Boston Pi (Virtual)

Most everyone I know in the running community knows that in addition to Canadian thanksgiving, this weekend is also the Virtual Boston Marathon.

At least five people I know signed up for the race, which thanks to the pandemic was a once in a lifetime opportunity to run through your own streets, track it on the Boston Marathon app, and call it an official run.

I did not sign up.

… but I did go out on the dawn trails with a trio of friends who had signed up to run the pandemic version of the famous race.

When three of us tag-alongs met up with them early on Saturday morning near a local park, the sun was just peaking over the horizon and they had been at it for almost ten kilometers already.

We trotted into step with their route, followed it as it wend its way along the river, up in the neighbourhood, down into a local recreation area, and around the back side of a golf course. After about eight kilometers of support running, we turned back to where we’d left our cars … and ultimately logged just over thirteen klicks total even as we zoomed past a half dozen other virtual Boston’ers with their race bibs or support cyclists or multi-coloured tutus plodding along with fierce determination through the morning trails.

Our thirteen was not quite a marathon. Obviously. Not even quite a half marathon. I later calculated that my logged distance of 13.43 km as per my GPS watch, worked out to almost exactly one pi of a marathon. Weird. After all, forty two point two kilometers divided by thirteen point four-three kilometers equals three point one-four, or pretty much as close to one pi of a marathon as my technology can measure.

Mathematics and adventure collide on a Saturday morning in a curious way, it seems.

And then the event ended, and we cheered in the actual racers across the finish line via text message, as they completed their virtual distance … and won their real medals.

Travel Run: Dopey Disney Florida Whimsy (Part One)

Way back at the beginning of 2014 I found myself standing on a strip of asphalt road outside of Epcot center in Walt Disney World in Florida preparing to run a series of four consecutive races across four days.

How I had decided many months earlier to take on the Dopey Challenge, a four race series consisting of a 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon in four days, is a long, winding tale full of hubris and running confidence tangled up in my wife’s love of all things Disney.

In retrospect, and now knowing numerous people who routinely run eighty-plus kilometer single-day ultra races, my seventy-eight point two kilometers of theme park jogging hardly seems as epic in comparison.

Yet, for me, running through Disney World (four times) was probably one of the highlights of my running life.

A five kilometer run with my family around the walkways of Epcot.

A ten kilometer jog in the rain on a similar but longer path a day later.

A half marathon that led us all to the Magic Kingdom and back with poses in front of the castle and along roadways cluttered with a dizzying array of Disney decor.

And on the last day, a full marathon through all four Disney World theme parks, a race track, a ball diamond, taking dozens of photos, and crashing across the finish line to hang multiple finisher medals over my neck.

I rested with a much slower, much more meandering wander through Disney World over the following days.

Fast forward to early twenty-twenty and with no intention of running on another vacation, we had booked a two week Florida trip over spring break… due to leave just days following rumblings that a global panic had started to emerge around a novel coronavirus and a contagious outbreak was leaping from country to country.

Disney World closed the Friday before our flights were due to leave.

The Canada-US border slammed shut a few days later.

Our flights were cancelled for credits.

Our hotel was spun into a chaotic series of emails and phone calls and future stay vouchers.

Our park tickets were suspended indefinitely.

We obviously never went to Florida in spring 2020, and we have been sitting on a heap of travel credits for the better part of two years since.

Time definitely does not fly when you’re sitting around not travelling.

Registration for the 2022 Disney World Marathon series is pretty much full up now.

While I am in no shape anymore (thanks, COVID.) to run the Dopey Challenge, at least one of those races would be another exciting way to kick off 2022, right?

So, if, say, I had been on the ball and had registered for, for example, a half marathon in Florida in January… and, say, I found an excuse to use a bunch of those travel credits… and, say, I was fully vaccinated for travel across international borders… that would make a much more interesting part two to this post, wouldn’t it?

Just saying

Race Report from the Rivers Edge

Sunday Runday and I mostly rested.

Having spent about three and a half hours running an ultra-style half marathon yesterday, the first actual bibbed, chipped, other-people-on-route race I’ve run in nearly two years, I was feeling very tired.

