Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston strong. Halifax strong. Memorial run, Halifax Point Pleasant Park, April 22, 2013

Before heading to last night's memorial run, I had a Twitter exchange with a fellow Halifax runner who felt unsure whether he was going to attend, because he felt like the attack was not one on runners, and therefore felt mixed about the theme of "Runners grieve by running."

I responded that to me, last night's run was about solidarity for those - runners or not - who had lost their lives or had been affected by the tragedy, even the city of Boston itself as it struggles to recover from the horror that was wrought on it.

I was heartened to see the hundreds of runners of all ages and abilities at last night's Boston memorial run. It was amazing to see how many of Halifax's runners were there wearing Boston jackets, Boston Red Sox jerseys or blue and yellow. The bond between our cities was apparent. You could sense how each of us had been struck by the tragedies in Boston last week - and the determination that we'd keep running together.

As we waited in the brisk wind off the ocean for the organizers to speak, I could hear runners around me reliving their Boston experience last week. It was still so fresh and raw for many of them, just seven days after the event.

I was moved as our queue of several hundred crunched slowly off at the starting point, making our way around the park. This was not about speed or time, as the organizers reminded us. It was about solidarity and togetherness.

So we took off together, each of us running at our own pace for 15 minutes, and then turning around and running back to the start.

When we reached the starting point and started trickling back in, our group of several hundred strong milled around - many of us giving hugs to those runners safely returned. This was not just about what happened in Boston - it was about what had happened in our own community, as we watched in horror and hoped and prayed that all those who we knew were safe and sound. I was glad to have been a part of it.

Thank you to the organizers for pulling together such a meaningful event.

Boston strong. Halifax strong.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston 2013 memorial run: Runners grieve by running

Tonight runners from across HRM will be gathering at Point Pleasant Park for a 30-minute memorial run in support of the tragedy at last week's Boston Marathon.

Runners are encouraged to wear yellow and blue. A minute of silence will be observed at the start of the run.

The run starts at 6 p.m. in the lower parking lot at Point Pleasant Park.

I'll be there. I hope you will be too.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

T-minus four weeks till race day: The excitement is building!

I can't help this feeling, deep inside of me: it's four weeks till race day!

Not to mention, it's the Blue Nose 10th anniversary race weekend.

It will be my eighth half marathon since 2009.

I've been feeling strong lately. Today I had a good 18kms, preceded by a strong week (with a good 12kms/tempo/9 hills).

And the events at Boston last week have made me appreciate: I am alive - I have blood coursing through my veins. I am breathing. My muscles are straining. My feet are pumping.

In the past week, we have struggled to gain some sense of perspective of the week's events. I have been humbled by those of you who told me that my post on Monday where I struggled to put my feelings into words helped you.

In the last week, all of my runs have personally been in tribute of those at Boston. I have pushed myself harder for them. I have run my nine hills, with the last four in honour of the victims of this week's tragedy. My muscles were screaming, but I couldn't stop, for them.

I have realized that if it hurts, it's because I am still alive.

Tomorrow, I plan to head to Point Pleasant Park with many, many other Halifax runners for a run in honour/memoriam of Boston.

So on race day, there will be no excuse: it may prove difficult at times, but I hope to make it a day of celebration and tribute. I'm sure standing at the starting line in four weeks' time will feel bittersweet. Still, I feel excited about a race for the first time in a long time.

In fact, I can't wait!

See you at the start line,


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013


You see from my blog title what this entry is about. I have to be honest, I have hummed and hae'd about whether to blog about the events at today's Boston Marathon, which was held in honour of the 26 victims of the Newtown tragedy. Would writing a blog post be playing into the hands of the sick individual(s) who decided to set off bombs near the finish line of today's race, costing three lives and countless of other injuries (some of them meaning those injured may not have the use of both legs ever again)? Would posting something about the horrific events that played into today's tragedy be sensationalizing this event?

But tonight, my parents and brother called me to see how I was taking the news, because of my connection to marathon running, as well as my connection to some of the runners in today's race. It seemed they were expecting me to have a personal connection to the event, simply because I have run marathons.

But let's face it: today's tragedy cuts us all to the core, runner or not. This was an event that unfairly targeted thousands of innocent athletes, families, volunteers and organizers - the several thousand people gathered to celebrate healthy lifestyles and the work and effort of thousands of individuals over several months, let alone their efforts on the actual day. It was an event that celebrated life, no matter our political affiliations or country of origin.

And yet, I also had a personal connection to the event, as did so many of us watching them unfold from the comfort of our laptops and televisions.

Last Wednesday, I headed to the Fireside Lounge with a dozen or so fellow runners to celebrate the achievements of two fellow Halifax runners headed to Boston. We handed them greeting cards and bags full of Canada paraphenalia (including thunder sticks and huge Canada ties for their husbands).  No matter what their time crossing the finish, all of us there knew that simply making it to Boston is an incredible feat of months' worth of determination and effort, when running becomes your every waking (and sometimes, dreaming) focus. So when members of our community qualify, we're ecstatic. You could bet we'd be watching on race day for any news of our friends!

And that's just what I did. This morning, I watched the Facebook feed as our friends handed off their cell phones to hubbies and made it to the start line. "Enjoy the day!" I posted. "This is the celebration of months' worth of training and hard work!"

