In trying to talk about my experience at today’s Race Roster Spring Run Off in Toronto’s High Park, I have to set aside any notion of “journalistic objectivity.” The act of running is itself subjective. With 4,000 runners on the course today between the 8K and 5K distances, there were 4,000 reasons for lacing up and 4,000 reasons for running toward that finish line.
Today, I ran on two anniversaries. First, I ran the 8K race on my 29th birthday, celebrating more years than I thought I was ever going to get on this planet.
A few weeks prior to this race, I sat down to lunch with friend who was also set to run this race and she asked me if I was familiar with the concept of “Saturn Return.”
I’m not and have never been one for astrology, but for fun we pulled out Google. According to our friends at Wikipedia, “a Saturn return is an astrological transit that occurs when the planet Saturn returns to the same place in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth,” approximately 29 years. Wikipedia continues, “Western astrologers believe that, as Saturn ‘returns’ to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood.”
Essentially, 29 can be thought of as a time when one finds a stronger footing in life and a greater sense of contentedness, free from the precariousness and lack of direction that accompanies youth.
Looking back at the 24 year old me, the one that laced up on a whim to drag his ass along the Kingston Waterfront toward the infamous Kingston Pen and back for four kilometres that I couldn’t run without stopping to walk, Saturn’s Return seems to have a very odd resonance, nonsensical as astrology remains. Of course, we also know that lack of direction doesn’t vanish in one’s late 20s.
Nonetheless, that resonance is there and can’t be divorced from running and from the community of runners in Toronto.
A community serves many purposes, one of the most noble being a devotion to the well being of all those who belong to it. When I returned to Toronto following graduate school in Kingston, defeated and directionless, my time on the course provided the first waves of confidence I had experienced in years.
From my first half marathon at the 2013 Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon right up until today’s race, every single race in this city has provided both a space to be accepted with all my blemishes and one to grow.
As I trudged along as a 2:30 half marathoner in all the wrong clothes and with none of the knowledge about fuelling, recovery, apparel, etc., my run crew at Tribe Fitness somehow always believed that I was something more. They believed that I was much faster before I became faster, that I should be far more confident before I felt I had reason to be confident. They were proud before I really achieved anything. And today, my happiest moment came when that same group that accepted me from the get-go greeted every runner on their way up Spring Road Hill. Being my birthday, I had the bonus of being gifted a cardboard cutout of myself at the bottom of the hill which I carried to the finish, eliciting some interesting looks from spectators.
Everyone who summited Spring Run Off’s notorious final climb up Spring Road was greeted by the good folks at Tribe Fitness, whose shouts of encouragement could be heard hundreds of yards away and signalled to every runner, right through to the final finishers, that their dash up that hill was worthy of recognition. Canada Running Series doesn’t just organize a race. They throw a party and bring the glowing spirit of this city’s running community to the forefront so that it spills into the life of every participant.
Among those runners was my very own dad, who ran the 5K on the day that followed the 15th anniversary of his heart attack. He ran some and walked some, but was still welcomed at this race with cheers and support and lauded like royalty. For him, I hope this race was a very tangible reminder of how damn far he’s come.
I don’t run for a living, I run for a better life, and I do so because the fathomless generosity of race organizers, volunteers, and my fellow runners. Like Saturn, I suppose I had to go very far and see a whole lot before I came back home but today I was reminded just how good a home I have.