The Kid and I will be participating (along with many more the of the run crew) to raise a bit of money and awareness for this local charity. I’ll post a little more here when I dig around and get a fundraising link.
Five kilometer races are tests of speed. Run fast, run hard, see how quick you can get across that line. A baseline time for my 5K is 30 minutes, but I range within 5 minutes of that depending on the day. I don’t run a lot of these, and often I don’t bother writing much about them unless they were particularly interesting.
Each year for at least a decade I’ve been negating my ability to sleep in on the first day of the year in exchange for the glory of running a simple five klick race. The annual Resolution Run is a weather gamble, bringing out a thousand ambitious runners in sub-zero temperatures — fewer and fewer with each successive degree below freezing.
This year was no different.
Leave the house at 10am to get myself a reasonable parking space at the local YMCA.
Linger in the lobby trying to corner familiar faces, maybe snap some New Years selfies and group shots.
Listen to the typical announcements about start lines and kid’s race and putting your number in for the draw and taking off your shoes when you come back so that the gymnasium floor doesn’t turn into a melted-snow mud pit.
Line up at the start line.
Run through the fresh start of a fresh new year thinking for some reason that the speed and clarity of this race defines the tone of the next twelve months.
Reconvene at the finish for more selfies and obligatory group shots. High five. Linger in the cold, or in the case of this year, mild chill and lovely apricity of the sunshine.
Wander back to the gym for terrible coffee, delicious pancakes. And, of course, win absolutely nothing in the draw. I never do. Why use up all my luck on the first day of 2020.
As many of my readers are local I don’t really need to elaborate, but for those reading from far away geographically or far away temporally, here’s the deal: it’s been a helluva week in our little province.
About a week ago, amidst a very early spring and unseasonably warm temperatures, forest fire season began in earnest. Fires are actually pretty normal. We live and play among the boreal forest, sweeping vistas of beautiful conifers. And occasionally those forests NEED to burn. It’s part of their natural cycle, though we humans do what we can to minimize the damage and reduce the intersection of our civilization with the flames.
But a week ago a very large fire swept upon the northeastern region of the province: it is a place relatively few travel for anything but work and most around the world might only know by the controversy it generates as one of the economic blast furnaces of our nation. And at the centre is a small city known by most everyone as Fort Mac with a population of a meager but mighty 90,000 of the types of independent folks who build a community, for better or worse, at the fringes of the hustle-and-bustle of our otherwise urban civilization, perhaps seeking their fortunes in a frustratingly unstable resource economy, or maybe just a quieter life in a northern town with just that single highway in and out. The same types of people who through history have shed a bit of their own comfort to push the boundaries, who settled the places we now call home & built the first bits of these cities we now take for granted.
A week ago the media lit up with the images of Fort Mac in flames. The entire city was evacuated. Tens of thousands of people fleeing with a handful of possessions down that same highway as they left behind only an inferno and uncertainty. Our city, the nearest major centre, opened its arms and though individually we can’t claim it was much, collectively we did what we could to cushion their landing.
Now, you may be wondering what a five klick fun run has to do with a forest fire & the city it evacuated.
Admittedly, standing in a grassy field in the sun surrounded by hundreds of sneaker-footed runners, it doesn’t seem like much at all. But then there are stories that bubble out: like that the Northern Lights Triathlon Club (based out of Fort Mac) has made a showing, or that a bunch of running gear was donated by a local athletic store (because who grabs their training shoes when they are fleeing their home?) or that five hundred people raised over eight thousand bucks for the Red Cross.
And then too it’s just that sense of solidarity: we’re all here beating down some asphalt and getting on with the run. Sharing the trails. Sharing the moment. Restoring a bit of normal, if only just a bit.
Achievement Unlocked: Five in Twenty-Five
Ok, so I didn’t break the 25 minute mark, but my first run of the year came close.
The annual gathering of resolution runners on the first day of the year was warmer than usual. It was my seventh year running the five klick, kick-of-the-year-in-the-right-way run. The temps were hovering right around zero Celsius, and the roads were only a little slick, but otherwise quite good for a mid-morning run.
I got to the start at the front of the pack, with only a few dozen people in front of me. A common complaint of this particular race is that the self-seeded starting corral tends to bottleneck a little bit thanks to a narrow exit and an abundance of casual runners, and getting a good start relies on being in the first hundred or so through the big red archway.
We launched, and I kicked it into gear.
For the first five hundred meters or so I dodged through the crowds and weaved past some of the slower (already walking?) folks, opening up as we entered into the neighbourhood streets. Then I loosed it, and for a good klick and a half I was running at a sub-5 (min/km) pace.
I wasn’t taking my usual 10:1 (run:walk) intervals that I hold to for most training, so by the time the first beep of the watch teased me with that, I ignored it but was holding a good pace and passing the 2 klick mark.
