Unlike most people in the world, I have 2 birthdays. My birth records show that I was born on a May date in 1970. My second birthday, though, is August 22, 1986, the day a brain injury caused by a motorcycle accident put me in a coma for 2 weeks and also paralyzed the left side of my body.
I was 16 years old and due to my youth and already being a physically active person, my recovery was nothing short of miraculous. Within a year, after months of physical and cognitive therapy, I was back in high-school and able to make my way on my own two feet. This is not to say I didn’t still deal with both physical and cognitive difficulties. School was no longer the fun and challenging social environment I had known before and I walked with a noticeable limp and droop on my left side.
I had been a runner in high school before the head injury as it was an optimal way to keep weight down for wrestling. In college and university, I continued running both for fitness and to make my way to and from classes. I later got interested in rock-climbing, which I continued for years afterwards and let running fall to the side.
I stopped rock-climbing in 2009 and looked once again to running. I was approaching 40 years old, and I wanted to accomplish something challenging and memorable for my “Bucket List”. I enrolled in a half-marathon clinic at the Broadway Running Room and quickly became involved in the running culture fostered at all Running Rooms. The weekly challenges of increased distances and learning from weekly presenters became routine and a daily duty to implement what I had learned to prepare myself for the next Sunday run’s increased distance.
My first long-distance race was the 2010 Fort Langley Historic Half-Marathon and from then on I was hooked on long-distance competitions. I immediately joined the 2010 BMO Vancouver Marathon clinic and got right back to work preparing myself. Suddenly 21+ kilometers was a moderate distance to run for race preparation, rather than the race distance itself. I worked hard to keep my body physically up to the challenge and I also made sure to get support and feedback from fellow runners. This included asking them to tell me when I wasn’t swinging my left arm when I run, something that happens when I am overly tired and need to be made aware of to make sure I swing it.
Finally race day for the 2010 BMO Marathon arrived and I woke early the morning of May 2, 2010, just three weeks prior to turning 40 to get ready for one of the biggest days of my life. I had my clothes set out, food ready and looking forward to a cup of coffee to get me ready for the race. Once I got down to the starting area and checked my bag in, I was carried around by the crowd, visiting one both after the other. I didn’t want to waste my energy running around outside, so I found a place on the floor and did some easy stretching. As the start time approached, I move outside and worked my way to a comfortable position amongst the other runners. I looked for runners I knew from the Running Room, but only saw one or two. There were a lot of runners.
Now I was getting excited and nervous. I’d had trouble with my left IT Band during training and there was the worry that my left side wouldn’t be able to take the strain of a marathon-distance run. But I had made the decision to run the race and nothing was to stop me now – not with only seconds left on the start-clock. Closer came the starting time and I reminded myself where I had come from and what I had conquered and accomplished in my life to get where I was at – recovering from a debilitating injury, graduating from college, living and working in foreign countries, creating a place for myself in an industry I have a passion for and now challenging my body and mind to take it one more time to the next level and attempt a feat many aspire to but not all achieve. I felt strong. I felt accomplished. When the starting buzzer went off, I had already won my race…..
[I finished the marathon in 4h12m and went on to run other half-marathons. Most recently, I finished 3h24m in the Victoria marathon and am now teaching the First Half Marathon Clinic at the Broadway Running Room, preparing for both the 2011 First Half and also the Fort Langley Historic Half-Marathons. My next marathon goal is to break 3h20m in the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon.]
The San Diego Marathon was awesome – a smoking 1:55:37 PR. The course was all uphill and mostly interstate. I was bummed when I wasn’t able to do the full marathon, but by the time it was over I was very glad I did the half.
The full course ran tangent to the half course on one straight section and due to God’s perfect timing, I got to observe both the men and ladies elite packs for about 4 minutes as I plugged along. It was, to say the least, very surreal and obviously inspiring. They were silently graceful like a clutch of gazelles gliding effortlessly through the air. Their upper bodies very still and upright, no head movement at all, eyes fixed on the horizon in total focused concentration, arms pumping in perfect tandem with their perfectly chiseled legs, yet each one’s face completely and peacefully relaxed. It was amazing. I carried that picture with me through the rest of the race and it obviously helped with my pace.
On the flip side, because I did the half, I got to go back out on the full course and cheer on Team In Training members and walked in one of our Birmingham team mates to her first marathon finish. Her knee had given out at mile 18 and I picked her up at mile 22. The privilege of being fit enough to run my own fast half then help another finish a first full while encouraging hundreds of runners along the way was spectacular. The sheer determination on some of those struggling first timer’s faces as they climbed over that proverbial wall was an inspiration in and of itself.
I love running!