a perfect day!

Sunset from Rondel Village. Perfect end to a perfect day!

And, if the sunrise is delicate and sometimes almost a spiritual thing, sunset can be fierce and blazing to end the day. Well, it comes pretty early so maybe not the end of the day, but end of daytime and start of the Jamaican night. Saturday night, that is. Runners are sometimes pretty tired, but if anyone is looking for a party and lots of music, you don’t really need to go far. There are plenty of live music venues up and down the beach/road, for those who aren’t ready to call it a day so early!

Lenbert looks after you on the One Love tour of the West End

Lenbert looks after you on the One Love tour of the West End

While Saturday night could signal the end of the experience, it has become a Sunday tradition to take the One Love bus tour to the West End and to several off the beaten path restaurant/bars. It starts mid-afternoon, with the intent of hitting a number of establishments, ending with another spectacular sunset viewed from the cliffs of Negril West End.

Dan Cumming, Larry Savitch and Chris Morales at Rick's Post-Race - The original RRHMC Trio

Dan Cumming, Larry Savitch and Chris Morales at Rick’s Post-Race – The original RRHMC Trio

This is the last time our group is likely to be all together in one place and is usually when we announce the big winners in the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge. That started years ago and actually didn’t have anything to do with what was happening at the Reggae Marathon but rather to three of the participants. It just happened that in May of 2012, Chris Morales, Larry Savitch and I were running three different half marathons on the very same day. We set out a challenge based on age-graded time. We even had custom medals and Chris got a prize of a pair of Puma shoes for the winner. So the title comes from three Reggae Runners, but the half marathon part was about the distance, not the race in Jamaica. After that (starting in December 2012), we switched the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge to Negril and included anybody from our greater group of friends. Because the Reggae Marathon also includes a half and a 10K, not to mention that some of  us were women and our ages covered folks in their 30s to one guy who at this point is well launched into his eighth decade. Yes, me. And this time, if he does walk the 10K, my  friend Al. We (OK, me) have a complex system of age grading and converting all times to a theoretical half marathon time. This time it may be easier because of all the people who may participate, at most there will only be two doing anything but the 10K. I am one of them. There is an official timing point at 5.8 miles (really the start mat, but you have to run back over it just before the turning back to the 10K finish, or as you head into the second half of the half marathon. We have collectively decided that this will be the official timing point and we will just age grade that time. Since I’ve never won (and don’t expect to this time) and because it is much cooler for the first 10K than the next 11K, most people do what you aren’t supposed to do, run faster in the first part of the race. This is one time it makes sense. Whatever happens, it is all just for fun and the trash talking opportunity anyway.

Negril, JA West End Sunset

Negril, JA West End Sunset

After Sunday, we start to drift away either actually going home or in some cases (because there are several of us with Jamaican heritage) off to see family. Al and I will head for Montego Bay and another part of our adventure. But, that is probably another story for another day.  For now, I’m counting down the hours to wheels-up on Sunday night!

ANOTHER NEW (HUMBLING) EXPERIENCE FOR AN OLD RUNNER

11.17.2016

 OK, first of all, that should be Seasoned Runner! We never use the term “old” around here unless talking about shoes. But, I guess I’ll make an exception this time since ‘new’ and ‘old’ kind of go together in a catchy sort of way.

Enough cleverness for now. What is this NEW experience, and even more importantly, why was it HUMBLING?

1988 - Long before this blogger could be called "Seasoned"

1988 – Long before this blogger could be called “Seasoned”

I am not 100% certain of the exact date when I started running. I do remember why. I was getting fat and far from fit. I was about 39, just coming up on 40. Since my birthday is in early January, I know I turned 40 in January 1985. I know the first modest steps were taken before that. I had been fairly athletic in my younger days, through into my second year of university, including playing soccer for one of the University of BC teams. I had a pretty bad injury to my knee near the end of the season. School was getting busy and I’d kind of reached the end of my abilities to be ‘good’, even with a sound knee. The injury wound up ending my playing days. The injury healed (sort of) and I went on about my business. I could run quickly if I had to, could walk forever, too. However, it turned out that I could not run at any kind of jogging pace (an honourable term back then).

I knew I should be doing something for health and fitness, but every time I tried this thing called jogging, I would get just over a mile and my knee would fire excruciating pain signals to my brain. It was pain of the ‘stop now or I will really make you sorry’ kind. This continued for years. Finally, after my awakening at the ‘dawn’ of my 40s, I decided that if I could go a mile, I would go a mile and maybe every day. I did that for some time and feeling no hurt, added a bit and a bit more until I could run 10K, and three years later, ran my first marathon. I still don’t know exactly how that happened, but it did. I figure I’m somewhere over 30,000 km of one kind or another of running. My Athlinks Profile (which has none of my old stats -only goes back to about 1998 and doesn’t include all events) says I’ve raced something close to 4,000km.

I can ‘hear’ you now as you wonder why he’s talking about all this old stuff, when the title says he did something NEW. I’m getting there. The point is that I’ve run well over 32 years, well over 30,000 km (in something like 23 countries) and raced way over 4,000 km (in 5 countries). Add to that five years of running clinic experience in the SportMed BC Sun Run InTraining program and something approaching ten years leading full and half marathon clinics with Forerunners (coincidentally, a sponsor of the Fall Classic). All that said, I realized what I had not…………….. never, ever …………….. done as a Seasoned Athlete.

I had never PACED in a race. I have used pacers to help my own cause from time to time and greatly admire them. I admire how steady they are and that if they are pacing, they really aren’t racing. They may be IN a race, but they aren’t doing their own personal best effort. You really must be well within yourself if you want to hold to a given pace without wavering. That is the ‘contract’ you make with the event and all the eager expectant runners that line up behind you, and your little sign that shows the goal time you will be achieving.

2:30 Pace Group - Fall Classic Half Marathon

2:30 Pace Group – Fall Classic Half Marathon

Recently, I was afforded an opportunity to take on the challenge. The Fall Classic, a Vancouver running fixture, was looking for pacers in all three events: 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. I suddenly realized all of the stuff written above and decided it was high time I took a turn with the stick and sign. I offered myself up to pace the half marathon for a 2:30 finish. That is a bit slower than the pace group I lead for the Forerunners clinic, so it seemed a good fit.

It was right about the time that I got confirmation they wanted me, that panic set in. Well more accurately, that happened right after I went out for a short practice run ‘at pace’. Just to avoid the reader needing to get out a calculator, that is a fraction of a second over 7:06/km. Fired up the old Garmin and off I went. As much as I was trying to hold the target pace, it was too easy to just (from time to time) slide into an easy, natural, not out to prove anything pace. When I got home after about 7K on one of my regular routes, my average pace was more than 12 sec/km too fast. Well, 12 seconds isn’t really that much, now is it?  Yes. Yes it is. If you take 12 seconds times 21.1 km, you find yourself more than FOUR minutes too fast. The idea is that the pacer hits the goal time very close to right on.

That was when the panic set in and the humbling began.

1:30 Pace Group led by Olympian (Marathon) Dylan Wykes

1:30 Pace Group led by Olympian (Marathon) Dylan Wykes

Fortunately, I had a bunch of other chances to get a bit more practice in and got the gap narrowed down to where on my last practice run I was around six seconds off, still too quick, but getting into a range I thought would be acceptable. That range? Probably 2:29 (7:04) to 2:31 (7:09) or anywhere between those two finish times. Of course, 7-10K does not a half marathon make, but I was still hoping that I could instill in myself a strong sense of a 7:06 average pace. If you want a taste of it, go out and set any pace you like, but whatever it is, make it significantly slower than your normal pace and hold it steady over a long distance. While you are at it, imagine a bunch of people relying on you maintaining that pace over a half marathon. You also have to remember that while you might quite reasonably go a bit faster on the easy bits, you can’t go a LOT faster. The people you pace may well be at or near their PB time. They may or may not be able to ramp up and down with ease.