As the race progressed and the various corrals started, one of our run club members kept posting updates of our friends' progress, with their splits and anticipated times. Then, three hours and 40 minutes, later, one of them crossed the finish, re-qualifying for next year's Boston. The Facebook stream erupted in cheers for her, and then waited for our second friend to finish soon, as she'd also been looking strong.

I stepped away from my desk for an hour, and then when I got back, the unimaginable had happened.

For the next 45 minutes, all of us who were connected to anyone running (or spectating) in Boston scrambled to get news about our friends and family in Boston, all the while trying to stop our minds from imagining the worst. My Twitter stream was flooded with contradictory news, and I tried my best to navigate through the information.

I had chills up my spine as I watched a video taken in the immediate vicinity of the first bomb.

I was horrified that someone would think to turn a celebration of health and wellness into the scene of a horrific tragedy. I couldn't imagine how I would feel if I was minutes away from finishing a race after being on the course for almost four hours and heard the blasts, or if I was standing on the other side of the race course, waiting to cheer on a loved one.

There is nothing that can explain today's tragedy. As an editor, I realize that using a word several times over the course of several paragraphs is redundant. But honestly, all that I can come up with right now to describe today's events is tragedy, sickening and horrific. No other words describe it.

Eventually,  my friends and their spouses were safe and accounted for. One of them missed the blast by 10 minutes because she had slowed down, even though she was on target to finish within a minute of the blasts.

I breathed a sigh of relief, all the while watching the news unfold with horror.

When we finally did hear from them, one of my friends had nothing bad to say except that the city of Boston should be proud of how they handled themselves in this emergency situation. Props to her for having perspective in a moment of crisis.

In the days and weeks to come, there will be reports that examine and attempt to explain the day's events. Those uninjured runners who traveled to Boston will return home, and sift through conflicting emotions - at the end of the day, they will say, things could have been much worse.

We will grieve the victims of today's tragedy.

Other runners will look ahead to future events, such as the London Marathon, and wonder whether they feel safe enough to run.

Race day is the celebration of months and weeks of training and determination - whether on behalf of the runners or their family members. It is the celebration of healthy living and inspiration. Race day cuts across political tensions and celebrates the triumphs of the human mind and body. It is the celebration of feats that to many of us are unimaginable - and yet we manage to cross that finish line.

And race day or no race day, runners or non-runners, Boston or elsewhere - there is just no excuse for what happened today.

My heart goes out to Boston tonight. But I know we will stand strong at that next starting line, and cross the finish together, arms raised.


Monday, April 1, 2013

What are you running for? Taking some time to reassess my goals

Hello, blog readers! Yes, it's been awhile - I've been on a bit of a writing hiatus while I took some time to myself to sort through my running goals and my relationship to running.

Maybe it's obvious from my last post, where I compared running sometimes to feeling like a turtle, and sometimes a fast fox. Truth is, over the last few months, I'd been having fewer and fewer foxy days, and many more turtle ones. I was getting to the point where I dreaded heading out for a run, struggled my entire way through it, and then came home and felt upset with myself about having had a tough run.

My goal had been to train for the Fredericton full marathon this May with a couple of girlfriends, and I'd struggled my way though most runs longer than 16kms.

So one night before a scheduled 29-kilometre run, which I'd been groaning about all week, hubby sat me down and switched into coach mode. 

He pointed out that I'd been dreading my runs more and more, whereas I'd been enjoying my yoga classes more and more. And reminded me that the reason I run is to have fun. If something that's meant to be fun was causing me stress, then it was time to change things.

We agreed that I'd take a step back from running and reassess my goals while focusing on things that I enjoyed, like yoga, strength training, Zumba and other classes. I tentatively decided that I'd aim for the Bluenose half marathon rather than doing a spring full, and then I'd reassess whether I wanted to do a full this fall.

I'll admit - for the next two days, I had a really hard time with this decision. I felt like I was letting myself down, and my running buddies, not to mention my blog readers. But my running buddies turned out to be super supportive, and I found myself enjoying the shorter weekly runs now that the pressure was off.

Beyond the psychological hurdle of running 50+ kilometres per week over an 18-week period, I realized a few other reasons why marathon training just wasn't cutting it for me anymore:

- It's a huge time commitment that impacts not only you, but your family members and their schedules. Just getting to run club on time after working a full day was proving to be a juggling game, given that hubby and I have only one car.
- Fitting in all the weeknight runs meant I had less and less time for other cross-training and doing things I enjoy, like yoga.
- Sundays were ending up being all about running, then recovering from the long run. Which wasn't a lot of fun given that hubby and I only have Sundays to spend together.
- I found myself spending a LOT of time thinking about running, planning my runs, planning my meals, talking about running...Which is great if you live with a runner but a little repetitive for non-runners.

Since making the decision to step back from the full, I've been spending more time doing cross-training and strength training. I've managed two or three runs during the week, and then the long run. Yesterday's run was an easy 16-kilometre run with the Running Room Run Club. I found myself chatting to new folks and enjoying myself more than I had on any long run in months (then again the sunny day could have had something to do with it too).

So I'll run the Bluenose half this spring, ad reassess my fall goals after that. But right now I'm feeling happy with that decision.

Have you had to take a step back from running? Have you found it to be a love-hate relationship? How have you coped with it? Inquiring runners want to know!