Racing Like Forrest Gump meets Groundhog Day: A Triple Marathon, One Kilometre at...

    Like Forrest Gump meets Groundhog Day: A Triple Marathon, One Kilometre at a Time

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    By Jean-Paul Bedard

    This past weekend, I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon three times on the same day; that’s a total distance of 126.6 km. As a survivor of both childhood sexual abuse and rape, I was running to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence in our communities. But more importantly, I was running to demonstrate the resilience we all have inside to overcome life’s greatest obstacles and trauma. My triple marathon generated a lot of media attention and united the running community around a worthy cause. Here’s what was going through my mind on what turned out to be one of the longest, and best, days of my life.IMG_6958

    1. Whatever I do, even if I have to hobble, hop, or crawl, I have to get to the end of this triple marathon – too many people are counting on me.
    2. Shouldn’t I feel more nervous? I’m actually freaked out at the fact I’m not freaking out more.
    3. Final instructions from the driver of my support vehicle… and she just happens to be my wife. She’s in charge of logistics from here on out. I’m going into auto pilot mode now. Run. Refuel. Run. Refuel. Run … well, you get the picture.
    4. It’s -5 degrees out here… why did I think wearing shorts would be a good idea?
    5. If I find a plastic bag blowing around out here, I’m shoving it down the front of my shorts – It’s freezing!
    6. I really hope the porta-potties are already out on the course.
    7. It’s hard to believe that only 19 years ago, I was a full-blown alcoholic and drug addict. It’s never too late to rewrite the ending to your story.
    8. Despite all the offers from people willing to join me for a few kilometers of my first marathon of the night, I decided to run this one solo. I really felt I need the time and the space to process the enormity of what I was embarking on, but more importantly, I wanted the distance with my thoughts to pay respect to all the other survivors of sexual violence for whom I’m running.
    9. It’s ok to cry… I seem to do that a lot lately.
    10. These people lining up outside of a club in downtown Toronto will be the same people I see stumbling out of the same club when I come around again on my second marathon of the night.
    11. I wish my dad were alive to see the man I’ve become. Oh boy, here we go… more tears.
    12. In the past three years, I’ve probably received over 5,000 messages from survivors of sexual violence, and in each of those letters, one theme keeps popping up. We are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.
    13. My stomach is doing somersaults… I better take another Pepto tablet. When it comes to running ultra distances, my stomach has always been my ‘achilles heel’.
    14. I really had no idea what my ‘pre-race’ meal was supposed to be, but I’m thinking that the eggs, bacon, and pancakes may not have been the best decision. Ok, maybe it was just the fact I chose to have 9 pancakes… Was that a little ‘piggy’ of me? We’ll soon find out.
    15. I swear I smell bacon.
    16. Stop looking at your watch… Stop looking at your watch… This is not supposed to be a race.
    17. Is it too soon to be drinking Gatorade… seriously… I’ve got 14 hours of running ahead of me, and I’m worried about that syrupy liquid sloshing around in my tummy.
    18. I’ve done so many interviews leading up to this event, and I have a few scheduled to take place over the course of the night’s run, and when the media interviews a runner, they always request a photo-op of you lacing up your running shoes… and stretching… they love the stretching photo-op!
    19. There’s Edison Yao, the photographer assigned by the CRS to capture all the images of my Triple Marathon. I’ve never met this man before, but he’s about to be by my side as we head into battle for the next 126.6 km.
    20. For me, running is the ‘canvas’ I get to ‘paint’ my life on. When I’m out running on my own, I move towards the person I’ve always wanted to be.
    21. My fingers have gone numb… I’m definitely grabbing and extra pair of gloves from the car at the next meeting point.
    22. Alan Brookes, the Race Director for the Canadian Running Series, gives great hugs.
    23. Why am I running this far? It’s to create a dialogue about the prevalence of sexual violence in our communities. In Canada alone, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys grow up as survivors of childhood sexual abuse… Think about that for a minute.