Gratuitous photo of Evan Dunfee, Canadian Olympian - proving 'you must walk before you learn to run" (and WIN)

Gratuitous photo of Evan Dunfee, Canadian Olympian Race Walker – proving ‘you must walk before you learn to run” (and WIN)

Now, I should be clear. The Fall Classic route is not easy, but equally, it isn’t the hardest half marathon route I’ve ever seen either. But, it has it’s challenges and you have to do everything twice. My point is that I never intended to run exactly 7:06, K after K. At the start, I warned all those with me that we would run continuously and at what I felt was ‘constant effort’. In other words whatever 7:06 felt like on the flat, we would try to maintain that same feeling going up the hills or down. So, a bit faster going down and a bit slower going up. On average, this being a loop course starting and finishing in the same place with an overall balancing out of all the ups and downs, we would be aiming to run at 7:06/km.

Start of the Fall Classic Half Marathon 2016

Start of the Fall Classic Half Marathon 2016

That was the plan. I was still very nervous as I looked at the people lined up with me near the start. I couldn’t really tell how many were going to be running with me, so I decided to wait until we were out on the course and things had sorted out a bit, maybe somewhere around a kilometre into it. Near as I could tell at that point there was an obvious group of about 10 pacing with me. Might have been a few more that were not tagging right along close, but still watching my sign as it bobbed along above all those heads. Anyway, for my own purposes I’ve concluded we were about TEN as we headed out.

I knew it would be hard to be sure of our average pace until we had passed a few distance markers. The course has enough ups, downs and flats that the pace showing on your gps device varies if you use constant effort. I was feeling pretty good though as we passed specific distances and I could take the accumulated time and ‘do the math’ in my head. About 3-4km into it I felt more relaxed as we were pretty consistently on pace over longer stretches (see photo above).

Through the first ‘lap’ we were pretty bang-on for pace. Just 11 seconds over for 10K. This is good. Except for the rain and the wind and chilly temps, it was even kind of fun!

Real heroes of the day - VOLUNTEERS!

Real heroes of the day – VOLUNTEERS!

Somewhere after the trip past the finish………………………………..so close, but…………………………..  Never mind, we all knew that when we signed up for this race. Still, under the circumstances, that finish line looked awfully inviting! Let’s just say it was a challenge to head out on the second loop. We passed through the Start/Finish area JUST before the start of the 10K event and the thought crossed my mind “If we were in the 10K we’d be done!”  Of course, the other way to look at it was they were just starting and we were half finished.

Somewhere past the end of the first loop I took ‘inventory’ and realized we must have left a few runners behind (the photo above was from the first ‘lap’). I don’t think any had run on ahead, so a few had apparently not been able to hold the prescribed average pace. Not for me to worry about as long as I was doing MY job (which I was at that point). I seemed to be down to four (and me). We carried on and as always we could count off the ‘milestones’ (buildings, large trees, roads) that we would not see again. It began to feel we were that much closer to the finish, because we were. The distance markers increased as we ran: 11K, 12, 13………… You eventually start doing the reverse math. Only 7km to go, 6, 5…………….. Somewhere around 15km or so, one of my group decided she could go a bit faster, for a finish under the advertised 2:30. Now there were just three. On we slogged. OK, the slogging was actually later. Upon checking my Garmin download, we actually held steady and on pace right to the 18km marker.

We had made the final turn from the ‘out’ to the ‘back’ and into what I consider the most challenging part of this course. It is really just a fairly modest up-slope that would be nothing if it didn’t continue on for more than three unrelenting kilometres and wasn’t the second time to do it. That was when I lost #3. She announced she would walk from ‘here’. Now it was two and me. By that time I was realizing I had made a major mistake. I have been suffering a kind of exercise induced asthma in recent years, that seems to be sensitive to environmental conditions too. It comes and goes. Having been pretty good of late, I hadn’t been using the everyday meds and didn’t even bring my emergency puffer. By the time we were past 18K I wasn’t getting a good deep breath and the legs started feeling very heavy. Funny how muscles like oxygen to keep up the output.

I knew I was not going to keep the pace from that point so tried to shoo my two remaining charges off to their own finishes somewhere close to 2:30. Both informed me that their goal for the day was under-3:00 and one of them had said her PB was 2:45. Neither wanted to go any faster and both assured me they wouldn’t have done this well without the steady pacing. We were a team to the finish. On we slogged. Yes, by now it was slogging! Slow, cold, wet, determined slogging! [EDITOR’S NOTE: Last year’s Fall Classic weather was, well, CLASSIC!]

Long story short, less than 1K from the finish, one of my flock of two decided that yes, maybe she would like to pick it up just a bit, so off she went. The other runner stayed with me and we finished side by side, looking good (the last 2-300m is nicely downhill). We definitely picked it up down the final incline into the finish chute and across the line. I’m pretty sure we smiled for the camera, too!

Community Challlenge - Team CA5 (we didn't win but we were enthusiastic)

Community Challenge – Team CA5 (we didn’t win but we were enthusiastic)

My first experience as a Race Pacer was done. Even though I had lost most people because they couldn’t keep up with the proper pace I ran for the first 18km, I felt a bit like I had failed in bringing it home on the goal time. By mutual agreement, we had slowed a lot in the last three K or so and I was certainly NOT within my (personal) two minute window of acceptable time. At that point I did not know all the stuff about how well I had held pace for most of the way. That all came from post-race analysis. Even at the time, I did have the consolation of knowing that both the women who were with me to the end had more than achieved their goal for the day.

I did see a photo of Dylan Wykes (see pacer photo above), one of Canada’s best ever marathoners, just past the finish. There he was, just over the finish, soaked and with his 1:30 pacer sign sadly drooping down, all alone in the rain. Naturally, Dylan was pretty much dead on his time (16 seconds under to be precise) and with a half marathon PB of 1:02, well within himself. That is how it is supposed to be done – run the time, let the others do what they can do, faster OR slower. I guess part of my personal dissatisfaction there at the finish also had to do with another pacer I used twice at the California International Marathon. The first year (2008) she was 14 sec fast, the second (2009) she was 4 sec fast on her marathon goal time. Those are a couple of hard acts to follow! Maybe next time.

That is where, at least in part, the humbling aspect comes into the picture. I am so in awe of people who can be that steady and accurate, helping others make it through. I’d like to think on a different day and if I’d remembered to bring the puffer, I might have joined their ranks. But, it wasn’t (a different day) and I didn’t (remember the puffer) and I didn’t (join the ranks of the super pacers).

All done. Warm and dry and waiting for Awards

All done. Warm and dry and waiting for Awards

I did realize a great sense of satisfaction thanks to the few runners who kept up with me into the late stages of the race. They had a different perspective than I did. From my point of view, I only had one job and I did not do it. From their perspective though, I guess I gave them everything they needed/wanted. Frankly, I suppose that had I been able to keep my pace for that last 3 plus K, I might have found myself at the finish like Dylan, with a perfect time and all by myself. Yes. That was the goal/task I did not achieve, but looking back, it was more fun to finish it up with my two stalwart half marathoners who probably had a pretty darn GOOD day.

In closing I want to express my thanks to the Fall Classic for giving me this opportunity and my admiration for all those who take on pacing duties to help us all get where we are going and at the pace we have set for ourselves! If I never pace another race, I certainly have developed a new perspective on this thing called PACING.

 

JUST A MONTH TO REGGAE MARATHON TIME!

10.31.2016
Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

OK, to be fair, for this old blogger it is kind of always Reggae Marathon time. Over the years I’ve made a bunch of friends through this event and we are always in contact, mostly on social media because we are scattered thither and yon. (Like that? Thither and yon. I’ve never used it on the blog before. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever used it anywhere, but you have to admit it gives a bit of class to the proceedings!)

