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November 7, 2010

Update: Amazingly, I’ve raised almost 2000 dollars in under 7 days of fundraising for the Canadian Diabetes Association. Thank you to all who have sponsored me in this first week of a nine-month campaign!

Finish-line glow!

I ran my first 10K race yesterday morning, in the beautiful Oka National Park a 45 minute drive from Montreal. A crisp, sunny November morning, it was an impeccable day for a race.

10K is the perfect distance for the not-too-serious runner. It’s long enough to push you to train, doable enough that it doesn’t break you down. I did my race in 1:04:10, and it was a smooth ride all along: a comfy first 5k at an easy, relaxed pace, a hill at 6k that took a bit of steam, the beginning of fatigue after 7k, the beginning of adrenaline after 8k, and a no-holds barred, let-‘er-rip final kilometer that saw me through the finish line triumphant and aglow. Enjoyable, sunny and pain-free, with just the right dash of psychological and physical hurdle-jumping.

Because I’m not used to running with people, let alone in a race of two thousand people, the group adrenaline was a new experience for me. When running is something you’re so used to doing alone, it’s kinda awesome to be surrounded by other people who love it as much as you. Feeling the pace of the crowd, thriving off the energy of my fellow travelers, even chatting along with my friend for the first 6K, were all novel and quite pleasant experiences.

And yet running remains a solo sport. Experienced runners will often talk about “finding their people” in a race – other runners who match their pace and end up alongside them for the whole course. Though they may disappear from view at times, we later find ourselves beside them again. In my entire last two kilometers I found myself running abreast man mid-fifties maybe. It was kinda neat – there was a good 8 yards between us and the people behind and in front of us, and we stayed pretty much toe to toe. I’d occasionally inch forward, only to find that pace not quite fitting. He’d occasionally speed up, and I’d instinctively match his stride. Silently we nudged each other on, synchronizing cadence like two horses on a cart. I wonder if race-runners need “their people” to remind them, through the psychic wisdom of bodies, exactly what they need to do to get through their miles.

At 9k we both broke into broader strides, our breathing equally, harmoniously deep. Our bodies are going through the same thing, I remember thinking to myself. I was tempted to say something – “we’re almost there! We can do it!” – but the pleasant company of another body and mind pushing through the same challenges as you is much better appreciated in the silence of our breaths.

My biggest obstacle (most runners will agree) is not my body but my mind. Out on a solo run, it’s the easiest thing to give in to a shorter route, modify my distance to “what I can handle.” Setting off on an organized 10k course is totally different. You know what your distance will be, so there’s no room for talking yourself into less. The only question is how will you get through this distance. You just run. And smile.

So 10K feels more-than-doable right now. I was actually amazed at how in-my-body that distance is already. High still from the fun of yesterday, I hit the streets this afternoon for another gorgeous, sunny 10K. Running over the mountain, into downtown and McGill, then home through the Plateau, I ended up beating my 10K time from yesterday by about 5 minutes.

So in case you haven’t caught on by now, I’m hooked. I’m ready for more challenges, and want to get the Half under my belt asap. I’m looking into half-marathons to run in warmer US states this January, so I have something soon to train for (and travel to). Hopefully by the time I go to Iceland the distance will be pretty comfy. Already it feels doable. Oh Half, you saucy minx, I’ll have you in no time.

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