    24. Is it just me, or do all runners feel every ache, twinge, and spasm at the beginning of a race? Maybe it’s our mind’s last vain attempt to shut us down and sabotage us because it knows the hell that is in store.
    25. Is it time for another caffeine gel yet?
    26. If one more person screams “Run, Forrest Run!” out of a window of a moving car, I’m going to lose it.
    27. The CN Tower is really beautiful at night… I take that for granted being a Torontonian.
    28. You know what? 42.2 km is a long way! It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
    29. Should I put my tights on?
    30. There are a lot of potholes on the streets of Toronto!
    31. I wish I hadn’t eaten all those pancakes… and that bacon … Mmmm, did somebody say bacon?
    32. I can’t stop thinking about all the messages of support that have been flooding in over the past 24 hours… I really don’t want to let all these people down. They believe in me… I need to believe in myself too!
    33. You know what goes through your mind 3 hours into a run in the middle of the night? Nothing… absolutely nothing… and I’m talking black hole, vast oceans of nothingness.
    34. To my wife in the car: “Yes, dear… I promise I’ll keep hydrating.” In my head after she drives on ahead in the support vehicle: “I’m not drinking another drop…I desperately need to pee!”
    35. Time to say a little prayer and refocus. My ‘alone time’ is about to end. I’ve got a group of runners waiting for me at the start of my second marathon. I feel ever so grateful that the running community has supported me wholeheartedly in my advocacy work for survivors of sexual violence. But dragging yourself out of a warm bed at 2 a.m. to run out in the cold to support another runner… I’ve got no words to articulate what that means to me. LOVE, simple and pure LOVE.
    36. Finally… there’s the finish line up ahead… 42.2 km in the books!   I can’t believe how good my legs feel.
    37. Boom! The first finisher’s medal is placed around my neck. Now, I have 10 minutes to eat a rice cake with peanut butter and make my way a few blocks over to the official start line to do this all over again!
    38. A high-five from a police officer who is standing watch at the finishing area on this cold, dark night. There was a little giggle in his voice when he said: “I’ll see you in four hours, buddy.”
    39. Are you warm enough? Yes, dear… I’m warm enough. Are you sure you’re drinking enough… the doctor said it’s critical you keep hydrating. Yes, dear… I’m on it. Being a ‘Running Sherpa’ is definitely a thankless job.
    40. Tears… tears…. and more tears… Waiting on the corner at the start line of my second marathon are my childhood friends Rosie and Frank. Rosie has surprised me, and she will be riding in the support vehicle with Mary-Anne for the next 5 hours. And, Frank… one of my dearest friends… He’s known me since kindergarten, and he’s driven in from out of town to run 30k in the middle of the night with me. No words…
    41. All those careful plans about keeping a steady pace throughout the three marathons… well, that all went out the window. The adrenalin is now pumping, and I’m so excited to have some company with me for the next few hours.
    42. We’re now just four old guys pounding our way through the dark streets of Toronto in the wee hours of Sunday morning… How cool is that! I think we all feel like a bunch of kids who were left the keys to the candy store.
    43. So, you remember how I said my legs felt nice and fresh after that first marathon… well… not so much anymore. Ouch!
    44. I can’t get the theme song from Gilligan’s Island out of my head. “Just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale…”
    45. Out of the darkness arrives my buddy, Dave Emilio. He’s working as a volunteer coordinator for the marathon all day, but he decided to get out of bed early to run a few kilometers of my second marathon with me. See what I mean? Runners are a special breed.
    46. Seriously… would anyone even know if we cut the course a little short of the turnaround? Oh, I forgot… the photographer is documenting every step of this triple marathon.
    47. Watch your step… That’s the voice of John McAlister, a serious ultra runner… He’s been watching over me like a mother hen for the past 4 hours. I’ve never felt so safe on a run before. It was essential that I not waste any energy, and John was a big reason I made it through marathon number two relatively unscathed.