Anyway, back to the point. We keep in touch through the year and both support and trash each other as necessary and appropriate. The closer the actual Reggae Marathon weekend, the more we slide over to the ‘trash’ side of the ledger. I mean we do have to keep up some semblance of competitiveness, you know. All part of the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge! I do know right now that at least three of the expanded group have another little event on their minds, the New York City Marathon, coming up in mere days. They will be excused if that is taking priority just now.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

I started this way because while the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K is an amazing and outstanding event in and of itself, it is this circle of friends that make it extra special, and I would imagine, keeps most of us coming back year after year. Each year, after the running is done, we have what has become our traditional Four Amigos photo, showing on our fingers, how many Reggae Marathons we’ve participated in over the years. Because I know that all will be present and accounted for on December 3, 2016, I can fairly confidently say that there will be 26 fingers on display, representing the number of races the four of us have run, or in one case, hobbled. Three of us will be showing six fingers, but Chris Morales, aka That Runnin’ Guy, aka the official Reggae Marathon blogger, will be holding up eight (8). While not immediately critical, Chris is running out of fingers! By 2019 he will need a new system! He may need to get a foot into it, or maybe he can convert one hand to “tens”. You know, maybe one thumb and one finger for 11 Reggae Marathons!  That should work for a little while anyway.

Easy Skankin'

One of many iterations of Easy Skankin’ (OK, so they are part of our extended group, but they are faithful to the Race)

Reggae Runnerz in the house at Rondel Village!

Reggae Runnerz in the house at Rondel Village!

I would be wrong to suggest that the Four Amigos and our extended circle of friends are the only ones so dedicated to the event. There are many groups that appear repeatedly, year after year. It is a rather unique part of this event and something I’ve never seen before at any other event. Oh sure, groups decide to go run a particular race somewhere but generally, that is a one shot deal re any particular race. The group may remain intact, but they will take on different events. Same group, same race is both special and unusual. The Reggae Marathon weekend attracts the same groups over and over and one, Reggae Runnerz, comes in the hundreds and takes over a couple of hotels!

The world comes together to enjoy the Reggae Marathon pasta party.

The world comes together to enjoy the Reggae Marathon pasta party.

The total count of foreign runners is always unknown until the races are run, but over the last number of years has involved participants from over 30 countries. If you think how far people have to come for this race, on this island in the sun, it is completely amazing. Something else that is amazing is the number of local runners that are now taking on the challenge. Jamaica has always been the home of sprint champions! Can you say Usain Bolt? Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price? Multiple gold medals at Olympics, World Championships and World Records, lots of World Records in the sprints. Maybe you can also say: Lennox Miller (1968), Don Quarry (1976) or Merlene Ottey (1984) just to mention a few. That is Jamaica – “Sprinters-R-Us“. Until recently, it just seemed Jamaicans tended to get tired right after running 200m! OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you know that you don’t see too many Jamaicans in the marathons. All this is to say what a major influence the Jamdammers running club and the Reggae Marathon have been in bringing Jamaicans, particularly Jamaican youth, into longer distance running. While a lot of us come from far and wide, thither and yon even, the registration numbers are growing fastest because the Jamaican ‘yute’ are showing up to the series runs across the country, throughout the year and then capping it off by taking on one of the events in Negril on the first Saturday in December at the Reggae Marathon weekend. Oh, and by the way, Usain Bolt himself participated (twice) as part of the High School Challenge. Don’t believe him when he says he’s never run a mile!  He did the Reggae Marathon 10K in those long gone early days.

Salmons! I caught all of them. Of course, Al made it happen!

Salmons! I caught all of them. Of course, Al made it happen!

I publish something around this time pretty much every year, extolling the virtues of the race and of Negril. I suppose it is part of my own preparation and anticipation. This year I’m doing something unique for me. I asked an old friend to come along and see what this whole thing is all about. “OLD” is the operative term. We are just about the same age (only months difference), so there is that part of old.

Modeling UBC "Aggie" jackets (1966)

Modeling UBC “Aggie” jackets (2016) We’ve hardly changed!

Modeling UBC "Aggies" jackets (1966)

Modeling UBC “Aggies” jackets (1966)

However, we met at the beginning of our third year of university. That is now well over 50 years ago! Even though we haven’t always lived particularly close together, we and our wives and kids have interacted one way and another for most of that time. OK, not the kids, but even they have been part of it for a long time. The oldest two (one each) are now in their mid-40s. He and I have done some fearsome fishing together and we have traveled far and wide as couples. I am very excited to show him what I love about Jamaica, Negril and the Reggae Marathon. Oh yes, and to introduce him to this crazy bunch of people who are an integral part of it all. Should be interesting, especially since he isn’t a runner. Even still, I’ve got him signed up to walk the 10K just so he can get the full experience.

Early morning on the Negril River

Early morning on the Negril River. The white dots in the trees are herons.

One of the highlights will be the pasta party on Friday night. Of course, even I don’t know just how that is going to be this time as the venue has changed for this year due to construction work at Couples Swept Away, and will be at Cosmos, right on the beach and right beside the Start/Finish area at Long Bay Beach Park. Then there is the magic of the actual start, the run along Norman Manley Blvd toward Negril Town and on the return, the dawning of the day. That is one of the big things for me. No matter how much fun and excitement and music and cheering is going on, there is still something mystical about the first light as it banishes the darkness. For me, that is usually happening just around the time I’m completing the 10K or shortly after. For my friend though, because he will be walking, it may come somewhere around the time he is crossing the Negril River just at the round-about, and what is super special about that is the waking of the roosting white herons that overnight in the trees about the river.

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Then, no matter how long it takes or which of the three events you might do, it all finishes up at Long Bay Beach Park where the party, the Reggae Party, is on. The sounds of live music are so infectious that you see people kind of just dancing with it, without really even realizing. Add to that that Caribbean Sea, just steps from the stage, a Red Stripe or two, fresh coconut and such —– well, it just doesn’t get much better. At least, I don’t think so.

Soon come!  See you in Negril. (There’s still time you know!)

JUST RUN – A LOT – A CONCEPT TO CONSIDER

10.25.2016
Chris Morales

Chris “That Runnin Guy” Morales

My friend Chris Morales (aka “That Runnin’ Guy“) recently posted a link on the inter-web about a chap, Fred Turner, who had been running for 50 years and reckoned he had gone something in the range of 31,000 miles. Another one of these octogenarian types I might add. Well, the first thing that struck me was his age. I’m not quite there, but am in my eighth decade; so 80 something is no longer a distant horizon.

I read the article (almost as lengthy as some of my own). My competitive nature kicked in.  Hmmmmm. Running 50 years. Covered 31,000 miles (that’s right, miles). 50 goes into 31, convert to metric – aaaaah, about 1000km per year.  Wait a minute!!!! I seldom run a year when I don’t do 1000km. Big exception was when I had back surgery. That took a big bite out. But, prior to that, in my top days, I was running around 2500km per year. So, I guess things balance out a bit. In the last 16 years (because I have kept accurate logs) I have averaged 1300km/year and 2016 is looking very much like it will be very close to that. I’ve been running for about 32 years (well short of this fellow’s 50 years), but by my reckoning, I’ve run about 42,000km or pushing on toward 26,000 miles!  Well take that you old buzzard!!

Running the High Country Trails

Running the High Country Trails

And then something dawned on me. Not once did he say anything about racing. Not a thing. He waxed poetic about the places he had run and the things he had seen and the breaks he took for some treat or other before finishing up. I took another careful look and concluded that he wasn’t hiding his racing, he just didn’t do it. So, for 50 years he had run for no reason at all and covered some 31,000 miles while doing it. Ponder that a bit, my goal oriented, time/pace/finishing place obsessed friends. This guy just runs. And, I might add, in some pretty exotic places!