I couldn’t hold it though. By three and a half I was huffing hard, and I dropped to about a 5:15, fighting the urge to slow up even more. I rounded the last stretch bend just barely passed twenty-five minutes, and entered the icy home stretch with my eye on the clock creeping towards twenty-six.
But, bam, past the line, a stop of the watch and to my surprise: 25 and change. A personal best and a great start to 2015.
December 30, 2014
The annual tradition continues.
On January 1, about fifteen hundred Edmonton runners and I will be braving the winter temperatures and icy streets to run the first race of the year. The Resolution Run loops through a local neighbourhood, pleading the prying eyes from a thousand windows and inflicting the guilt upon those still barely awake or otherwise hungover from the previous evening’s festivities.
I’ll be sporting number 2783 this year, and aiming to break the 30 minute mark. I’m still undecided on the jacket.
How (Not) to Run in Neon
On Saturday night, wallowing in a thin powdery layer of iridescent cornstarch and radiating in the pale phosphorescence of a dozen glow sticks, I set a new personal record: my worst five kilometer race time. Ever.
To be fair, though the race was advertised as a five klick family fun run, the distance measured by my watch was actually closer to six and a half. But what’s an extra thirty percent between friends? Well, I’m sure it would have been barely a footnote if not for the flabbergasting fail of an event and unprecedented danger that preceded our mediocre finish.
We were excited to join the throngs of our fellow runners for the inaugural –though perhaps, it will be the last as well– edition of the Edmonton Neon Run. I won’t delve into the lawyer-esque nitpicking of comparing what we were promised versus what was delivered. In the end we ran, it was dark, we got a little dirty with paint and glow powder, and there were parts of it that were genuinely fun. I ran with three of my fellow running crew, we stopped for numerous selfies, evoked a darkly humorous commentary (as best as we could) on the situation, and made the best of a failed event by tossing our share of paint on each other. It was a runner’s rave, and in the dark of an Edmonton late-summer evening, toed the line of awesomeness — but then tripped and landed flat on it’s face.
I’m sure a quick Google of the topic, a stroll through Facebook, or by pinging the right Twitter hash one could quickly uncover pages of angry rants on the outcome of this race. By all accounts, there were numerous shortcomings, not the least of which seemed to be hasty planning. And as I write these words, those planners haven’t dared show their faces nor even attempted to partially own the failure, only ramping up the rage and creating a grass-roots drive to dig out some glowing pitchforks for a rally of angry redemption at the Calgary event next weekend.
And some oh-so-basic planning could have averted so much of the pain. Up until the three-klick mark, the worst anyone could have complained about was a few potholes (a issue much bigger than the race, of course) and that they may have erred on the little-too-dark side for the route. We ran about half a klick in the pitch black of the river valley, narry a glowstick to mark the edge of the asphalt from the protruding branches of a thousand trees. But it was a night race, and in the end if you were neither a five year old nor afraid of the dark, it was –admittedly– what you’d signed up to do: run in the dark, by the glow of the crowd.
But then things got stupid.
We emerged from the dark into a paint station: clouds of coloured cornstarch being tossed into the air gave the milling crowds an eerie aura under the single spotlight. Milling crowds? In a race, you say? Why, yes… because route planning while not hard, cannot necessarily be done (at least not well) by consulting only a digital map. What looks like a trail on Google may, for example, actually be a barely-passable, dirt scramble ill advised to be traversed by anyone, even in daylight. At night, with the crush of three thousand neon-wired runners angling for a speedy finish to get back to the party and out of the quickly dropping temperatures? Let’s just say those organizers are oh-so-more-lucky than they deserve this morning. They are lucky because (as far as I know) no one got seriously hurt or died, no one suffered a heart attack, no one fell off the cliff that was mere inches away from an unlit yet-marked-by-pylons route up the steep hill. Oh, how lucky.
But perhaps not for the rest of us. In the long and uncertain forty five minutes it took my little party of four to walk-climb-shuffle-bustle out of the valley and into the neighbourhood streets above, most (perhaps even all?) of the volunteers had abandoned their posts, any race marshals had disappeared, and the steadfast police who’d stayed behind to clean up the mess were the (only) evidence of professionalism and impromptu encouragement in the wake of cleaning up a very bad situation. (Three cheers for the Edmonton Police, by the way!)
My worst-ever five kilometre time ended up being (actually) six and a half klicks in not quite ninety minutes, three times longer than I’d anticipated when I’d laced up my neon-orange shoes earlier that evening. I don’t care about the late start or the long finish time because after all I run to spend time with some awesome people — but in every other way the race was a fail. I won’t be running it again. And if you are in one the cities who will be hosting it in the near (or far future) you may want to reconsider for yourselves… or at the very least, leave the kids with a babysitter and bring an extra headlamp.