Thursday, 10 April 2014

Not Today Grim Reaper Not Today

I realize this unique title might bring people to read my blog who would otherwise have different tastes. For those of you who mention I write too long the story of Mr Reaper is near the end.
After a week vacation I am back in Canada, refreshed and ready.
The 5km walkathon to benefit exploited children in Cambodia at Erindale Park in Mississauga on June 7 is less than two months away. We had our first donation $52, people who have visited the website ( know the significance of this number.
A serious minded power lifter from a Gym I used to belong to had a shirt that said "shut up and lift."
I am approximately six weeks away from my spring marathon and it is time for me to take the next month or so to "shut up and run."

March 29 I am in my house and anxiety overwhelms me for tomorrow I will attempt a 30 km race named The Around The Bay in Hamilton.

A series of "what if" questions start. What if I cannot finish? What if I am injured and cannot run my upcoming spring marathon? What if there is traffic and I miss the race? What if I am injured and have to miss or at least ruin part of my upcoming family vacation? These thoughts go on and on, this is one of the many differences between a race and a training run. I wonder why are my questions always so negative? Why can`t I ask positive questions? What if I run a personal best? What if the run seems too easy?

In 2012 I ran the same race in a time of 2 hours 26 minutes 22 seconds, keeping with tradition my anxiety probably keeps me from sleeping this much the night before I run.
The drive to Hamilton is uneventful and not for the first, and hopefully not for the last I am grateful for my tired supporters. My beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters have accompanied me.

The start of the race is uneventful and I am very calm as I walk to the starting line.

Keeping with tradition I pray as my father did at my first marathon "Lord may I run for your Glory."
I wondered what or who I would think about as I run.

2 km mark A young woman holds up a sign that makes me laugh. Her sign says "smile remember you paid to do this." I think to myself that sign would be better later on in the race.

3 km mark I think of a story I heard from my mentor recently. A young woman who had been victimized as a child in Cambodia had been rescued. After working her way through a couple of programs to help with her healing she had moved to another program designed to continue healing for the young woman of this program but also to help teach them skills to reintegrate themselves into society.
This woman had left the program telling my mentor that the pain the men had inflicted upon her she could deal with as she could disassociate herself from her time in the brothels. The pain involved in her healing process she could not take at the present time, it hurt her too much to deal with her past.
A sad statement, a sad moment for myself after hearing her story.

I dedicate this run to her.

5 km mark the wind gusts of 55 km/hr have been against me the whole race and running around Hamilton Harbour with the unblocked wind against me is going to be a big challenge.

7 km mark we are running up one side of a blocked off highway. A five foot median of concrete separates the runners from cars going the opposite way on the same highway. What is not blocked off is the little pebbles that these cars tires are shooting over the barriers directly into the runners, more than once I have to close my eyes to prevent rocks from entering them.

10 km mark I pass over the first timing mat.
In 2012 I ran this stretch in 47 minutes and 37 seconds. I see my time is 48 minutes 13 seconds and I say out loud "too slow" I am already off a Boston Marathon qualifying (B.Q.) pace, and I am very discouraged as I think of the challenges of some big hills later on in the race.

12 km mark I pass a man wearing a shirt with the name "Buffalo triathlon club" displayed. I am encouraged as I think of Neil Boron of WDCX Buffalo and all his listeners who have supported Ratanak International in the past. I look forward to receiving more of the same support in the weeks leading up to the walkathon.

15 km mark I pass the second timing mat.
In 2012 I was at 1 hour 11 minutes 21 seconds, this year I am at 1 hour 11 minutes 53 seconds, despite the wind and my earlier discouragement I am closing the gap on my previous race and I am now under a B.Q. pace.

20 km mark I pass the last timing mat until the finish line.
In 2012 I was at I hour 35 minutes 56 seconds, this year I am at 1 hour 36 minutes 7 seconds.
Pleasantly I am surprised that I seem to be getting faster as the race goes on. Mentally I prepare myself for the next 10 kms of hills which are equally as tough as the hills in the Boston Marathon.

24 km mark a small person is by the side of the road, I read in an  magazine article that he is there every race. He has a stereo system as tall as himself and plays music from the rock band Queen. I high five him as the exact same song as the last time I ran blares at me. As I start up the biggest hill of the race the words "we will we will rock you" follow me.

Words from the group named The Band Perry

If I Die young

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Lord make me a rainbow, I`ll shine down on the others
They`ll know I`m safe with you
When they stand under my colors
And I`ll be wearing white, when I come into your kingdom

I realize that the young woman I dedicated this race to, abuse at such a young age has taken her spirit away I see how it can be like a death.
Tears well up in my eyes and I yell out "He will He will crush you!"  I think of the words from Genesis 3 vs 15 talking about how the serpent will strike at Jesus`s heal but Jesus will one day step on and crush the serpent`s head.
The wind picks up again and I wryly think to myself can`t the wind at least let up on this hill?

27 km mark the hill is finished and I see an act of kindness in the running community. A fellow runner lost his balance and fell down crossing a bridge, immediately two other runners picked him up and set him back on his feet. I thought of some of the events of the past two weeks I had attended. A community of like minded people who care and try to help the exploited children in Cambodia had gathered. I had trouble leaving these events as there was so much positive energy present.
I think of a Margaret Mead quote "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it`s the only thing that ever has."

28 km I see his shadow, yes the grim reaper (a man wearing a costume) is back, standing across from the cemetery. Last race I was startled by him and actually had harsh words for him as some people falter near the end of a race and I thought the last thing they need to see is this guy saying "I see dead runners." Like the small person this man is part of the tradition of this race and I think to myself death is not always a bad thing. Death to sin, death to illness, death to abuse, death to greed, death to exploitation, death to death itself are all good things and one day will exist in a new kingdom in which the girls I run for will enter.
I high five the grim reaper and say "Not today!"

I enter Copps Coliseum and cross the finish line.
In 2012 I finished in 2 hours 26 minutes 22 seconds.
In 2014 I finished in 2 hours 26 minutes 15 seconds.
Despite the wind which was against the runners for 25 of the 30 km, despite a really bad start I improved by 7 seconds and if I am able to keep up this pace for a full marathon Boston 2015 would be a possibility.

I look over at my "familia" and pound my Heart and point to them. They willingly allow me to take the selfish pursuit of long distance running to try to make something beautiful come about. They lose hours of sleep for the races, as well as hours of quality time with their father leading up to a race. They have never complained once.

And as I view their lives I realize actions may indeed speak louder than words.
My wife is involved in a form of counselling, once she told me "the stories I hear you could not handle." She is right, I heard one story of abuse that gave me a sleepless night.
In the weeks leading up to the race one daughter wrote a monologue of a free girl taken into a life of slavery and how the girl would feel. The other daughter picked the topic Child Soldiers for her speech at school.

The what if questions have all been answered. I am not injured and familia we trade ice packs for ice cubes, road salt for ocean salt. Yes tomorrow we will go to Punta Cana for a family vacation.
I was most looking forward to trading my bath tub filled with epsom salt for my healing, to God`s bathtub of salt for healing, the Ocean.



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