It was cold last night, but it’s been cold always, and we had skipped class last Sunday. We had to run Thursday night. Getting ready for the Chilly Half Marathon in February requires atypical training. It’s not pleasant outside, so you need to derive your motivation from somewhere. This is why running with a group is essential. Who in their right minds can come home from a work day, put down their briefcase, and lace up their sneakers for a run at 7 p.m. when it’s -20? If you’re running for your country, sure, but if you’re attempting your first half marathon, it’s unlikely. You need a team.
My team has been training since June, and we’re already through our 5 and 10K races. On March 1, we’ll be doing our half marathon and then, in May, the marathon. It’s a Couch to Marathon clinic, and by now the relationships in the group have been well forged. It’s an odd mix of people—different ages, different skill sets, different end goals—but everyone is aligned and committed. It’s fun.
Last night, the group was supposed to do 14K, roughly at race pace. The idea was to use last night as a dress rehearsal for the race and run alone, recreate race conditions and see where everyone’s at with regards to potential time goals. But the gang revolted. It was dangerously cold and, since we run down by the lake, incredibly windy. Sensibly, the team decided to do 10K and call it a night. I’m discovering that so much of what we’re doing is confidence-building. Often, 10K run smartly builds more strength than 14K of pure hell. In the end, fostering a love of running is more important than teaching my runners how to bring their time down by three minutes. On the other hand, I too am a runner, and I’ve been delinquent with my own training, so I took my own advice and raced the 14K. I swear on my children that at 5K, before the turn-around, I almost called it quits. My face felt frozen in a way that didn’t feel healthy and I feel like I should make some kind of Elsa or Anna joke here, but I wasn’t kidding. Plus, I was without my group and near my house. So easily I could just cut right and make it home, where I knew for a fact a giant lasagna was waiting. I did not do that. And, sure enough, at 7K, I turned around and, with the wind at my back, the run became much simpler.
I don’t have a time goal for the Chilly Half. I’m in February shape. My cheeseburger to kilometre ratio isn’t where I like it to be when I race. I’ve PB’d around 1:24, but I haven’t done a long run since God knows when. In fact, last night’s 14K was probably the most I’ve done in 2015. Is that really true? I don’t know. But I’ll be running with my group out in Burlington on March 1, and even if we don’t run the course together, I know they’ll be out there, hustling, sweating, trying. And I’ll be rooting for them and they’ll be rooting for me. Because it’s February in Canada, a time for atypical training. When it’s not really about legs, but all about heart.