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Friday, 12 May 2017

Running to Glory

I completed a half marathon in Quebec City (or just Quebec to Quebecers) on the glorious morning of May 9 - glorious just in the fact it defied a very gloomy forecast, and didn't rain.

The course ran along a scenic coastal trail towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, and where Old Quebec looks down from the top of a towering hill, overseeing the water's transition from river to ocean. There are far worse places to do a half marathon.
A view of Quebec City during my half marathon

However, the accomplishment of running 21 km was so much bigger than just the physical act itself. As anyone who delves deep into a craft knows, when you start going deeper, you develop a relationship with that craft, or go on a journey with it. Running is no exception.

I've been running on and off for at least 6 years. This was my third half marathon and my relationship with running changed over the course of training for this event, and my reasons for taking it on were much different this time around as well.

I ran the first two half marathons to achieve new milestones in my life, and simply as an excuse to get some exercise. Since then I have been through a lot of ups and downs in my life, and am currently in a period of big transition. Demons and doubts, both in my head and in my physical reality, have cast doubt as to whether I can succeed.

And so I took on this third half marathon to reaffirm to myself that I was a capable person, who could accomplish anything that I put my mind to.

I also took it as an opportunity to visit Quebec City and take a little road trip. However, it seemed like continued heavy rain and flooding across eastern Canada was going to rain on my parade. It felt like a miracle when there was no rain at all that morning, making for a dry run!
I also stopped by Montreal too.
All the tension I had about the rain faded away the morning of the race, and gave way to my previous relaxed approach, since I knew my body had what it took to finish it, nor did I train with a time goal.

~*~*~

I came out of the starting gate on cruise control, remaining present. I soaked in the energy of the cheering volunteers and supporters lining the streets along our course. I let my mind wander, allowing random thoughts to arise out of my subconscious and float away. I ran past my friend, who was hosting me and volunteering on the route, cheering me along, feeling thankful to have her there to support me.

Just over halfway through the course, we reached the coastline where Atlantic Ocean meets St. Lawrence River, and turned onto a lovely trail that wound along the coastline. The landscape gave me gratitude to be able to participate in an amazing event in such a beautiful place.

By kilometre 14 I hit my second wind, and I entered a tunnel vision, where my mind drowned out all of the stimulus around me, focusing only on my own mind, body, and every stride. I found new energy in this state of focus. I wouldn't say I lost awareness of my surroundings, but that I transcended my own body and felt a surreal oneness and connectedness with everything around me. I was in the zone.

By kilometre 18 I started feeling the finish line, and a reassuring voice came from inside me that said, "I can do this. I can do anything I want - anything in life." And a swelling of emotion rose in my throat, filled with all of those doubts in my mind, all the ups and downs from the past year - I let it all go - and I found myself choking back tears. I got a big spiritual lift and found new energy as a result of this emotional upwelling.

Finally, by kilometre 19 the cathartic emotion of kilometre 18 leveled off, and the fatigue and pain hit. The final two kilometres was the hardest part, just willing myself to the finish line on pure desperation.
A wet camera lens blotted out the satisfaction on my face as I hold my medal of completion.

But I did it! And aided by the course's one way trajectory, which was mostly downhill, and a generous tailwind, I managed to set a personal record, which was not at all a goal since when I started training.

~*~*~

For some runners I know, running is their medicine, or their meditation. The act of running takes a lot of mental toughness, or develops it as time goes on. The mental toughness I've built up to overcome fatigue and pain has transcended my running to help me overcome other struggles in my life.

And it hasn't just helped me handle adversity, it has healed existing traumas. Running loosens the purse strings around my brain, allowing for the negative, annoying and pesky thoughts that build up in my head over time, to be released and unburdened from my consciousness.

This half marathon was a big dose of medicine for me, restoring confidence in myself, and providing affirmation that I'm on the right path.

And the road trip was lots of fun too, once the rain stopped. A big thank you to all of those I met along the way on my road trip!

Beautiful Old Quebec

A large mural in Old Quebec


Street art in Montreal

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