Spring has officially sprung on the calendar and also on the Vancouver coastal running paths. With a glimmer of sunshine today the optimistic heat worshipers of Vancouver emerged from their rainy cocoons and embraced the beautiful walkways and waterfront our city has to offer. It felt like I was watching a scene from the Lion King where Simba is triumphantly displayed and announced to the animal citizens of the Sahara as the new royal baby. As my feet carried my through Jericho beach along the seawall to the more popular kits beach I passed multiple couples having engagement photo’s taken, pregnant mothers having their growing bellies photographed, new dads fumbling with how to tuck their kids into their strollers, and puppies galore. It was like everyone was out to debut their new baby or puppy and show them off to the rest of the walkers along the commonly used strolls. I think I fell in love 7 times today with various little fluffy puppies trying to eat their leashes.
Although it all felt a bit cliché out and about today, the cherry blossoms, puppies, babies, kids learning to ride two wheel bikes for the first time (and crashing and crying .. which I have to admit always makes me giggle as I have very personal memories of myself and my sisters struggling to ride a two wheeler and I think my parents wanting to kill us in the process) I must say Vancouver sure is purdy. And happy! We’re notorious for being no fun, no smiles and definitely not a city where strangers say hi to each other. While normally I would have to agree with this stereotype our city has, today was different today there was a sense of happy and joy and community. Strangers talking and people saying hi, runners giving each other the “hi” hand up as we passed each other. Maybe Vancouverites are normally so “unfriendly” because we are too focused on not getting stabbed in the eye from a passerby’s umbrella while avoiding the over the Hunter rainboot deep mud puddle blocking our path that we forgot to give a quick wave or hi to the people amongst us. Maybe if we lived in a climate the encouraged light jackets and sunglasses we would be a friendlier bunch.
The Vancouver Scotiabank 1/2 holds a special place in my heart. 3 years ago (2010) I decided on a whim that I was going to run the Scotia 1/2 only the day before race day. I’d never run a half marathon before but something inside me thought it would be a”fun” challenge, and I went into the run literally not knowing what to expect. I was told that under 2 hours is a great target time so when I finished the run in 1:46 and was completely thrilled and felt great after! I then refocused on playing out my final two years of varsity soccer at UBC. In 2011 I missed the race due to travelling and since I was still focusing on soccer didn’t think about entering or training for any other distance runs. I didn’t think much about running until my soccer career came to an end in the winter of 2012….
After my soccer season at UBC ended on a low note (disappointingly and unexpectedly not qualifying for the National Championships) I found freedom in running. Running was never something I previously enjoyed doing. It was always a chore, a means to an end in order to stay in soccer shape. But now that soccer was done I found that I actually liked running without pressures of having to meet a certain pace, or time or race against other people. I loved that I could go out at any time of day, go wherever I wanted and go for as long or far as my legs obliged. It was a release and an escape from all the pressures that are attached with university life. Being able to tune into my body, headphones and tune down the rest of life was something I cherished.
A beautiful sunny saturday I headed out for a run from UBC down to Kits beach to meet my boyfriend for lunch. This was always my favorite route… it’s a scenic route down along the NW Marine Drive hill, past the dog beach, along the water and into Kits. On a sunny day it’s filled with cyclists, dog walkers, families, volleyball players, power walkers and runners all getting a piece of the action that this beautiful city has to offer. This day was like any other and I was cruising along down the hill, then felt especially enthusiastic and ran up and down the hill two more times (I must have had my frosted flakes in an extra big bowl that morning). It wasn’t until further down the trail alongside Spanish Banks that my day took a critical turn. A women came bolting out of the bushes across the street and jumped right in front of me looking hysterical and screaming. I pulled out my headphones because I recognized this women from earlier in my run. I had passed her 15 or 20 minutes previously as I was running down the big hill and she was walking up the hill. I remembered her because she was walking with her cute little Chihuahua who was prancing up the hill like it was the easiest thing in the world and I had to run on the road to pass the two of them. When she was screaming at me along the water I initially was worried she had lost her dog (since now there was no dog with her) and was prepared to run and help her find it. It took me a minute or two to realize that she was telling me that she was “going to kill me and stab me with a knife if she ever saw me along this road again.” I was extremely confused and taken aback, she was claiming that I kicked her dog…. now I’ve played a sport the involves kicking and foot spatial awareness at a competitive level my entire life, I know when I kick things and I know when I don’t and I definitely did not kick her dog, not to mention that kicking a dog is one of the cruelest things I could ever think of someone doing and would never ever kick a dog. I started crying when I realized what she was accusing me of and was very scared as the woman was getting more hostile and aggressive by the second. Passersby saw what was going on and stepped into help, the presence of these amazingly helpful people scared this crazy woman to go running into the nearby forest trails. The passerby’s had heard and witnessed the entire scene and immediately called the police for me. I was visibly shaken up form the incident but once the police arrived things went from bad to worse. Apparently a human body was found dead at exactly the same time no more than 100 yards from where this event took place. The events were unrelated but the initial undercover cops that came to meet me thought I was the person calling in the human remains that were found. After a confusing conversation it was sorted out that these were two different circumstances that happened to occur at the same place and suddenly I went from being afraid of the death threats that I just received to be so thankful I wasn’t the human body that was found near by.
This experience hit me hard and I was afraid to run by myself for a period of time. This random act of abuse by the crazy lady was taking away my freedom and serenity that I had found in running. This fact ultimately pissed me off enough that one day I stopped being afraid to run my favorite route and decided to take back my power and start running the hill and beach from UBC to Kits again. This route has turned into one of my favorite runs and reminds me that I am strong and running is something I do for myself, it’s something that no one can take away for me. Every time I run that route I say a little “F-You” to the crazy lady that almost took the joy of running away from me.
Coincidently the Vancouver Scotiabank 1/2 Marathon runs exactly along the route I was attacked. I love running this race as a reminder that I can overcome obstacles put in my path and that I need to life my life to my favorite saying “Courage Without Fear.”