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

That got me thinking. While I love running, I am most active and productive when I have racing goals to be achieved. I keep records on Athlinks, but that otherwise fabulous facility is limited in that results need to be on-line in digital format. Some kinds of races are also really hard to get into the database (relays), so much of my early racing is not captured. Still, they say I’ve RACED something like 2300 miles. With all my old races unaccounted for by this facility, I estimate that I am around 3,000 miles raced. In latter years I have run a lot of full and half marathons and one 50K ultra. That really pushes up the “Miles Raced” statistic. In the early times there were a number of halfs and a couple or three 20K races and just ONE marathon. Most of the rest (and there were lots) were 5-10Ks. And of course, if you are going to race something, you must put way more time and distance into training. Well, if you want any kind of a result. I do. When I race I want to feel I have done the best I am capable of doing. Apparently, there is a direct correlation between training and results. Who knew?!

And that, dear reader, is what is behind what follows.

Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon (May 2016) - I do love me a podium finish -1st M70-74.  Photo by Revel

Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon (May 2016) – I do love me a podium finish -1st M70-74. Photo by Revel

Personally, I still have the competitive spirit, but of late it is seeming more and more that I don’t have a competitive body. Actually, I never really did, but it has more or less always been good enough to entertain me. I also seem to be losing the drive to train hard. In truth, maybe I still do have a body suitable to the purpose, I just don’t have the mental outlook necessary, and that may be partly related to other energy sapping things in my life at present. I want to ‘compete’, which is why I claim I still have a competitive spirit, but the discipline to do the work and push myself on the race course, is slipping. Not so fast that I can’t pull out a race now and then, like the one pictured to the right, the Revel Mount Charleston Half, run just this Spring. Who knows, maybe I’ve just raced too much this year and fatigue is what is behind all of this, or maybe it is the beginning of a different time for me.

Spring Running

Spring Running in Vancouver

I think that is what caught my imagination in this piece that Chris posted to Facebook. The subversive thought ran through my mind, “What if I drop the racing, and just run?” These days, almost all my runs have purpose within a training program. I also know that I have to keep the number of runs per week down to three, sometimes four, if I want to stay injury free. But, what if the kind of run and length didn’t matter?

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

What if I want to just run 5K along a beach? Maybe 4K in the woods, or like the man in the article, around the streets of Paris (I’ve done that, you know).

What if I feel like running long, but also feel like taking a break for something wet, even nourishing, and a sit in the sun for an hour before returning home? What about that? Would the running gods suddenly appear and rip the shoes right off my feet? I think not.

Getting ready for the Start - Reggae Marathon

Getting ready for the Start – Reggae Marathon

One of my favourite places to go to run/race, is Negril, JA and the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Still, even though I do go to race, conditions for racing are such that the time is secondary to being part of it. However, every time I go, the most enjoyable actual running is along the road in the morning with Chris and other running friends who are there for the big event, or along the famous white sand beach. (I learned, with my tender feet, that beach runs can’t be barefoot until after the race – you can work up a nasty blister or three running on sand if you aren’t used to it.)

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over Negril, JA

I bring up the Reggae Marathon and Negril, not just because I am heading there exactly five weeks from the moment I am writing this, but because a couple of years ago and to a slightly lesser extent, last year, I had extra time to ‘just run’. I did. There was no purpose other than to get out in that glorious hour between dawn and full sun.

Early Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

It is never cold there, so you break into a full body sweat pretty fast. After the race, almost all my runs are on the beach. Running on sand is quite taxing, actually. However, nothing says you can’t walk a bit, or stop and take a photo, or check out something on the beach.

Maybe you will chat with a local and explain why as tempting as it might be, you really don’t need any herb today (or pretty much ever). When Reggae Marathon comes, I know it is my last race for the calendar year. I guess whatever comes after the race (first Saturday of December – always) qualifies as ‘just running’. Even though I never run every day, in Negril, I pretty much do, especially after race day. Being on one of the world’s best beaches you don’t need anything but a pair of shorts, and that is often how I run. It is quite glorious.

Finish of Moustache (Half) Marathon

(Son) Cam and Dan Finish the Moustache Half Nov 6, 2011

Back home in the frozen north – OK, I live in Vancouver, but everything is relative –  you sure aren’t going out with nothing but a flimsy pair of shorts, even if you are on a beach! We seldom get snow in Vancouver, but when I did live places where it snowed, often the runs weren’t about training and a run in the fresh snow can be quite amazing. When I put my mind to it, I can think of a few times when the run has been without a particular purpose, but it is hard, because when you are in training on the higher level, but limited by your ability to run every day without risking injury, each run does count to some degree.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - Racing CAN be fun!

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – Racing CAN be fun!

I ran a race this past Saturday and another last month, where my goal was a decent time. Both of them were far from satisfactory. I can explain both results with some logic, the first more than the second, but at the moment I’m feeling like the real reason is that I am not ready to dig in and do what is necessary. Some of the logical and technical things that could explain my performances may be true, but some of them I allowed to happen. One of my ‘problems’ is that I love leading a pace group with Forerunners, so I need to be able to go the distances and I do try to do the other prescribed workouts too. But, that puts me always in race training. With the kind of race calendar we have in Vancouver, the cycle is continuous. At the moment, I have some specific personal race intentions, so I expect to continue for some time yet, as long as they want me. I just made a post about being a pacer at the Fall Classic Half Marathon and then there is that half marathon in Negril. I will take the one very seriously because of the responsibility and the other out of respect for the conditions in which the race is run. There is one other race in the Spring that has my attention. That said, at the moment, I do have an idea in mind about getting out of the race specific training cycle after that, at least for a while, and see about this ‘just running’ thing. Who knows, done right it may bring me back to enthusiastic racing – or not. Today I am very calm about the idea that either is OK.

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

I muse about this stuff, not because I want everyone to know my personal thoughts, but rather because if I am thinking it, maybe a few others are as well. Maybe my comments will ring a bell for someone else who is pondering present circumstances and wondering what to do next.

SOMETHING NEW, YET “CLASSIC” FOR THIS SEASONED ATHLETE

10.20.2016
Finishing Fall Classic Half Marthon

Finishing Fall Classic Half Marthon

You would think that someone who has run more than 250 races, probably closer to 300 if you count individual relay legs as races in their own right; someone who has logged a minimum of 40,000km over the years and been involved in everything from fun runs to the New York City Marathon, would find it hard to claim too many things that are ‘new’.

OK, you got me. Of course, every new race I run is new. But, I’m talking about truly new or different running experiences. For instance, I realized a couple of years ago that I had never done an ultra. So, I found me a 50K and added ‘ultra’ to my running resume. I could go on, but you have the idea.

The other interesting thing is that for at least a dozen years I have been a leader for one sort of running clinic or another, most notably the Sun Run InTraining program and Forerunners Full and Half Marathon Clinics. Now you would think that someone with all that experience in leading pace groups would have, at some point in time, actually paced for a race. You would be wrong.

Half Marathon, 10K and 5K

So, when an opportunity arose to pace the 2:30 half marathon group at the Fall Classic Half Marathon, I decided it was high time to add that to the old running resume. Hey, it might be a whole new career! I am actually quite excited about this, and just a little humbled.  More on this later. I should mention right here, if this rang some kind of ‘bell’ for you, the reader, there are a number of opportunities still available for pacing in the 5K and 10K events. You can find the link right HERE.

I suppose I don’t have to explain why I find this an exciting prospect. I’ve mostly explained it already. The one thing I didn’t mention as yet, is that I will be assisting others to achieve a personal goal, and that is also what makes it humbling and just a little scary. The humbling part comes from knowing you have the dreams and goals of others in your hands, or perhaps more accurately, feet. I’m not worried about running the time. I’m not worried about the course since I’ve run this race before. At Forerunners I lead a group that has a goal time a bit faster than 2:30. What does worry me is holding a steady pace, AT the necessary Minutes per K. I can’t just kick onto auto-pilot and go. No, it will require running slower than my own normal race pace, but then that is what pacers are supposed to do. No race wants a pacer who is pushing to run the advertised pace. And, the runners who will be following me never said they want to go faster. THEY want to hit around 2:30.  MY job is to nail 2:30 plus or minus a small amount and let each individual do what they can on the day.

