Sunday, 30 August 2009

Journey of a thousand miles

This week’s blog comes all of the way from Alberta, Canada. I invited my cousin, Melanie, to contribute a guest blog describing her experience at the San Francisco marathon, and how it has inspired her to get running.

Contemplating my trip to San Francisco a few weeks before the event I had thought about what it must be like to complete a marathon. I had come to the conclusion that running a marathon must be a most unsatisfying challenge. I had mental pictures of people labouring hard for every breath, staggering across the finish line and collapsing in a heap. No thanks, I thought, not for me.

With Dunk before the race

What brought me to those conclusions? Probably the fact that my personal running experience to that point was largely negative, limited to unwisely throwing myself unprepared into school races as a child, and trying valiantly to keep up with a stronger running partner during some of my university years.

Watching Duncan and the thousands of other runners participate in the San Francisco Marathon was inspiring beyond anything I could have anticipated. The day began very early. When my Mum and I signed on as part of the support team for San Francisco, Dunk wisely did not inform us that this particular marathon had a very early start. Rising at 3:30 a.m. to begin the trip into the city was only the first of many memorable moments! Accompanying Dunk to the start area, I was struck by how relaxed he was in the midst of the atmosphere there, which was charged with both tension and excitement. He was obviously experienced and well prepared. I could scarcely believe it when he handed me a mobile phone to stay in touch as he ran so he would know where to look for us along the race route. Who talks on a mobile phone when you can barely breathe, I thought? It turns out that Dunk regularly takes calls during the marathon – I have even heard a rumour of some text messaging during a prior race!

Down to business

Before we knew it he was off – and so were we. Our group began a series of trips that day on the spectator bus that moved us from miles 4, 13, and 22 to the finish line. At each stop we would phone Dunk and confirm our position. Each time he came by us smiling and strong. Even at mile 22. I soon began to catch a glimpse of his passion for running. And I could see this echoing on many of the faces of those running with him.

As we headed for the bus stop at mile 22 for the ride to the finish line I could hardly wait to get there. However, wait we would. When we arrived at the stop location we saw a small group had gathered. The shuttle had not arrived. We waited a bit longer – no shuttle. We began to panic a bit. How could we get this far and miss the finish? People began to talk of calling taxis, taxis arrived with drivers that did not understand the desired location, time was moving fast. I began to calculate how much time we actually had to reach the finish based on the fact that Dunk was running a solid 8:30 mile. We were cutting it close. To our great relief the shuttle finally came. As we darted on board we happily took our seats. Much to our dismay, the shuttle never moved. The driver obstinately stated that he wasn’t moving for another 20 minutes. He was sticking to his schedule. The spectators on the bus began to get a bit ugly shouting for the driver to go. He stubbornly said that if we wanted him to go, WE could call his supervisor for permission. He clearly did not expect that my 70 year old mother would jump to her feet, politely demand the phone number and then summon me from the back to make the call (remember I was the one with the mobile phone). I gulped, grabbed the number and pleaded our case with the marathon transportation supervisor. By stretching the truth somewhat – yes, the half-full bus was nearly full; yes, we were waiting a long time for the previous shuttle – I finally hit him with the big one: “My aunt and uncle are here from Ireland and will miss their son cross the finish line if you don’t tell this driver to move!” That did it. With a chorus of cheers from the rest of the passengers, we were finally underway.

To cut a long story short, we did not quite make the long anticipated finish line. As the youngest of the group, I became the designated runner and dashed to the finish from the final bus stop. As Dunk later told me, “You can tell people you began your running career running for the finish line at the San Francisco marathon”. I caught him just a fraction past the line, on the way to receiving his medal. It was an incredible moment. And to my great relief he looked just fine, actually much better, he looked exhilarated – just how I felt.

Next stop, Berlin

Nowadays, as I put my new running shoes on and take a jog down my rural country road, I think about San Francisco. Yes, it inspired me to give running one more chance. A particular run I’m looking forward to is a quick mile in New York’s Central Park with Dunk in November, the day before his final marathon for fivemarathons. It turns out our “ground team” from San Francisco is reconvening in New York City. Having missed the finish line in California I’m giving it another shot – just like running. If you’re wondering about the title – it begins with a single step. I ran mine in San Francisco.

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 24 August 2009 Rest or short recovery run / Return to Liverpool
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 Speed work
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 6 miles easy
Thursday, 27 August 2009 Rest
Friday, 28 August 2009 8 miles steady
Saturday, 29 August 2009 3 miles easy
Sunday, 30 August 2009 14 miles steady - brisk

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004