Blown away by my own incredibleness

Race bib with timing chip on the backHow’s that for a brag! I think this time I have earned the right to boast. I’m 44 years old. I smoked very heavily for 25 of those years. I never thought I would beat the 1-hour mark for a 10K run. And my time last night on the Longest Day Run was 55:50! Oh My God!!! Valley Girl squeals!!!

I wasn’t trying that hard. I started slow, trying to keep to a comfortable pace. I positioned myself up near the front, so I wouldn’t have the problem of having to pass people constantly. Instead, for the first minute or two people were passing me. But this was a totally different race than the international event of the Vancouver marathon. It had a grassroots, community feel, and the numbers of people were much lower. So I didn’t have the same issue with being crowded. Most of the course was very spacious, except for one short bit where the width was just two runners wide. Anyway, trying to go slow, I found that my time for the first 1K was 5:45. Not slow! (For someone who has a 7 minute per KM training pace, and a half-marathon pace of 6 minutes per KM.)

As the kilometres ticked out I noticed that I was sustaining a pace that was well under 6 minutes, which meant that unless something unforeseen happened, I was going to beat the 1 hour mark. I guess this kept my effort strong. I was pushing myself beyond a comfortable pace, it’s true, but also enjoying the beauty of the sunshine, the sky, and the UBC campus. I felt kindly towards my fellow runners, for the most part. Much less reactivity than in the last race. (One incident, which I will relate soon, was an exception to this!)

In the second half of a race I always feel more confident, as I’ve made it halfway and know I can do the same again. Since I was already running so strongly there wasn’t as much room to increase my pace in the second half, but I started using the focuses I’d learned at Angela’s ChiRunning workshop. Lifting my feet to kick them up behind, feeling a lightness and looseness in my stride (a smooth-moving organism, with no hitches or glitches, just effortless freedom of movement). I also used the eyes-ahead focus, looking on runners ahead of me rather than at the ground. And strangely enough, this drew me forward to pass the runners ahead, over and over… At one point an eagle soared overhead, and that really seemed a blessing.

After I passed the 8KM mark I decided to hold nothing back, and ran even faster. I was right at that threshold of anaerobic activity, where I was working harder and using more oxygen than my body could take in. I love playing at that edge. And I must say, race time is the only time I get the chance to do it, as I can never run this fast when I’m on my own. A gift of the race, definitely. So for the last two kilometres I was really running hard, and then, I had my little moment of reactivity. Gliding along the sidewalk in that effortless smooth way, with other runners sparsely situated ahead and behind, someone from the 5K race (identified as such by a different bib colour) was walking up the race path in the opposite direction from the race. There was plenty of room on the grass beside the sidewalk, and room all around, so why was this guy walking on the racecourse? It felt like a disruption in the flow, and a lack of respect for the racers (and me in particular!), and it pissed me off.

As I passed him I couldn’t contain myself and I said “Arrogant prick.” I heard two women nearby snicker a bit. I felt a boost of adrenaline flood my body, and I was off, running even faster than before! At this point I was only a few hundred metres from the finish line, though I didn’t know it as I had missed seeing the 9K marker. I just let the extra energy move me on, speculating as I did so whether this was a positive thing or not. In that moment it felt pretty fucking good, let me tell you!

I came around a corner and heard the announcer and saw the finish line ahead. I could hear two women coming up behind me, and I just didn’t want to let them pass me. So I ran even harder, and discovered the incredible blessing of a grassy lane as the final stretch, right through the finish line. Wow! Running on the green earth. I gave everything I had, and I could see the time on the clock at the finish line as I got closer. It was 55 something! I pushed even harder, and I couldn’t help but say “Holy Shit!” as I ran under the Finish banner and saw that my time was under 56 minutes. Oh my god!!

I almost fainted from lack of oxygen, so walked around the big green grassy field for a while, getting my breath back and feeling the euphoria of knowing I’d done something I’d never thought I could do. What a great race! I loved everyone who was in it, and all the people who volunteered and put it on.

I usually like to leave right after a race, but this time I stayed. I talked to some other runners, and did my post-race yoga in the big grassy field. Then I partook of the amazing feast that the North Shore Credit Union and race organizers had put out. Beautiful fresh strawberries and watermelon, veggies, hot dogs and burgers, chips and cookies. People sat on the grass to eat, and cheered as the announcements were made about the race results. I sat on the grass and ate the food and enjoyed the bonhomie of this celebration of running, community, and the longest day of the year. Wonderful!

One added benefit of organized road races is that they always raise money for a worthy cause. This time it was to fund research for a cure for Juvenile Diabetes. So that’s another reason to feel good about doing this crazy thing called racing. I also wanted to mention to you the innovation in timing chips. The last few half-marathons I was in, the timing chips were disposable, which meant race volunteers didn’t need to cut the chip from our shoes and put them in a bucket. This time, the timing chip was built right into the race bib! It is amazing to consider that 10,000 years ago, humans were living a hunter-gatherer-fisher lifestyle. And now, this! Isn’t this world a strange and marvellous place? 😉

Running into summer

Well, I guess I’m a sucker. After my experience with the Vancouver Half MarathonRunning down that road 2010 I thought I might never go in another race again. But I’ve signed up for the Longest Day Road Race, a 10K run on Friday, June 18th. The unique thing about this race, besides the fact that it is in honour of the summer solstice, is that it takes place at 7 PM in the evening! Dusk is my favourite time of day to run, and I just decided to go for it.

Luckily it is a small race, so I may not have the same kind of frustration with the crowds that I described to you previously. It will also be another chance to practice equanimity. After attending Dan Brown’s meditation retreat in Vancouver, followed by another Diamond Approach weekend, I have noticed my reactivity has subsided substantially. This relief from suffering was something that Dan promised on the first day of the retreat, and it is really true—experiencing and understanding reality through the meditation practices that he taught have caused a major shift in my reactivity. Along with that has come a new gentleness towards myself, whatever I might be experiencing. So if you ever get a chance to work with Dan Brown, I highly recommend it. It is a precious opportunity.