    48. My wife, Mary-Anne, wrote me an anniversary card three years ago, just a few months after I disclosed to her that I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape… In the card she wrote: “Who knew 26 years ago when we said For Better or Worse, that it would be our worst that would make us better.” She’s the reason I’m still standing today.
    49. You know that pre-race ‘potty break’ that runners are so concerned about? Well… that never happened, and I’m starting to get a little concerned now. I better pop another stomach pill…
    50. Oh look… there’s the same people leaving the club now. Their legs look as wobbly as mine.
    51. Hey, those pylons weren’t there the first time I came around this corner 4 hours ago.
    52. Ya baby! Just up ahead is the finish line… That’s 2 marathons down and one to go!
    53. You know… a ‘double marathon’ would have been just as impressive as a ‘triple’…
    54. Just checked my watch—I’ve already burned 7,500 calories.
    55. Time to change out of these damp clothes and into a new set of running gear for my final marathon of the day.
    56. I’m sooooo cold! I can’t stop shivering, and my lips are blue. I wish people would stop telling me I look “pasty”… that’s not helping with my confidence.
    57. Worst logistical decision of the day: Leaving a one-hour gap between the day’s second and third marathon. All my muscles are cramping. I’m seizing up. I’m no longer moving like a lithe Kenyan. Get ready for the “Tin Man Shuffle.” This next marathon will not look pretty.
    58. Did that really just happen? Did Lanni Marchant just come over to me and wish me luck!
    59. Wait a second—You mean I get to go up on stage and stand beside Premier Kathleen Wynne, and be one of the official starters of the race? Are you kidding me? Just when I thought this day couldn’t become any more surreal!
    60. I can’t believe I convinced the Premier of Ontario to run the first 5km of my third marathon with me. It’s a good thing I’m well-rested and dressed nicely… Wait a minute… scrap that… I haven’t slept for 24 hours. I’ve just run 84.4km, and I’m wrapped in a thermal warming blanket.
    61. Seeing the thousands of runners lining the street bunched together in their corrals makes me super proud to call Toronto my home!  This will be my 12th, 13th, and 14thtime running the Waterfront Marathon.
    62. Bang…. The second wave of runners is off, and Premier Wynne and I are at the front of the pack. I really hope the Premier keeps the pace nice and easy. It’s going to be very embarrassing to ask her to slow the tempo down for me.
    63. I’m not going to lie: I’m excited at the prospect of getting three finisher’s medals today. I wonder how many of us are motivated to run simply because of the race bling?
    64. It feels like every runner who passes me is tapping me on the shoulder and saying “Run, JP, Run!”
    65. We’ve reached the 5km mark of the official marathon, and this is the point that the Premier and her security detail will be stepping off the course. What’s the protocol here, anyways? Is it ‘cool’ for me to give the Premier a hug and kiss? How do you thank someone for being a huge part of the best day of your life!IMG_6959
    66. Ok… the Premier has left… now, where’s the nearest porta-potty? I really need to pee.
    67. Oh look ahead… There’s the bridge I’ve already run across twice today. It feels like “Forest Gump” meets “Groundhog Day.”
    68. Quick text to my wife: “Babe, I’m fried… I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this.”
    69. OMG… It’s the TRIBE cheering station at the 18km mark of the marathon… and Alison is handing out homemade chocolate chip cookies!
    70. Walk breaks… the key to getting through this will be walks breaks.
    71. How long is a walk break supposed to be anyways? Trust me, this is a slippery slope. I’ll walk until I get to the next traffic light, or maybe the one after that…
    72. Damn… why did I only take two of Alison’s cookies… I now have deep cookie remorse.
    73. I’m now officially a ‘mid-pack runner.’ I’ve never been here before in a race. I’m trying not to freak out that for every one person I pass, seven others pass me.
    74. So… I started off this third marathon by running with my good friend, Athena. For the first 5km, she said “J.P. don’t let me slow you down.” And here we are two hours later and I’m begging her to take yet another walk break. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
    75. I don’t remember this hill the first two times around this course… Who put this here!
