2019 in Running: December

Then December arrived.

I’ve spent the last twelve days of this month reflecting on the last twelve months. This was in no small part because of something that happened as the month rolled in, namely an acceptance letter to a marathon lottery. And if or not I find myself standing at the start line of a marathon in Chicago in October of next year, no matter if I do that or run screaming in the other direction, the year 2020 will likely be defined by my effort to get there.

Marathons have a way of doing that.

On and on I go.

I’ve already written a couple posts on my thoughts about being accepted, and the effect it is likely to have on my year. I’ve started cross-training in earnest, if for no other reason than I need to train myself up to get ready for the actual marathon training. I am like as not to register for a few more races in the spring and summer to guage my fitness. And I’ve even booked a hotel, which oh-by-the-way is gonna be hella-expensive in Chicago on race weekend.

I’m going to start the new year — new decade — in a similar way to how I’ve ended this one: by scaling back my running. Over the past couple weeks I’ve actually been on a bit of a break. After running hard for eleven and a half months this year, the past two weeks as I’ve written all these posts I’ve simultaneously been hiding out. Writing rather than running. I’ve run precisely once, and that was on purpose.

A break. A reset. A re-think.

Tomorrow, January first, a couple things happen: the new year and the new decade begin with a five klick resolution run though the snowy streets of Edmonton, the gates open on at least one major training run, and my imminent return to routine means that I actually need to start thinking about something that is only a day closer but will no longer be separated by a decade of measure.

2019 in Running: November

It would be fair to say that the most exciting running event of November is recieving my Heavy Medalist bling in the mail from the two Rock ‘n Roll half marathons I ran this year.

It was a sparse training month. The weather had turned cold for keeps. The daylight hours were barely overlapping the working hours. The end of the year was far enough away that there was no pressing need to consider the next. And lacking any race motivation, many of the crew had retreated to their winter hiberations.

2019 in Running: October

Training is a slog of day, after day, after day, after day.

It’s kinda like trying to write a daily blog post, but with running shoes on. And more sweating. And about the same number of people are actually paying attention.

I ran my last half marathon of the year in October and a summer of training followed by an autumn of faster training netted me a pretty decent time.

About mid-month we packed up the new car and drove for twelve hours westward on Friday morning. It was planned. I had registered for the Okanagan Half Marathon in Kelowna, British Columbia, a beautiful little mountain valley city on the edge of a lake and tucked inside a microclimate that made it feel more like September than the nearly-winter chill back home.

I spent ten klicks chasing a loud couple of runners wearing full-length bacon body costumes, then left them behind to pursue my own pace. In the end, I crossed the finish line about a minute short of beating my PR (which I’d set in 2014) and instead settled for my best half time in five years.

One might attribute the new speed to some special training regimen or a dedicated focus. Rather, I think we’ve just been running faster. When the people you train with increase their easy pace by even just 5% it follows that you run faster all the time, and when a race happens… well, you don’t slow down.

My (personal) victory was short-lived and we (almost immediately, after a quick shower) hopped back in the car and drove twelve hours back to Alberta and home.

The snow the met us on the mountain pass was a prelude to the rest of the month of training, and I quickly settled back into a three-per-week run training schedule with little focus on a goal. Not registering for anything will do that to you.

2019 in Running: September

How do you run with a twelve year old?

Very slowly, and with a lot of complaining from her… apparently.

September was a slog of a training month. Back to work, back to school, a new routine full of exhausting and time consuming activities.

The only real highlight of the month was a five klick run through the streets of the small city of Red Deer where the family wen to help out with the annual Terry Fox Run, a charity run to raise money for cancer research. After our handful of duties were complete, the kid and I participated, slogging through the trails in the warmth of the sun, jogging for a bit, walking for a bit, jogging a bit more, and listening to the rhythm of complaints emitted from the mouth of my twelve year old daughter.

I don’t know if kids maybe have a different sense of time or distance, or it’s merely that after twelve years of running (yes, twelve — not a coincidence actually) I’ve honed an ability to not only tolerate long stretches of meditative running activities, spans of time where the mind has nothing to do but watch the sidewalk and let the moments pass one by one by one. Kids suck at patience, whereas in my forties I’ve been craving long stretches of mindless quiet time. Running has been ideal for this.

We ran our five klicks for Terry, did some more volunteer tasks, and went for dinner with the organizers — who also happen to be the kid’s grandparents. Again, not a coincidence, actually.

Life was suddenly busy, changing and getting quietly darker as summer passed into autumn.

2019 in Running: August

On the first day of August I woke up shortly before six in the morning, laced up my sneakers, walked down towards the pond near where the swans were still dozing, and started to run. I ran up along a narrow gravel trail, over a small grassy rise, along a small road, past a two hundred year old towering monument to the Scottish hero of lore, William Wallace, down into a slumbering neighbourhood, and plodded across an eight hundred year old stone footbridge, where (as legend would have) the Scots routed the British invaders in the 1300s in a battle made famous in the film Braveheart.

We spent three weeks in Scotland (staying near Stirling) and Ireland in the month of August, and my training continued in the wee hours before everyone else in the forty-seven member travelling group had bothered to get out of bed.

Two weeks in, I skipped out on the official tour, boarded a train, then a bus, then a RyanAir flight to Dublin. The next morning I was standing in Pheonix Park in shorts and crowd of a few thousands of Irish runners getting ready to run a speedy five klick race through the misty rain.

Almost exactly one day later (after a long and convoluted adventure to find my race pickup package, some art supplies, and a cold pint of Guinness) I was standing on a street in Dublin getting ready to run the Dublin Rock’n Roll Half Marathon.

I wasn’t expecting to do too great. I mean, try travelling for over two weeks, sitting on planes and busses, and wandering up and down through tourist locations (which there are generally castles with narrow staircases leading up to vantages) and then do a race. Travel running is awesome, but expectations need to be kept low. When I pulled a three-year personal best out of my backside, in other words, I surprised even myself. It was a positive split, if I’m being completely honest, but filled with a kind of Irish spring in my step through the first eleven klicks, down cobbled roads, around castles and amazing old architecture, to the sounds of cheering crowds and loud music, it all kept be strong.

Then we hit Pheonix Park again, and the rolling hills killed me. But that’s how these things tend to go.

I returned to Canada with a neck laden with multiple bling medals and a few memories, too, and pretty much nothing else I did that month topped that weekend.