Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For several years now I have stood on the sidelines as friends of mine participated in a variety of athletic events; 5K, Pitter Patter, Around the Bay, IronMan, 10K, Marathons, Triathlons, etc.  I have been an observer as they crossed the finish line, often looking like they were about to die, sometimes throwing up, sore, exhilarated but always quietly proud of their achievement, and ready to do it all again.  But I just didn't get it. 

Why would anyone want to push their bodies to these kind of extremes?  In an effort to find out, I spontaneously joined in a 5K run in Peterborough a few years ago.  I was used to walking a few kilometers a day, and thought I was in pretty good shape, so this should be a cake walk for me.  I hated it.  I thought I was going to die.  I couldn't wait until it was over, and yes, I was sore and I swore I would never run again.

So when these same friends casually mentioned that they were going to run in the Sporting Life 10K Camp Ooch - (a camp for kids with cancer run), all of my internal defence mechanisms kicked in to provide me with all the excuses I needed to once again offer to stand on the side lines as a "supporter", but not a participant.  And then one day, some force from deep within my soul overcame all of my excuses to silence the naysayer.  Deciding to leave the sidelines and be a participant was as easy as clicking "OK" on the Sporting Life website.  But even still, a little voice in the back of my head was saying - you've made your donation, you really don't have to run, or, you can just walk it, or you can take the subway.

As "race day" approached, I "trained" by taking longer, more challenging walks in the morning.  A couple of times I joined one of my running friends and did about a 6K walk/run.  It was tough - after all, I'm in my mid 50s now, and my body isn't what it used to be.

On "race day" I met up with the other runners outside of Sporting Life just north of Yonge and Eglinton.  A group of  21,000 souls gradually assembled as we were divided into corrals, depending on the time we estimated we would take to complete the mostly downhill route to Fort York.  My three friends left me to join up with the first group of people who were estimating their finish to be 45 minutes or less.  Even though I was surrounded by all kinds of people, I suddenly felt very alone.  By about 8:30, my group (estimating to finish in an hour and a half), were moving over the starting line.


As I started into a light jog David Bowie serenaded me with the song "Heroes".  All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with emotion.  My eyes started to well up with tears.  I wasn't alone any more.  I was a living, breathing part of a stream of human goodness flowing down Yonge Street with one common objective - to help strangers who needed our collective love and support.

There were many other "moments of clarity" on the route down Canada's longest street as I passed by many of the bars and clubs where I spent countless days of my youth.  I actually stopped to take a picture of the marquee above the Zanzibar which read (sic) "dozens of nude dancers the show don't stop - mothers day lap dance spectacular". Too funny.  A sign along the route that really impacted and motivated me read " I don't know you, but YOU ROCK".  I completed the run in 1 hour and 7 minutes, which was much better than I thought I would do.  But this time, I wasn't running to prove anything or beat anyone, I was just running and felt great.

Eleven songs coursed through my ear buds and into my head as they brought back memories of my wasted youth and allowed me to float through and with the crowd.  Here is my play list;

David Bowie; Heroes
Missy Elliot; 4 my People
Cat Stevens; Can't keep it in
David Bowie; Cat People
Butterfly Boucher Feat; Changes by David Bowie
David Bowie/Mick Jagger; Dancing in the Street
Cat Stevens; Moon Shadow
David Bowie; Space Oddity
David Bowie; Starman
David Bowie; Young Americans
David Bowie; Ziggy Stardust

The total amount raised to send kids with cancer to camp Ooch from this year's Sporting Life 10K is $1,950,000.