By the time I crawled out of bed yesterday morning, the folks who tackled the much longer distances, eighty and one hundred kilometers, had already been running for a couple hours.

The twenty-one kilometer race was set to start at noon, so I had plenty of time to sip my coffee, make pancakes for the family, do some stretches and prep my gear.

In fact, I got a little bored waiting around the house and drove out to the start line an hour and a half early for our noon gun. This reminded me of one of the best parts of racing, which is the social aspect of hanging around the start/finish zone.

In fact, I lucked out and ended up having a nice conversation (and admittedly a bit of a pre-race pep talk) from one of our local ultramarathon legends who was volunteering in the finish zone.

Regular readers may recall that this was the race I have been planning (and dreading a bit) over the last few months. I bought a new pair of trail shoes for the event and a couple months back we test-ran part of the longer-distance course and came home with few souvenirs in the form of wasp stings.

No matter, the day was upon us. I was as trained as I could have been, and ready to face the wilds of the local river valley.

At noon they called us all over, we peeled off our face masks, and they sent us along our way and into the woods.

And it began.

The twenty-one kilometer course was actually made up of running two of the four mapped loops.

Our first leg was a twelve kilometer lap called “summit” and climbing up a short rise from the start line we vanished into the woods for about four kilometers of rolling, undulating, root-twisted, mud soaked forest trail. Here one of my crew tripped and twisted her ankle, and we thought she was out for the day (though she surprised us and toughed it to the finish adding less than an hour onto her expected time via limp.)

The summit loop climbed up into a mix of agricultural and swamp land. If we weren’t mucking through soft, wet peat, we were stumbing over crop stubble or plugging our noses past a chicken barn. This finished with another hard couple of klicks back through the forest and to the transition/finish area.

Our second leg had earned the name “island” because of the three kilometer lap around a river island plumb in the middle of the leg.

A four kilometer winding run along the river shoreline brought us to a thick, muddy rope that was dangling along the side of a short cliff into the water. Climbing down everyone was met with an ice cold, mid-thigh wade through about twenty-five meters of the North Saskatchewan river where, with numb feet, we climbed another rope back out on the other side.

The fall foliage photo above was taken about mid-lap around the island where I was already starting to feel the fatigue and had long since gotten used to jogging along with drenched socks inside my “waterproof” shoes.

Escaping the island was simply the reverse of crossing over to it, and with a mere two kilometers left in the race one might have thought the event was in the bag. But no. With soacking wet feet we had to ascend out of the river valley up a virtual cliff, hand-over-handing it up another rope before disappearing into the forest for more rolling hills, more mud, a sketchy creek crossing, and a final glorious decent towards the finish line.

A couple years ago I ran a half marathon through the streets of Dublin, fighting the cobblestones and the rolling hills of Pheonix Park. My time was about two hours.

Yesterday I stumbled across the finish line after three and half hours, almost twice that time, and I honestly feel like I didn’t leave anything behind in the tank that would have sped that up much.

After nearly two years without real racing, not to mention eighteen months of work from home sloth and stress, I don’t think I’d say I’m in the prime shape of my life, but that I was able to fight through that course yesterday was a pretty good feeling overall.

…but no, I haven’t signed up for next year.

Terry Fox-ish

Every year on this weekend for a generation Canadians go for a run.

Forty years ago a young man named Terry Fox, long since deservedly held up as a national hero, attempted to run east to west across the country. He was in remission from cancer, and had lost a leg to it, but set anyways out to raise money and awareness.

He made it about a third of the way before ending his run and passing away shortly after.

The Terry Fox run is usually held annually on this very weekend and brings out countless folks from across the country to continue the run in spirit and memory.

It was a virtual run this year thanks to a lingering global pandemic.

So. It was pretty much a normal Sunday Runday for us.

Except.

Except a couple years ago one of our run crew passed from cancer.

Her family put up a memorial bench in the local dog park in our river valley, a convenient distance away for a modest Sunday run.

We might not have specifically run for Terry Fox this morning, but I’d like to think that ten of us adventuring down to find the bench, running through the autumn trails, and finding the memorial for our fallen crewmate was kinda a parallel effort in the right spirit of the day.