Today I turn 43. I had started a post last week for today titled 43 Life Lessons and had planned on posting but yesterday I experienced something so remarkable I just could not bring myself to finish writing it.* (This post was suppose to go up yesterday, on my 43rd birthday, however there was an issue with my webhost and an attack on WordPress so I was unable to log in until just now.)
On September 22, 2013 I was a small part of something really big. 22,000 people big. The Canada Army Run began it’s inaugural run in 2008 with approximately 7000 participants and in just a few short years has nearly tripled in size. It is the fastest growing run in Canada with all of the proceeds going to Soldier On and Military Families Fund. It is unlike any race I have experienced (not that I have a lot of races behind me). The Starter Pistol is a cannon, the medals are dogtags and the atmosphere is something so incredible I stumble over my words trying to explain it to those who were not there so please bear with me. This post could get messy.
I was running the 5k with my beautiful friend Hollie and the Mister was running the half-marathon. This was our first big race experience and we were unsure of what to expect.
Our morning started at 5:30. Quick breakfast, dressed and out the door by 6:30 to get to downtown Ottawa and find a parking space. We were lucky enough to find something within a block or two. It was a chilly morning and we had dressed for the race not the standing around waiting for the race. People huddled together for warmth and to exchange stories of past races. Listening to the chatter surrounding us helped take the chill out of my body, giving me something else to focus on but I found myself getting jittery legs. I began to question whether I was really ready for this, would I be able to run the entire race or take a few walk breaks like I usually do. I wanted to finish with a better time than my last two races and set a goal of 35 minutes for myself but the doubt began to creep in.
7:45am was the start time for the injured and disabled. From my corral I was unable to see the start of that race but I could hear the crowd. The goosebumps on my body had nothing to do with the cold weather.
8am was the 5k start time and Hollie and I found ourselves in the Green corral with hundreds of other runners. It was quite warm within the corral so the wait was not uncomfortable. The energy surrounding me was tangible. The cannon was fired and it was time to go. The 11 minutes it took for us to reach the start line from our corral felt like forever. I just wanted to run! Hit the start line, turned on the tunes** and pressed start on my Garmin … it was Go Time.
The first kilometer went by fairly fast, there was a lot of weaving through the slower runners and walkers that seemed to be placed in the same corral as us. By the second kilometer I was warming up.
The crowds and cheering stations throughout the course were phenomenal. Signs held up for loved ones and strangers. At the 3k mark there was a group of cadets with a sign that read “Go Random Stranger, Go!” At the 3.5k mark was my favorite sign, “You can poop later. Never trust a fart!” The sign was made for a runner named Katie. Laughing, I turned to Hollie and said “I could be Katie! Hope I don’t shit my pants.”
The fourth kilometer was upon us and I could see the end in sight. Turning the bend we came upon a soldier walking on two prosthetic legs, missing his lower left arm and grinning from ear to ear. I had to slow down for just a moment because I was finding it hard to see through my tears. He is one of so many amazing people I saw during the race and I am grateful EVERY day that I am strong and healthy. I will never take that for granted ever again. Just typing this is bringing fresh tears to my eyes.
4.5k I look at my watch. 34 minutes. I know I will not be reaching my goal and honestly do not give a shit! I feel like every moment, every step, every soldier, every smile and cheer I passed during those 5 kilometers was the reward. This race was the prize!
I turn to Hollie at the finish line and all I can say is “That was fucking AWESOME.”
The Mister met us at the finish line with our jackets. An update on my time (more than 5 minutes faster then my last two races) and a quick kiss through the barrier he made a mad dash to the Start line for his half-marathon start time of 9am.
With 22,000 people the odds of running into someone you know are small however I saw two of my co-workers from my old office and one friend I had not seen in over 10 years. She had just finished the half and I had to rush over to hug her. We met in Alberta when our husbands had deployed together in 2002 and I had not seen her since leaving Alberta in 2003.
I was on a high that can not be described. I am still on that post-race high two days later.
During the ride home that evening The Mister and I recapped our day and promised each other we would do it again next year with both of us taking on the half-marathon. I figured I had 364 days to train so why not.
We made it home to our little island at midnight and fell into bed but I couldn’t sleep. I was wired! The next morning I came down the stairs to find Mister sitting at the computer with the Ottawa Race Weekend page open. Before we had even come down from our Race high we found ourselves signing up. Him the full marathon, me the half. So much for 364 days to train!
I will be running again in next years Canada Army Run. Not for a PB, not for the recognition but because I can.
You should too.
*Maybe I’ll save the Life Lessons draft and update it for next year changing the title to 44 Life Lessons.
** I start every run with Fuckin’ Perfect by Pink. Nothing gets me moving like that song.