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.
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.
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
Although I definitely have the “travel bug”, Vancouver has always been my home base. I grew up running on vacation in order to stay “soccer fit” but once my soccer days have subsided I started running for enjoyment, and some of my all time favourite runs have been on vacation. I’ve realized that I’ve gotten to see some of the best places on all of my travel adventures by taking early morning runs. From running I’ve found hidden alleys, and secret beach pathways that I would have never otherwise known existed. I sheepishly admit that in retrospect not all of these little adventures have been my smartest or safest decisions (sorry mom!) but I definitely don’t regret them.
Highlights include morning runs along the Maui coastline finishing up at Kona coffee company (I hope to someday run the half or even full Maui marathon), through the twisted streets of San Paolo Brazil and olive orchards in Tuscany, Kensington Park and all about London, along the dusty highway in Cuba, through the morning market in El Salvador, as well as beaches in Mexico, Costa Rica, Tofino, all along the California coastline including Laguna Beach, Seattle and the city streets of Toronto and New York, just to name a few.
I’m pumped to have just registered for the Xterra Harvest 10K Trail Race held at St. Edward State Park in Seattle Washington on Oct. 12th. This will be my very first trail race and I’ll be looking forward to having the more experienced trail racer, and part human part golden retriever, Elliott there to show me to ropes. I figure that my eyes have already started training for this race by swallowing a multitude of fly’s and bugs on my past several runs. Having your eyes spit out bugs several hours after a run is always exciting and very disgusting. We’ve opted for the 10K version of this race after looking at the route and realizing that the 10K was a single loop of the park trails while the Half Marathon was 2 laps of the same route. Personally I the running in circles and running the same course twice has zero appeal to me. So the 10K, single lap it is.
We’re both excited for this run and we are joining it onto a pre-existing vacation to go down to Seattle to watch the Huskies vs. Oregon Ducks football game on Saturday and the Seahawks vs. Titans game on Sunday. What a better way to kick off the Thanksgiving weekend then go for a trail run before tailgating and football watching.
What can I say, these past few September days in Van have been a runner’s paradise. As a “fair-weather” athlete the days and weeks following Labour Day signals the end of the regularly dry summer outdoor activity season and evenings of long light. These are instead replaced by darkness both before and after work hours and looking out at a wet window during time spent in the office. None too appealing or motivating for those of us who prefer to spend time dry and out of the rain. As I’ve previously mentioned, after spending years playing soccer in all types of weather (rain, showers, sleet, and snow) I now prefer to only go and exercise in the rain when I really feel up to it, otherwise I creatively hide out in my boxing gym, playing ball hockey or in the weight room gym.
This past week has been different from the usual Vancouver September though. It’s as though summer is taking a stand and this year saying “No I will not be banished by shorter day and longer nights, I will stay and keep you warm now go enjoy my warmth!” So I have just had to listen! Monday I ran into more friends on my short little run then I had seen out running all summer. The best part was that they were friends who don’t even run (usually at least). There were people jogging along the beach with jean shorts and a tank top, people with dogs and even some guys who were using jogging as a pick up tactic to try to meet us girls who like to run.
Note to these men: If you can’t even keep up our jogging pace, we are not interested and don’t particularly want to slow down to talk to you. Headphones in + alone = universal symbol for not interested in talking because we are choosing to be alone.
Last night my old roomie and avid runner herself was staying with me and after I somewhat lured her into a sunset bridge run she dragged me up the hill to do some hill sprints. Hill sprints are definitely my nemesis, while for her (an ex rower and power athlete) they are her bread and butter. I’ve got say, as much as I hate doing them I feel very accomplished after.
Tomorrow another run with another Di! The double Di’s are starting to run together once a week and I can’t wait!
I’ve taken to hunting down the sunsets and recently realized that I should be taking pictures so here are a few of my faves from the recent days.
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.”
Another one is officially done, dusted and in the books. Van Scotiabank 1/2 2013 was a personally challenging day for me and I am happy to say I crossed the finish line on my own two feet, beating my personal best but unfortunately not reaching my target time for the race.
Looking around the starting carrell I realized these runners meant business…. two piece suits, no music, and an air of confidence that was undeniable. The race gun went and we were off and flying, these guys were literally FLYING down the road and the remarkable part was they made it look so easy! I struggled through some calf cramping and was able to hold a solid place at the 10K mark 41 mins… wait what? 41 minutes! I definitely was surprised not only at my faster then expected pace but also about how I was feeling, I felt great! Well great may be an exaggeration but I felt like I could hold pace which meant I would definitely finish the race under my goal time of 1:30… 8 minutes faster than I ran in 2012. All was going well and I was coming into stride until the 13 K marker. The guy in front of me took a stumble and as I side stepped around him I pulled my right quad. It immediately was painful, painful enough I seriously considered pulling out of the race, but knowing I had killed myself through the first 13 K and I was over half way done on pace to meet my goal time I just couldn’t do it. I had to keep going, in my mind I had no choice but to persevere even if I had to walk the finish I was able to hold pace to see my parents at the 15 K marker an hour into the race but with just over 6 K to go I couldn’t hold pace. Every step I took was excruciating and causing me to tense up my back and shoulders to try and take weight off that leg. With no kick at the end I crossed the finish line and to my shock still was able to finish in 1:33.48. As much as it just kills me that I was so close to my goal and didn’t succeed I’m still so happy to have been able to finish the race and beat my time from last year and still came 5th in my age category.
Thank you to my family, boyfriend and friends for all of the support I got both going into an during this race. Knowing I had so many people behind me is what made it possible for me to mentally put the pain aside and push through. That support and knowing I had an awesome waffles breakfast awaiting me after I crossed the finish line!
Ps- the pictures below are slightly graphic… be forewarned! Post race feet… so pretty and feminine, poor Elliott!