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Blog: Friday, April 9th, 2021

Mother's Moon Shot Madness and a Year of Perseverance

In the leadup to Mother’s day next month, I was trying to recall some of the events that I have creatively involved my wonderful Ruth in to celebrate that wonderful occasion.  Two events come to mind:  Signing her up for mountain bike lessons, and completing a 10 km walkathon on a rainy day.  She loved NEITHER of them…and dagger eyes shoot out every time either topic comes up.  As much as she hated (more like a heavy disdain/dislike) me for coercing her into it, I had a purpose. I wanted to see if she could do it. And yes, that is NOT a good reason.

Running a marathon.  I’ve never done one. Until I was almost 50, I never ran more than 10 km…and I did lots of those.  As a PE teacher at Eugene Reimer, I had 4 classes of PE, and we would run 5 km—for each class, on the same day...that's 20 km. Then someone convinced me that I should try half marathons—21 km.  So I figured, “hey, it’s only two 10 km runs and a long finish line…” Boy was I wrong.

The first realization is that I am not a stereotypical svelt 60 kilogram Ethiopian runner embedded with the miraculous running gene; I’m more of the determined tortoise kind of guy—just finish, baby.  Now, without getting too personal, running beyond what your body wants us to do quickly involves more science and less whimsy.  Chafed legs? Get rid of the rugby shorts from 1984 and swap for stretchy running shorts. Sore knees & hips? Change your running shoes more often or get orthotics. Running out of water? Drive out ahead and drop off a Gatorade bottle at the top of the hill (it also gives you a reason to get there!). Lost focus/dizzy? They got these nifty gel packs, with CAFFEINE.  Yup. I love science.

I signed up for my first half marathon in Vancouver. Beautiful Ocean views leading out of UBC, as I glide along the boulevard down to English Bay; at least that’s what the registration website told me. On race day, I think all I saw was the back of thousands of legs jogging in front of me and my own two feet for two hours, and the occasional water station. Did anyone mention that race day pace running is always moving faster than our best training pace? It’s the adrenaline rush, thousands of bodies, and loud music.

At 10 km you start to slow down and feel light headed from keeping up with all those people ahead of you.  How can someone bigger, larger and slower than you still be AHEAD of you?  How long is the bathroom lineup? You stop for your first caffeine gel pack, and 2 minutes later, you are back in focus and in the game. At 13 km, the twitch. I felt it occasionally on long training runs…it’s like a tickle inside your leg that I lrealized is a message for something worse to come later. But you don’t stop, because that’s for quitters. Besides, I’m too far from the finish line and my ride pickup.

At 17 km, the twitch becomes a thud, and the euphoria of the fastest start you ever accomplished in the first hour of running is now here for payback, in spades.  Calf cramps.  You stop to stretch and walk, but it’s too late.  You realize you can’t run, but you can still shuffle shorter steps the rest of the way.  Who cares who’s passing you now?

19 km and you can see the finish line, but the other calf cramps out and you decide you might have to walk the last two km to the finish line.  Then two minutes later you realize it is the same pain walking as it is running, so you decide it’s better to just run…

Two hundred meters from the finish line and everyone is cheering, sprinting and there’s lots of noise to inspire you. Except that you have your final run-ending leg cramp, and the only thing left is to hop on one leg to the finish line…and that’s what I do.  Hundreds of strangers and fellow runners saw my agony and personally cheered me on those last two hundred meters to the finish line.  I think I finished in 6,178th place, but it was an unforgettable gold medal moment.

JFK once said of the NASA Space Program, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade… not because (it is) easy, but because it is HARD, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills….” Dealing with Covid anxiety and solitary routines for over a year, waiting for vaccines, keeping schools open and everyone in it SAFE, and continuing to make learning meaningful for students…none of these are EASY. But we do it, because it is Hard, it is a measure of what we can do together, and we know we can do it.  We are 17km into this race, but I will be cheering you all at the finish line!

Stay Safe!

(Mrs. Chan still goes on occasional bicycle rides with Mr. Chan, and regular walks with him on sunny days to the store for ice cream. Neither of the trips are over 10 km. ;-))