Some will have a great day and realize they can do something quicker than 2:30. Yay for them. My job is not to pace them to a faster time. If someone has ‘got it’ on the day, I’ll cheer them on and wish them well. At the same time, if someone is having a less than stellar day and can’t keep with me, my job is NOT to slow down and help them along (something you might do in a clinic – ‘no runner left behind’ and that sort of thing). No, my job is to run as close as I can to 2:30 and let the chips fall as they may, or in this particular case, perhaps the Fall leaves. It is the Fall Classic, doncha know.

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

At least I haven’t got the awesome responsibility of trying to pace runners to a BQ time. I have used pacers several times for that purpose, unsuccessfully I must admit. But, it was truly amazing to be able to rely on those individuals to help me through. I’m sure I still had better times than I would have without the pacers, even if the BQ was not to be mine. Just a shout out to what a really good pacer can do: at the California International Marathon my particular pacer had a policy of making sure everyone running with her would finish in front of her, but the first time her finish was 14 seconds under the goal time and the second, it was 4 seconds. That was a full marathon. THAT was pacing! Too bad I couldn’t keep up either time. Even still, each race was a recent PB for me.

Back to the challenge of actually holding a specific pace that is not natural. We all have some kind of natural pace that is just super comfortable. Of course, if you are racing, there is generally nothing comfortable about your pace. But, if you are just running,  you will generally just fall into whatever your own natural pace may be. If I do that on November 13, everyone is going to be hooped. I went out for a short-ish practice session a couple of days ago and even while concentrating on trying to hold the necessary pace for a 2:30 Half, I found myself sometimes quite a bit too quick and on average over the whole distance, something around 15 seconds per kilometre too fast. Fifteen seconds doesn’t sound like all that much, but multiply by 21.1 and whoa! it is over five (5) minutes. Where I live I must run on streets and have to stop sometimes at traffic lights, so it is a bit choppy and harder to get into a rhythm. For a first shot, I was happy enough and know I will have the pace internalized by November 13!

At the same time, one of my big advisories to my clinic people is that when racing you will have greatest success if you run to a constant effort, more than to a constant pace. In other words, if your goal pace feels a certain way on the flat, then you should try to hold that ‘feeling’ when you go up a hill. You will slow a little, but you conserve energy. Same deal going down. Try to hold that feeling of exertion. You will go faster, but not ‘that’ fast and you will score some recovery. Over the greater distance, it will kind of even out and you WILL have what looks like a constant pace. Of course, this depends on approximately equal amounts of ups and downs, but that will work for the Fall Classic as it amounts to two loops of the same route. All of this is to say I am not going to have a melt-down if my instantaneous times are a bit fast or slow relative to the bang on theoretical 2:30 pace. I guess I’m just going to have to try to be a running “Goldi-Locks” and make it ‘juuuuuuust right’.

Gratuitous photo of me with daughter, Janna after Fall Classic (2008)

Gratuitous photo of me with daughter, Janna after Fall Classic (2008)

The Fall Classic has been a Vancouver fixture for a lot of years. It bills itself as the last major race of the season. That seems to me to be a fair claim. The Half Marathon attracts about 700 or so, but when you add in the 10K and 5K events, the total swells to around 1800. I have to admit that I have not run either of the shorter races, but all routes follow much the same course. Naturally, since the event(s) start and finish in the heart of the Academic Campus, a lot of the 5K is run on the streets of the University of British Columbia. The 10K and the Half head out along Marine Drive and dip down along the Old Marine Drive for a couple of kilometres of forested wonder. The last time I ran the route, there was a bit of fog on the nearby sea and just enough filtering through the trees to make the run rather mystical! It actually sent a bit of a shiver down my spine. Well, or maybe that was because it was a bit cool and I may have under dressed. (Just a bit of running humour there.) Some of my most amazing races have involved such misty conditions – especially a couple of very early morning legs I’ve run at Hood to Coast. Whatever the conditions on the day, the Fall Classic will deliver a great running experience. There’s a bunch of great features and benefits provided by the SPONSORS, but that is on the web site. Go have a look for yourself.

I’m going to be running the Half Marathon, but if you are interested in running one of the other distances (5K or 10K), do note that the individual events start at different times.

RUN LIKE THE WIND

10.02.2016
Being inspired at Reggae Marathon!

Being inspired at Reggae Marathon!

It is that time of year when I REALLY start thinking about the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. As a matter of fact, it is just eight (8) weeks today until I board the flight that will take me again to Negril, JA for this event.

The title today is a not so funny pun or play on words. I cannot hold back on saying SOMETHING about the situation in my favourite island nation. A Category 4 hurricane is threatening Jamaica, at least the East end of Jamaica and probably parts of Haiti. “Matthew” is not going to be the first hurricane to whack Jamaica with big winds and water, no, not be a long shot.  That said, considering where it sits, Jamaica has done rather better than you might suppose it would. A lot of the big storms seem to slide by without a direct hit. Not all of them though, and apparently not Matthew.

Today, or at least this evening, is to be the day. As I write, the track for the eye of the storm seems to be through the open water to the East of Jamaica and to the West of Haiti. That doesn’t mean that either country is going to escape untouched. Only time will tell us for sure what happens. Jamaican communication services are warning people about winds, rain and storm surges along the coast. I check every hour or two.

Clearly, there is nothing one can do from here but hope and pray. I know quite a few who live in Jamaica as well as a whole lot more who are from Jamaica and have family there. All are being held in my thoughts today.

Negril 1969 - Judi and Dan

Negril 1969 – Judi and Dan

I actually have family history in the Eastern end of Jamaica, but since they left around 1844 or so, it only creates a point of interest. The first time my wife and I visited Jamaica in 1969 we lived for three weeks in St. Mary Parish (which is being predicted to experience significant impact from Matthew). Little did I know that the site of my Great-Great Grandparents’ habitation in Jamaica was almost within walking distance of where we were staying in a village called Highgate. After learning about the family history, we made an intentional visit to the area in 2010, the year I did my first Reggae Marathon (event). All this is just to say that I have a real perspective on the area.

All those islands have experience with the hurricane. The people know what they have to do. But, that doesn’t make it any less dangerous or devastating.

At the same time, the place I spend most of my time while in Jamaica, Negril, is likely to be totally spared. Oh, there may be some rain and wind, but the whole region knows the sudden tropical storm. It is part of life.

Rondel Restaurant - Copy

Rondel restaurant, right by the beach – breakfast, soon come!

