I think I’ll start by quoting my own words from my last Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront (STWM) training update. “I completely realize that I may have to throw in the towel and call it a season if there is any sort of glitch but I’m certainly not afraid to put my head down and get the ugly work done if that is all it takes.” I put my head down. I did some ugly work. But I also experienced another glitch so unfortunately I’m throwing in the towel and calling it a season by withdrawing from my hometown and very favourite STWM, the race that was to be my fifteenth marathon in fifteen years, #15in15. Sigh.
A few days before leaving for the Canada Army Run in Ottawa where I was to speak at the pasta dinner and run the half marathon, I did a workout that left my hip flexors feeling tight. I wasn’t overly concerned, particularly because it was the same on both sides. But the right hip lingered and I found myself unable to even walk without some pain. The closer I got to leaving for the weekend, the more racing items I removed from my suitcase. My luggage got lighter and my heart heavier as I knew the inevitable. Two years ago I travelled to Edmonton not knowing if I should race. It made for a very long weekend after deciding I should not. Then, I could walk, but not run, pain-free and had made the wrong call the year before when I raced a half marathon on what I later discovered was a stress fracture, resulting in a femur fracture requiring emergency surgery. It wasn’t bone-related this time, but if you can’t walk normally, you can’t run.
We had planned to use the Canada Army Run half marathon as a good indicator of my fitness. In fact, Coach Dave and I were going to discuss our plan afterwards so that Race Director Alan Brookes could fit me into a suitable pace group. As I ventured onto the Go train, making my way to the Billy Bishop airport, my thinking started to shift. I wasn’t going to make a decision right away, but found myself already pondering how I’d use my extra time and energy when not training. It wasn’t long before I had a full list of projects and plans I could complete during what would likely be my much needed off-season after over-reaching my marathon quota. Over the course of the weekend, my spirits were lifted with the help of friends, Ben Kaplan and Tyler Chacra. I certainly wasn’t going to sit in my hotel room, feeling sorry for myself, when there was so much incredible energy and opportunity around me. Many had told me how amazing the Canada Army run would be and it did not disappoint.
Once I arrived to my hotel room, I was warmly greeted by a lovely fruit plate and bottle of cabernet sauvignon from the race committee. I enjoyed a fun and relaxing evening with Ben and Tyler after they finished their expo duties for the day, and I filled in the blanks for the rest of my weekend since I wouldn’t be running or needing to rest. On Saturday I spent much of the day at the expo, doing interviews, and taking selfies with fans at the iRun booth. I headed back to the hotel to get ready before returning to speak at the pasta dinner with Christine Gauthier, a Canadian soldier who dislocated her spine in a training accident, leaving her in a wheelchair. The atmosphere at the pasta dinner was incredible. I was beginning to learn more about the culture and feel some of the “no soldier left behind” community. The laughter, the jokes, the silence, the respect, the love. It felt like one big family. I knew it would be a weekend of emotion and I hadn’t even seen the famous silent start of the next day’s ill and injured race.
Dinner was served from a military-style kitchen and Christine and I were introduced with an enthusiastic applause. I enjoyed sharing my story of blessings and trials, tying it in with Christine’s inspiring message on resilience. A standing ovation from the audience and personal handshake from Harjit Singh Sajjan, our Minister of National Defence, left me smiling and feeling grateful. The next morning I would see him complete the 5K and half marathon “Commander’s Challenge” as well as Justin Trudeau, our Prime Minister complete the 5K on what ended up being a very hot race day. That’s where my weekend became complete; taking more selfies with fans, doing interviews with Running Room’s John Stanton, cheering for participants, posting to social media, and giving awards at the finish line. It stung a bit when the first female crossed the half marathon finish line, but I fully appreciated the opportunity to experience the Army Run from a perspective I hadn’t anticipated. It truly was what they describe as “No ordinary race.” Coach and Running Room’s Phil Marsh gave me a ride to the airport that included great conversation about potential career opportunities given my nutrition, parenting, and running experience. It was a perfect fit.
While travelling on the way home I reviewed my calendar and again started filling in the blanks. Coaching my kids’ cross-country and daughter’s hockey teams, taking the Dietitians of Canada’s Intensive Sports Nutrition Course, and starting a “Healthy You” program with my Family Health Team should keep me busy and allow me to best use my extra time and energy in the upcoming months. I’ve already enjoyed baking with my daughter without feeling the need to get off my feet, and tucking her into bed without immediately crawling into my own. Lastly, I accepted the unexpected opportunity from iRun magazine to interview Andre De Grasse and the rest of the men’s 4×100 m relay team for the Six-Minute Marathon initiative to raise awareness for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
And I’m delighted to return as member of the broadcast team for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. When you can’t race, broadcasting is the next best thing.
I’ll eventually return to some long overdue easy runs on the trails with my good friends, Clayton and James, and start getting the itch to train and race again. I already have a spring marathon in mind, which if completed will allow me to do my sixteenth marathon in sixteen years in the fall, #16in16. And I bet you can guess where that might be.