    76. The Facebook and Twitter alerts are going bananas on my phone… The phone is beeping, chirping, and vibrating every few seconds. I found out after the run was finished that Mary-Anne had put a message out on social media for all my friends to send me their support because I had hit a low point.
    77. Do not think about that blister on your left foot… Do not think about that blister on your left foot…
    78. I think I’m drooling, but I’m not really sure.
    79. Boom! The 26km sign. That’s 100km so far. Only 26km to go. That’s less than a half marathon… wait a second… no it’s not… that’s more than a half marathon… Argh! Why did I bring that up?
    80. I seriously need to find a new hobby… fishing… now that is something I could get into.
    81. Today is awesome! Tomorrow morning is going to suck! Big time!
    82. Maybe running the Chicago Marathon last weekend was not such a good idea after all.
    83. I’m not sure if I’m more tired from not sleeping or more tired from running for the past 12 hours.
    84. My favorite part of today was seeing how excited my wife was to see me head off into the darkness over 100 km ago.
    85. If I eat another gel, I’m going to throw up… seriously!
    86. Every time I see an official race photographer in the distance I speed up… and by that, I mean I hobble faster.
    87. I’m not sure what I enjoy seeing more during a marathon: The smiling faces of the hundreds of teenagers volunteering at the water stations, or the scowling faces of the drivers sitting in their cars because the marathon has slowed down their commute.
    88. Is it just me, or does it feel like we are running into a headwind no matter what direction we turn.
    89. Running reminds me of being a kid again. For that matter, so does “Gilligan’s Island”… oh no… there’s that song again!
    90. Just when I thought I’d reached my lowest point and not even pig-headed willpower would get me through this… along comes the Superheroes… seriously… 4 dudes dressed up as superheroes… They run marathons to raise money for a children’s hospital, but today, they’ve decided they are going to stick with me and motivate me the rest of the way.
    91. Speaking of superheroes… Along the course, we’re hearing a lot of “love” for Batman, but sadly, not too much for Thor.
    92. Bagels… look…. Bagels!
    93. Did I really sign up for another marathon 14 days from now? What the hell was I thinking!!!
    94. And bananas… they are green… next to impossible to peel… but they just might be the best food I’ve ever tasted.
    95. They say the key to running ultra distances is the ability to shut your mind off… I guess that’s a good thing because I haven’t had a coherent thought in about 5 hours.
    96. I bumped into my dear friend Christa, and I mean literally ‘bumped into her.’ She’s on her way back towards the finish line and I’m moving around in daze desperately trying to keep it together long enough to finish this race.
    97. At this point of the race, I’m being passed by runners in their 70s and 80s, and no… none of them is as fast as Ed Whitlock.
    98. Edison, my official photographer has been cycling this entire time. I really hope that he finds the kindness in his heart to delete all the picture of me walking during the last marathon.
    99. I think that’s a hemorrhoid, but I may be mistaken.
    100. Do you think my wife loves me enough to help me get dressed tomorrow? I’m not sure I’ll be able to bend over.
    101. Do you think John Stanton’s “10 and 1s” referred to run one minute, walk ten minutes?
    102. If Superman were a real superhero, he would be carrying me at this point… or at the very least doing that fly around the world thing at supersonic speed in order to fast forward this painful day.
    103. Now, I’m a little punch drunk… I can’t stop thinking about my buddy Bruce who ran most of my second marathon with me. After we ran 33km, he was due to pace his girlfriend in the half marathon. I bet he’s hurting now!
    104. For the first time, I’m shooting down 2 gels at that same time… and they are both ‘double caffeine’ gels… That’s like a quad espresso for you non-runners out there.
    105. Another text from my wife… “Are you getting close? So many people are waiting for you at the finish line, and they’ve been standing around for quite some time.” … No comment.
    106. I was worried because I had forgotten to start my GPS watch for the third marathon… turns out, I could have used a calendar to time this one!
    107. Sudden burst of speed… sadly, it only lasts a block and half.
    108. Have you ever read about lactic acid buildup in your muscles? Believe me… it’s a real thing!