This year I am taking a friend of over 50 years to experience what the Reggae Marathon is about and to learn more about Jamaica and at least a few of its people. The 10 days or so that we will spend on the ground in Jamaica isn’t enough for more than a ‘taste’, but hopefully he will come to understand my love of and fascination for Jamaica and her people. The country has its problems. Still, it has a pace and flow that calms me. I refer to it as my ‘happy place’. The cares of the year just past, fade rapidly in the sun, sea and sand.  Please, don’t get the idea that this is some kind of all inclusive vacation resort experience that you could have anywhere tropical. Far from it. For the last five years I have chosen to stay at a smaller local resort, Rondel Village. It does everything I need, so I haven’t really looked farther afield, but I know there are many similar places. Oh yes, there are the five star all inclusives if that is what you want, but it isn’t what I want or need. I know I’m playing a dangerous game in inviting my buddy to join me. No two people experience the same thing the same way. Still, I hope he will come to understand why I love it so much. I know he has a point of perspective, because he feels much the same about boats.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

I am looking forward to renewing our Four Amigo friendships. Again, Larry Savitch, Navin Sadarangani and the ‘magnet’ that brought us all together, Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy), will be running some event as part of the Reggae Marathon experience. For various reasons, I may be the only one of the four who is running more than the 10K. Chris loves the 10K and except for that time he actually ran the Marathon, that is his distance. Of course, Chris is the official blogger for the Reggae Marathon, so he has work to do. Work he couldn’t do if he was out running and running and running that marathon. The other two are working back from injury and training for other events so have decided the 10K will be good. I like half marathons and presently think I will run that distance, but even that is not quite nailed down. I may yet opt for the 10K. (I am concerned about letting the part get going without me!) Whatever, the accompanying photo will be updated for 2016. Except for Chris, we will all be showing six fingers for the number of Reggae Marathon races we’ve done. Chris will be holding up eight! In total, we account for 26 RM races from 10K to marathon. This (I think) will be the first time Navin has NOT done the full marathon. And, (I think) the first time Larry has not done the Half. Whatever, we will be doing our Challenge again. Naturally, we will invite anyone else in the extended group to join us in that. It is all for fun even if you couldn’t tell from the trash talking that should fire up almost anytime now.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

I’m already thinking of the early morning start, the brightening sky, dawn, birds awakening. Oh, yes, and the blasting reggae music all along the course, with locals and tourists (who will NOT be sleeping, even if they aren’t running) out there cheering us on. Even though I am not 100% decided, I will probably run the Half and therefore I am thinking of Bob’s Mile and the signs bearing “Bob’s wisdom” (mostly lyrics from his most moving songs). When you hit Bob’s Mile, you know you are almost done. I believe you can actually feel the mood shift as runners sense the nearness of the finish.

 

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Post Race Party Reggae Marathon  2013

Post Race Party Reggae Marathon 2013

When the race is done, the finish is far more than just the FINISH. It is a celebration.  Even if the Four Amigos can count up 26 individual races among us, there are a lot of people there for the first time and a lot who have made this their first race or first half or even first marathon. Of course the music and general vibe is an immense part of the atmosphere, but it is a people thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been at any other race with quite the same feel. For sure, there are lots of races (especially marathons) where the sense of achievement is thick in the air at the finish, but not the same feeling of “I did it and I’m glad I’m here and I just don’t want to leave!”

Of course, you do have to leave, but you can come back. That is precisely what I’ll be doing in just 56 days.

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

While I know the events of today and the days to come will test the resolve and resilience of Jamaica and her citizens, I know they will be up to the test and that the Reggae runners will be welcomed once again.  Hey, there is going to be damage and they are going to need support. Tourism is a very big thing in Jamaica. Know what? There is still time to sign up and find your way to Negril and flow some of those tourist bucks into their economy. Think about it. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.

YOU CAN IF YOU WANT TO

09.25.2016

INTRODUCTION: What follows is from Brad Firth, aka Caribou Legs. At the moment he is on a cross country (Canada, that is) run to bring awareness to the issue of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. It is not the first long distance run he has done to bring attention to an important issue, but it is without a doubt the LONGEST. Frankly, there is no explaining his ability to run the distances he does, day after day. It seems like some magical combination of genes and a fierce spirit where it comes to what he believes. The following was actually written a couple of years ago. I asked permission to reproduce it, unaltered, other than a few words of explanation, the photographs and update.

At this moment, Caribou Legs is in Quebec. After running thousands of kilometers, a rolled ankle caused him to need to take a break, but it seems healing has been rapid and that he will hit the road again very soon. If, after you read this, you want to keep track of his amazing story and mission, you can just follow along on Facebook, like I do:

https://www.facebook.com/bradley.firth1

I have known this amazing person since the earlier times when his transition began. I was associated in a modest way with the work of Benji Chu and Run for Change (as mentioned below). Brad’s heritage is Inuit. Much of his work and effort in recent years has been in the North, working with the youth of the region.

The title is meant to show that there is always hope and that if you believe in a deep, personal and spiritual way, it is possible to overcome the most difficult and horrible circumstances.

THE (ONGOING) STORY OF BRAD “CARIBOU LEGS” FIRTH

Caribou Legs (Brad Firth) as he will look if you see him on the road.

Caribou Legs (Brad Firth) as he will look if you see him on the road.

Some of you ask about my background and how I got to where I am today.

I spent 20 yrs in the violent back alleys and dark cold rainy streets of Vancouver, “running interference” as a hard core drug addict. As a result, I quickly ran amuck by lying cheating and stealing. I lived a reckless existence. There was no celebration of life whatsoever. Nothing but backstabbing, betrayal, spiteful, and scandalous behaviours. Each day on East Hastings I became more vulnerable, weak, frustrated, bitter, desperate, hostile, afraid, hopeless, and extremely paranoid, suspicious, tense, anxious, and nervous from rigorously abusing crack cocaine. Soon, I became a hardened ghost with no spirit, just like everyone else who experiments with hard drugs, the force of the honeymoon effect is just wayyy too strong and very captivating. I instantly became a slave to cravings and urges. I started conspiring ways and means to feed my appetite. I escaped from accountability and responsibility.


Existing on the street was like a slow death sentence. It’s a 24/7/365 day to day struggle. Your like a hyena in the desert, waiting for opportunity. It’s very embarrassing to see the sleezy tactics and desperate manipulations of addicted people, but I guess those behaviours are everywhere. Eventually, I found myself in provincial jail, desperate for a peaceful change of lifestyle; with no options/solutions of resurrecting my spirit, until an elder told me to start running . So that’s what I did, It was my breakthrough moment!


I started jogging every day and slowly broadened my horizons and stretched my legs into the North Shore mountains.
That’s where I reclaimed my spirit! I felt useful, powerful and worthy. Running became my medicine, teacher, and best friend. I ran everywhere in Vancouver and surrounding area.

 

On the road with Benji. Both wearing Run for Change T-shirts.

On the road with Benji. Both wearing Run for Change T-shirts.

I met an ultra runner named Benji Chu and together we ran 11hrs to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway, We ran 13hrs to Chilliwack, and finally ran 23 hrs non- stop to Hope where I was a victim to a semi truck hit n’run which instantly shattered my left elbow into pieces, shattered my right hand and lacerated my right foot. I was devastated after surgery and thought my running days were over. I was told by Benji that the hit n run was payback for all my wrongful decisions on the streets and that I had also incurred many karmic debts over the years. My Creator had spared my running because I was to share my running in a good way with society. This is why I am very grateful for Benji’s insights and very grateful to be running today! After I was released from hospital I went to rehab therapy and began nursing myself back to running, it took 6 months to get back on the highway and face my semi truck fears, but I over came the fear of running on the highway with all those big wheel trucks!!

Today, I am an elite ultra runner, which means I run super long distances for 7+ hrs @ 10km/hr, averaging 65-75 km/day 6 days/week on the highways and trails. I can also run 100 miles under 24 hrs. I have come along way from the notorious HIV HEP C infested streets in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. At 44, I am super healthy and disease free. I will run for another 40 yrs tops!

I’ve trained many times with the powerhouse Vancouver Falcons Athletic Club, Canada’s strongest running club and fastest elite runners. Coached by the best running coach in the country, John Hill.

Running in the North, his true home.

Running in the North, his true home.

My 2014 list of ultra running accomplishments include a 750 km 10 day run from Ft Smith to Yellowknife, a 1200 km 25 day run from Inuvik to Whitehorse, and a 3200 km 78 day run from Vancouver to Whitehorse. Plus I’ve run many ice roads in the freezing Beaufort Delta and Yellowknife area as well.

2 of my racing accomplishments I am most proud of include qualifying for the Boston marathon and running a 1:22 half marathon, placing 46th out of 3500 men.

Today, I enjoy running to small NWT communities by ice road or all weather highways, speaking to youth of all grades on the importance of running, fitness and nutrition. In my school presentations, I describe the history of self transport, snowshoeing and how running was used by trappers to hunt, trap, and harvest water, food, and wood for survival.

