The High Park Race

I woke early, sleep hadn’t been fulfilling and I was still tired. I sleep on a mattress on the floor and today, as on every other day, there were ants on my face, body, and mattress. I could of course just squash them and disinfect the room but when I look at them I see that spark of wonderful life that we all share and I see that for them climbing over my body must be a great endeavour, such an adventure; I am loath to end anything for them. To them I have the physical power of a God and I would want any God to be merciful to me so I act as well as I can to them; it figures that what I’d want for myself I’d want for them.

So I generally get up carefully and shake them into the corner of the room. They’ll survive the fall – they’re hardy little things – and tomorrow we shall repeat the ritual. I shall rather miss them when my situation improves and I get a bed to sleep in. Or perhaps I shan’t get a bed, we’ll see.

With the ants dealt with I stand before the mirror and clear the mind. I look at the grim reaper tattoo on my left arm and think, rather in a macho style because I am pumped inside, getting amped up for race, ‘It’s not your day today, old chap, it’s mine,’ and then I go get my race day breakfast.

Banana, peanut butter, wholemeal wrap, fruit smoothie, all for power, I want to run fast today. The sun is streaming in the window hard. In other, more southerly countries this would indicate a glorious day in the making. But here in springtime Canada it says you better wrap up, it’s going to be a cold one.

The TV weatherman says it’s minus 7 outside, with a windchill of minus 15.

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I go back to the mirror and look at the reaper with a more respectful tone. ‘I don’t know anything. This could be the last hurrah, better make it a good, decent one. Be kind.’

I put on leggings, wool socks – not ideal for racing but my feet get cold in this weather – and a thermal base layer, then a long sleeved running top and gloves. It’ll do.

My dream is to open an animal sanctuary and human wellness centre, the ‘One World Sanctuary’ I call it. I’m trying to raise funds but times are hard for people and fundraising is slow. So I have asked that this year, every time I make a huge effort and break a personal best record, that people try to donate to my cause. I know I have to push myself to beat my previous best times as I’ve been running races for 8 years now and have posted some decent times; if I beat my best this year it will be because I’m really working on making things happen.

The 8km race begins, I go for it, but with care. People pass me but I keep to my own pace. I know what I can do, I just need to get myself into a good position and then, with 2 kms to go, I can let it all go and really push hard and see what comes. So I let all those fast guys pass me, I will see them later, perhaps before the finish line if things go well.

With 6km’s gone I am doing ok. If I carry on like this I will beat my personal best time, and on this hilly course, in this minus 15 windchill weather, that will please me. Then with 7kms down I feel a sharp pain in my right hamstring, it’s the sort of pain that says you gotta stop now. If you don’t I’m going to go ‘ping’ and you’ll be lying on the ground crying and you won’t run for weeks.

This is a concern; I have another race tomorrow morning.

And I have my dream of the ‘One World Sanctuary’. I will not give up on my dream, not if I can help it. I have to finish fast, all the time I have a fraction of a chance to do so. For my dream, for the animals and people I will help when the dream becomes reality, I have to break my personal record.

So I adjust my running style, pushing off hard with my left foot, giving my right leg not much to do. Then, mercifully, the last few hundred metres is a steep uphill. Most runners fear this section and I would usually but it’s easier to go uphill with this pain in my leg. Somehow the shorter strides that the uphill causes me to take helps dull the pain. I turn the corner into the finish straight and the clocks says 31 minutes something, I am about to break my personal record by over 2 minutes. I’m happy, and unusually aggressive in my celebrations. A release of tension perhaps, the last km had been tough.

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Now it’s time for a hot bath and then some heavy stretching down there on the mattress among the ants, to sort this leg out before tomorrow’s 10 mile race. I’m going for a personal best record time again. It’s a very hilly one and it’ll be cold and the leg isn’t hopeful but it’s worth a crack, and the reaper reminds me of the passing of time, and the need to make it happen, now. And, by the way, if you’d like to contribute to the Sanctuary, go to http://oneworldsanctuary.ca/ and hit the donate button halfway down the page. Thanks :)

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