While working at the BMO International Vancouver Marathon last weekend I was witness to the crowning of Canada’s new Marathon Princess. The indescribable, but so recognizable, emotion of relief and euphoria swept across young Kim Doerkson’s face as she stepped across the BMO Finish line at an outstanding time of 2:43:04. I was lucky enough to be working with the elite awards team over the weekend and was right there to see Kim cross the finish line. Just as she strived to be she was right up with the boys, man she was flying on Sunday!
Not only did Kim burst onto the scene she did it in style under some awful conditions. Being in May the BMO is usually a warm(ish) typical Vancouver springtime race. Last year I actually burnt my legs while cheering on runners along the Kit’s beach corridor. This year I wore a polar fleece, under armour top and mittens as I huddled under my BMO rain jacket (Saucony provided team captains with gear this year and I must say that rain jacket is fabulous! I will be keeping my eye out to pick up another one because the cut allows movement while keeping you dry and warm.) . Needless to say at my 6am call time downtown I was oh so thankful that I was Volunteering on that particular day and not running 43 soaking soppy Km (although beautiful).
All of the elites were the most humble, warm and genuine group of athletes I have ever met. Not one ego stood to as a thorn and all the athletes shared what appeared to be a sense of camaraderie. Each athlete competing obviously with each other but more so with themselves, all working towards doing the very best they can do on that day instead of focusing on specifically beating someone else. That’s something you definitely don’t see in all sports. Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden would have been proud of the elites competing at this year’s BMO. Wooden has said multiple times that he always tried to teach his athlete’s that success is determined against yourself, doing the best you can do and being the best you can be. Wooden also felt that when the game was over he shouldn’t be able to tell which players had won or lost from their body language because each person should feel proud for doing the best they could do. Last Sunday each athlete won, each athlete that crossed that finish line and struggled through the natural elements for 43 gruelling kilometres is a winner in my eyes. Whether it took them 2 hours and change or 5 hours and pain I am proud of them and proud of this city I call home for supporting them.
A friend of mine recently joined a running group to train for an upcoming 10K. She’s an active girl but up until now would not have included “runner” on her athletic resume. When I asked her how the training was going I had to laugh when she said “well I thought I hated running but I’m actually having fun! I think I’m having more fun each weekly actually.” I had to laugh when my response to her was “ya I hated running too a few years ago.”
Most people wouldn’t expect me to say that I hated running, but it’s the truth I absolutely hated it. I would run as a means to an end. I would run to stay fit for soccer, basketball or my other athletic pursuits but never because I enjoyed it. I actually have vivid memories of dragging myself on a 20 minute run in the summer before training camp for soccer and literally thinking I was going to die the entire time, counting the seconds until the run would be over. Teammates would drag me out and there would be a grimace on my face the entire time, it was never a pleasant experience. It felt awkward to me, running without a ball in front me or towards an opponent of any kind. My pace was always rushed; my breathing heavy and the whole experience was uncomfortable. Alternatively I could run 90 minutes during a soccer game without even batting an eye. I would lose myself so much in the game that I wouldn’t notice how tired I was and heavy my legs felt, the game was the ultimate distraction.
When I look back now I can’t pinpoint an exact time or day when running became something I actually enjoyed doing but all I know is that suddenly I found myself excited to throw on some headphones, runners and just go out for an hour- me, my feet and the pavement. There were incentives that drove me to that place of running enjoyment, I would run with a friend and share the latest gossip or major life talks, run to a special bakery or coffee shop, or to catch the perfect sunset from a bridge, or just to catch up on my newly downloaded music without distractions. The big difference was that I would run at whatever pace I wanted without feeling pressure to push myself to get “fit” for training camp. Overtime I found I didn’t rely on the distractions or incentives to get me through my run, and the pain of running had subsided. As my personal pace became engrained into my muscles everything became more comfortable and all around fun.
This brings me back to my friends comment about how she hated running but now enjoys it. There comes a time when the body stops fighting and begins to ease into a natural running pace. I think we all have a natural pace inside of us and over time if we can find, harness and accept that pace running becomes an enjoyable activity instead of a stressful and forced event. There are so many stresses in life, really why should running be one of them? Run your own race run your own pace