Brad will talk to all who want to hear. His primary audience is Northern Youth

Brad will talk to all who want to hear. His primary audience is Northern Youth

This is to inform you why cultural running is an important vital activity and lends itself to therapeutic healing . Running each day validates many physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental defects within our culture. Running 5km each day helps people with ADHD and FASD. Running improves our behaviour and offers healthy fitness solutions. I enjoy passing on stories of past runners leading the way when villages followed the herds. It was the runners who followed the herds and allowed hunters to set traps for caribou and buffalo. Runners carried important inter-tribal messages for important gatherings. Runners were always allowed safe passage in enemy territory as well. Runners in the community are regarded highly amongst chiefs and elders.

It is important we cultivate running into our children for generations to come. It is important we live to run and run to live!

Thank you Creator .

Megwiich, Caribou Legs!

TERRY FOX: THE HOPE AND THE DREAM LIVE ON

09.18.2016
Terry Fox Run South Surrey

Terry Fox Run South Surrey

Today is Terry Fox Run day across Canada and in many other places. Once again we joined the many others making this special effort to remember what Terry Fox did all those years ago to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer. The stories, books, movies about his life and his dedication are many. So, as I ran my 10K this morning I got thinking that Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes contains a unique contribution from Doug Alward, the friend who drove Terry’s van during the Marathon of Hope. More than being Terry’s driver though, Doug was a boyhood friend and brings a perspective of who Terry Fox was before cancer and before his amazing project took life. I decided the only thing to do then was to put that contribution up on the blog today as just one more little thing I might do in honour of Terry.

So, here it is, just as Doug wrote it. There are virtually no photographs because that is how the original was published. I want to thank Doug for this powerful and personal story, one that likely could not be written by any other person alive.

INSPIRATION AND DETERMINATION

 A FIRST HAND ACCOUNT OF THE TERRY FOX STORY

Doug Alward

 

“Anything is possible if you try…..

Dreams are made when people try.”

                                          Terry Fox, 1980

Terry Fox and Doug Alward - Where the Marathon of Hope began.

Terry Fox and Doug Alward – Where the Marathon of Hope began.

The Marathon of Hope to raise funds for cancer research began on a cold and foggy day in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Snow covered the roadside as winter still gripped the landscape.

Terry Fox dipped his artificial foot into the icy Atlantic Ocean, then turned landward to begin one of the most historic and inspiring runs ever. It was a run that would take him over 3,339 miles (5,373 km) across Canada through snow, wind, rain, and stifling heat before the cancer would strike again, killing his body but not his indomitable and enduring spirit.

It was a run that skeptics said was impossible. How could a boy who had lost one leg to bone cancer run a 42.2 km or 26.2 mile marathon EVERY day across hilly and mountainous highways, all the way across the second largest country in the world? Such a feat was considered impossible for most two-legged people. How could a one-legged person even think about it? Only one one-legged person, a man named Dick Traum, had ever tried a marathon on the primitive artificial legs available in 1980 and he had to walk much of the way. Terry was going to try to RUN a marathon EVERY DAY for several months. It was a run that would carry Terry Fox into the hearts of a nation and inspire millions of people across Canada and around the world, then and for decades to come.

As Terry’s friend and driver on the “Marathon of Hope for Cancer Research” and as Terry’s best friend from the age of 13, I learned much about his character and dreams. By sharing what I was so blessed to be a part of I hope to inspire you to reach out for your dreams, regardless of your present age, condition or situation.

One step at a time!- One telephone pole at a time!- One Marathon Run on one leg, one day at a time!- Over 5,300km across Canada through 100 km/hr wind, rainstorms, snow, -20°C late winter weather and searing 35°C summer heat; enduring freight trucks and inattentive drivers barreling along the Trans-Canada Highway at him; living in a small camperized van with the world’s worst cook (me) feeding him canned beans and peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Terry Fox ran a marathon a day for over 130 days taking only a couple of days off. Those “off” days were spent doing publicity events, television and newspaper interviews and meeting politicians and Prime Ministers. For Terry, the daily fundraising speeches and interviews were often more exhausting than the run. Miraculously, Terry Fox did it. He proved it IS possible to do the impossible.

When Terry first mentioned to me his idea of running a marathon a day, EVERY day, for 200+ days in a row across Canada to raise money for cancer research I never doubted he could accomplish such an unbelievable feat. Terry was always a possibility thinker. Terry believed in reaching for dreams with the abilities he had, not dwelling on what he didn’t have or what he might have done. I believed Terry could do it. Terry believed he could do it. The rest would just be detail and hard work.

To understand how Terry and I could believe such a feat was possible you have to know something of Terry’s background. When I first met Terry we were the only two Grade 8’s on the school cross-country running team. The school’s huge football coach who was our Physical Education instructor, semi-threatened us into joining the team even though running was not something Terry particularly enjoyed. In the first race of the year Terry came a distant dead last.

Untrained and new to competitive running, Terry was glad just to finish that first race, but he would not quit. With the encouragement and direction of outstanding teacher and running coach Mr. Fred Tinck (five of the athletes he coached went on to make the Olympic Games in various sports), Terry worked hard every day through cross-country and track seasons. By the time Terry was 15 he could run a mile in under 5 minutes. In other words, were it not for events yet to come, Terry was at the threshold of becoming an elite runner. But, as we know, Terry was destined to be not just an elite athlete, but an elite human being.

Similar to his efforts on the track, Terry improved dramatically as a basketball player. By way of a daily plan of training, believing in himself and just plain working his butt off, Terry went from being the shortest least skilled Grade 8 player (possibly in all of Canada), to making the basketball team at Simon Fraser University 5 years later. Academically, Terry went from being a 55% student in Grade 8 to holding an 88% average in Grade 12. Believing he could accomplish each of these goals, then planning and working towards them was the key to Terry achieving his dreams.

When Terry was 18 years old he felt a pain in his knee, a pain that got progressively worse over the next three months. Terry was stubborn. To him, pain was not to be a barrier to achieving his goals. He would not go to a doctor until he could no longer walk. Finally, after the doctors had done a battery of tests, Terry’s right leg was amputated a foot above his knee. Such a drastic measure was needed to try to prevent the spread of bone cancer that had started in his knee.

After surgery, several months of sickening chemotherapy treatments followed to try to kill any cancer cells that may have spread to other areas of Terry’s body. He lost his hair and vomited almost daily.

Terry did not dwell on his amputated leg and illness. He decided to get off his butt and show people what he could do. He said,

“I’m a dreamer, I like challenges. I don’t give up. I go all out…Nobody is ever going to call me a quitter.”

Terry focused on carrying a full course load of tough science and math courses at university. At the invitation of world wheelchair traveler “Man in Motion” Rick Hansen, he began playing wheelchair basketball. The British Columbia wheelchair team with Rick and Terry playing key roles, won the Canadian Championship three times.

After two years of treatment Terry vowed to do something to help all the kids he had seen suffering and often dying in the cancer clinic. He came up with the dream of running across Canada on one leg, doing a marathon a day to raise funds for cancer research. How could he accomplish such a feat on one good leg and a primitive artificial leg that was held on by air suction and a strap? The normal running gait was impossible so Terry invented a motion where he hopped with his real leg and swung the artificial leg through. Some people called it a triple jump and others appropriately called it the “Fox Trot”. One person said his running looked like that of a three-legged horse. To Terry all that mattered was that he was RUNNING. Problem number one had been solved by thoughtful experimentation.