    109. Oh no… They’re threatening to start closing down the course… The marshal said we might have to finish the last 10km on the sidewalk. No way… it’s tempo time… on second thought… the sidewalk is not that bad.
    110. I haven’t needed to use the porta-potties in more than 5 hours now. Something tells me that is not a good sign. Please, no one tell my wife.
    111. I can’t even remember my life before running. For that matter, right now, I can’t even remember my name.
    112. How awesome is that! Two guys sitting on their porch drinking beer, saw us making our way along the course, so they’ve hooked up their sound system and are playing the original theme song to “Batman.” Unfortunately, still no love for Thor.
    113. Athena and I break down in tears one more time. The gravity and symbolism of what this run represents for survivors of sexual violence has overwhelmed us. We are all stronger together.
    114. The last hill on Eastern Avenue… I hate you! No… I LOATHE you.
    115. Whoever said, “Relax, it’s all down hill from here”, obviously has never run 121km before… ouch!
    116. Are you kidding me? Where is the 39km sign? Did they already take that down!
    117. I’m not really sure if I’m more excited about finishing this damn thing or eating the gooey cheesy pizza that is definitely in my future.
    118. Usually I put a Band-Aid over each nipple to stop them from chafing. Today I put three on each one… 14 hours later, I’m thinking 4 would have been better.
    119. I promise… no more walk breaks the rest of the way.
    120. 40km … oh yah baby!
    121. I’ve never loved the Flatiron Building as much as I do right now… It’s my beacon… I’m almost home!
    122. Is that what I think it is? Awesome! It’s the 41km marker, only 1k to go… Yes, I know… there is another ‘point 2’ kilometres, but let’s not focus on the negative right now…
    123. 100 meters to go… I reach out and grab Athena’s hand. She, like me, is a survivor of sexual violence, and she has run the entire third marathon with me. From the very beginning of my decision to attempt a Triple Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my primary concern has been that this not be about “me,” but about “us” – All the survivors of sexual violence… those who have found their ‘voice,’ and more importantly, those who are still living in silence. Crossing the line with Athena does not represent the ‘finish’ of something… It is my hope that we have just begun something much greater.
    124. Throwing my arms around my wife and giving her the biggest, sweaty kiss… that was the finisher’s medal I was waiting for all along.
    125. For over 35 years of my life, I felt that I wasn’t “good enough”… Today, I know that I am “enough.” I am loved, and I love.IMG_6965
    126. I just ran 126.6km, but it’s nothing compared to how far I’ve come in my life. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape. My past no longer defines me, but rather, it’s the catalyst that has brought me to the place where I stand today – a life full of joy, resilience, and hope. My name is Jean-Paul Bédard, and iRun because it unearths the best in me.

    You can follow Jean-Paul’s blog at breathethroughthis.com and you can find him on Twitter @runjprun

    8 COMMENTS

    1. JP,
      You brought me to tears & motivated me all at the same time! Congratulations on starting something big! I believe.

    2. Can’t remember when I’ve laughed, cried & nodded so much through an article… Your raw honest account was just like being there and for anyone who has ever run any distance before… Just exactly the hilarious kinds of random thoughts that “run” through one’s head… Thank you for sharing your incredible 126.6 km journey with us… We are all better people for knowing you & sharing your story my friend 🙂

    3. […] “I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon three times on the same day; that’s a total distance of 126.6 km. As a survivor of both childhood sexual abuse and rape, I was running to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence in our communities. But more importantly, I was running to demonstrate the resilience we all have inside to overcome life’s greatest obstacles and trauma.” Author: Jean-Paul Bedard, iRun Magazine Link to blog: http://www.irun.ca/blog/index.php/like-forrest-gump-meets-groundhog-day-a-triple-marathon-one-kilome… […]

    4. Congratulations Jean Paul! I volunteer at a sexual assault support centre and am in awe of your achievement. I also a runner but one let alone three marathons….my legs ached reading the article. It was funny and well written. Blessings on your future endeavours.

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