The next problem to tackle was running a marathon a day. Terry had to come up with a training plan. He consulted everyone he knew who might be able to help him. Running and weight training coaches as well as nutrition experts helped Terry develop a plan. The first day Terry “RAN” just a single lap around the local dirt track and collapsed with an exhausted real leg and a bleeding stump, the result of the chafing of his stump in the bucket of the artificial leg. Terry went home with only one thing in his mind: a plan to do better the next day. The next day he ran two laps. After one week he was running a mile. By five months he was up to twenty laps a day. Terry said:

“I had some blisters man. It was like running on coals. I had some sores on my stump where the artificial leg was. They just rubbed raw and there is no protection. Sometimes the sores would bleed right through my valve in the bucket and the blood would run down my knee and my leg. I developed bone bruises. My toes and heel were totally blistered raw and I lost three toenails. I had shinsplints for two months…You have to get over a pain threshold. There were times where it really hurt, but I kept going.”

Then, with my crazy encouragement, Terry decided to pre-register for a 28km race in Prince George, BC on the Labour Day Weekend of 1979.   He still had two more months to increase his mileage and train his body. Slowly and systematically Terry increased his mileage to 18 km a day. Also, three times a week intensive two-hour sessions of strength and conditioning exercises followed the daily running sessions. These exercises worked particularly hard on back, abdominal, and lower leg muscles. Finally, race day in Prince George arrived and Terry ran the entire 28km without walking a single step.

Terry had now made up his mind. He would begin planning his run to cross the country at a marathon a day pace. The run would begin in April of 1980, just seven months later. He prepared a letter to get sponsors to help him in his dream. Terry wrote:

“The night before my amputation I read an article on an amputee who completed the New York City Marathon. It was then I decided to meet this new challenge head on and not only overcome my disability, but conquer it in such a way that I could never look back and say it disabled me. But I soon realized that would only be half my quest, for as I went through the sixteen months of the physically and emotionally draining ordeal of chemotherapy I was rudely awakened by the feelings that coursed through the cancer clinic. There were faces with the brave smiles and the ones who had given up smiling. There were the feelings of hopeful denial and the feelings of despair. My quest would not be a selfish one. I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would still exist, even though I would be set free from mine. Somewhere the hurting must stop and I am determined to take myself to the limit for this cause…. I am not saying this will initiate any kind of cure for cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.

                                                                        Signed,

                                                                        Terry Fox (September 1979)

From September 1979 to Christmas Eve Terry ran 101 days in a row increasing his mileage from 10 miles (16km) per day to 20 miles (32km) per day by Christmas Eve. His mother ordered him to take Christmas Day off. Even when his wheelchair basketball team toured Washington and Oregon in early December Terry kept the streak of 20 mile days going by rising by 5 AM and running his miles.

Terry’s dream gave him amazing drive. He wanted to help kids dying of cancer. This dream kept Terry going through injury, lack of sleep and the pressures of university exams and term papers.

In his speeches Terry would often say that the pain he felt was nowhere near as bad as that of the pain the kids were feeling on the cancer wards. Some kids had tumors growing out the side of their head. Others had tumors throughout their body. Some would be there one week and dead the next. This suffering motivated Terry into action: one step at a time, one telephone pole at a time, one mile at a time. Now the dream was within reach. Running a marathon a day on one leg, across the second largest country in the world was just one step away.

On April 12, 1980 in St John’s Newfoundland Terry dipped his leg into the Atlantic Ocean. He filled a bottle with Atlantic Ocean water and tucked it away in the small camperized van we would share over the next several months. CBC television was there to capture the historic moment although much prodding was needed to convince CBC to have a film crew out to film such an impossible feat. A news reporter recorded the following quote from Terry:

“If it’s only up to me and my mind I‘ve got a lot of positive attitude. But you never know what might happen….I wanted to try the impossible…”

The first day fog limited visibility to fifty meters. The second day it snowed. The third day was sunny but with sub-zero temperatures that Terry said “Froze my balls off.” Seventy kilometer per hour freezing winds in his face made the running extremely difficult. On and on I watched Terry struggle. Day after day he accomplished the marathon goal. Day after day and step after step he captured the hearts of the kids and adults he spoke to at schools, receptions, and by doing countless interviews on radio and television. After three weeks he had run across the province of Newfoundland, a distance of 933 kilometers. By six weeks he had conquered Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. By seven weeks Terry had lost ten pounds, mostly due to my sub-par cooking. By eleven weeks Terry was through Quebec and at the Ontario border. Terry would say:

“I broke the run down. Get that mile down, get to that sign, that corner and around that bend.”

If I could describe Terry in one word it would be RELENTLESS.

Terry had accomplished what doctors, other amputees and skeptics had said was impossible. Terry Fox had proved them wrong. Now news editors hurried to record the story of the miracle boy who was capturing the imagination of people from coast to coast.

His story was simple. He had lost his leg from cancer. He had seen kids dying of cancer. He was determined to do something about it. He was asking people to donate to cancer research. A one dollar donation from each person was his goal.

His day would begin shortly after 4 AM. Before 5 AM he had to be at the spot on the Trans-Canada Highway that he had stopped the day before. In the pitch-black darkness Terry would step onto the highway under every conceivable weather condition. There were no excuses for taking a day off. Pain, blisters, and exhaustion were no excuse. A broken foot “MIGHT” be. Walking was NEVER allowed. He had to RUN every step.

Entering the province of Ontario in mid-July, temperatures soared upwards of 35°C. In major population centers thousands lined the streets to see and be inspired by Terry as he struggled onwards. Terry added several hundreds of kilometers to the run by heading south to Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, and London, Ontario. Terry wanted to go to large population centers to inspire as many people as possible to give for cancer research.

Terry relentlessly fought onward through the hot summer finally nearing Thunder Bay, Ontario. At mile 3,339 (5,373 km) the cancer struck again. The bone cancer cells that had spread from his knee had grown into tumors larger than baseballs in his lungs, causing one lung to collapse so that he could hardly breathe.   The Marathon of Hope had ended on Labour Day Sunday, exactly one year to the minute that Terry had run his only race, on one leg, in Prince George.

The run was over, but the dream of raising funds for cancer research was not. Telethons and fundraising ventures spread like wildfire across Canada as Terry received treatment for the cancer that was now surely and steadily killing his physical body.

Terry died just before 5 am on June 28, 1981. Ironically, one year before at 5 am on June 28, 1980 Terry ran across the Quebec/Ontario Provincial border. Ontario was the province where the fundraising skyrocketed. It seemed as if Terry was asking us to continue his dream.

I was sad to physically lose my best friend, but relieved he was free of the horrible suffering cancer had caused. Spiritually, Terry’s attitudes and values continue to inspire me. Several times I have thought of giving up running as my aging body breaks down. Three years ago my doctor did a bone scan on my swollen feet and discovered the beginnings of arthritis. Muscle pulls, tendon problems and even a broken upper arm that sidelined me from any running for two months have slowed me down. Due to a modified training program, improved diet, the support of other runners, and Terry’s attitude to take “ONE STEP AT A TIME’, I have been able to achieve some of my best ever running performances. Recently, I ran a 1:17 half marathon at the age of 46.

Do you have a dream? Think of Terry’s perseverance against unbelievable handicaps: bone bruises, shinsplints and severe blister-like cysts on his stump that often bled into the artificial leg. Whether they be trivial or major, physical or mental, let Terry’s perseverance and spirit inspire you through your tough times and personal challenges.

Today, Terry Fox Runs are held in over 50 countries and have raised over $360 Million for cancer research. Terry is still running, still stepping one step at a time, one mile at a time. As Terry said:

“You only live once and if you want to get something done you have to do it while you have the chance.”

Terry tried and his dream to find a cure for cancer lives on.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Boy does Terry’s dream live on! Notwithstanding how we see it now, the early days of the Marathon of Hope didn’t produce all that much hope. Going was slow and so was the fund raising. Compare that to what we were told this morning: “Over $700,000,000 raised” and counting. I could have written 700 Million, but I think for this we need to see those zeros. Terry hoped for $1/Canadian. I wonder what he would think of this. If I understand anything about his spirit and determination, I am going to guess he might be thinking something along the lines of Great start, but cancer is still happening!