What a busy month! It started May 1st with the comedy club fundraiser. Turnout was great! And the comedians were hilarious. I did not know any them and was relieved that they put on a great show. I wanted to ensure that my guests had a great time and good value for their money. They certainly did.
During the May long weekend I traveled to Halifax. Erin, the founder and first runner of Love4Gambia picked me up at the airport with her two adorable kids, Regan and Levi. I had lunch at her place and met her sister. I got to hold Levi and talk to Regan. I’m not sure I understood everything she said but we managed to have some conversations.
On Saturday May 17th, I accompanied Erin and Regan on the family 2k run. Erin’s friend and her son Marty were also there. For the duration of the 2 km, I was their personal paparazzi. Early on, Regan asked her mother if she could have fish crackers. The kids would walk, run, or hold up their arms to be in their mothers’ arms. The mothers would pick them up for a short time but let them down again.
We had a great time and the crowds near the finish area were cheering loudly. The kids received their medals at the finish. They also got to enjoy their fish crackers once they got home.
On Sunday May 18th, I woke up bright and early to run the Blue Nose marathon. Race start: 8 am. I lined up and spoke to another runner from the Blue Nose Love4Gambia fundraising team. I wished him luck and we were off shortly after. I have never been this close behind Kenyan runners at the start of a race. Only 286 participants for the marathon.
I knew the course would be hilly and so I was prepared for it physically and mentally. I had done my hill training. I did not have a specific goal time in mind except that I wanted to finish in sub four hours. I considered this a training run for the Gambia run. In addition, I have another marathon to run in Ottawa in exactly one week.
The weather was perfect, sunny and around 8 degrees Celsius at the start.
I don’t run with music. I enjoy hearing what’s going on around me especially when there are bands playing or when people are cheering. I also enjoy exchanging a few words with other runners.
Early on in the race, we run on the MacDonald Bridge. The view is impressive. I start chatting with a few runners who were going my pace. I run with them for several kilometres. I wasn’t seeking company but I found it almost all the way. It was great. When you find someone running your pace, it makes the time go by.
I must hand it to Haligonians, they sure know how to cheer for us and make us feel welcome. I always thanked them as I ran by.
The sun hid behind the clouds halfway through the race. The weather was still ideal.
We run through Point Pleasant Park in the last part of the race. I love the smell of the ocean mist.
The crowd is loud at the finish and helps me to give that one last push. I am pleased to finish my 30th marathon in 3 hours 53 minutes. A runner who ran with me for most of the second half is waiting for me at the finish line. We congratulate each other and head inside the Metro Centre for some refreshments.
That evening I had dinner with the Love4Gambia team – such wonderful people! We all shared our race weekend stories.
The next day, Halifax welcomed Prince Charles and Camilla. Later in the day, Mary-Catherine drove me back to the airport. She did a wonderful job coordinating the Love4Gambia Blue Nose Team! Thank you M-C!!
Sunday, May 25th – 7 am: Time to run another 42.2 kilometres. This time in Ottawa. The Ottawa Marathon will always be special to me as it is where I ran my first marathon in 2007. I’ve run it every year since.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the marathon race in Ottawa. The weather can be tricky in Ottawa. It can get hot and very humid. So far it is foggy and near 10 degrees.
I’m happy to see my friends Brian, Pat and Andrea. Brian will doing the “Starbucks coffee run” and will be cheering for us throughout the day. His wife Jo-Anne is waiting for us at kilometer 10. How cool is that?
Andrea, Pat and myself get in to our corral and wait for the race start. Again, this is a training run so I don’t have a hard goal. I want to finish under four hours but I also have a secret goal of finishing under 3:50. No pressure.
The signal is given and I start my 31st marathon. I see Gen a few hundred metres into the run.
The fog keeps the hot sun at bay. The Ottawa marathon course is flatter than Halifax. There are a few hills but nothing major.
To my left is the calm waters of the canal and there’s a mist just above the water. I hear a runner to my left comment on how beautiful it is. Since no one responds, I move near where he is and agree. He is from Toronto and I tell him that I get to run here often and never tire of it. I wish him a good race and move ahead.
I high-five Jo-Anne at the 10 k mark. Shortly after I start a conversation with two guys in their early twenties (Adam and David). We’re on pace for a 3:35 finish. I feel great and decide to run with them for over 16 kms. Just before 27 k, I let them go. I feel a little tired. It’s nothing unusual for a marathon but I don’t want to run out of steam later on. Part of me wants to race hard but the other is reminding me that the run in the Gambia is the main event and that this is part of the training.
I continue at a slightly reduced pace. The crowds seem bigger this year. It sure is nice to hear your name yelled out even when you don’t know the person.
Somewhere after 30 kms, my friend Andrea catches up with me and says “You call this an easy pace?”. I laugh and tell her that it feels “comfortable”. I run with her for several kilometers and let her go. (I’d like to add that she ran her personal best and qualified for Boston! Way to go Andrea!)
I look forward to seeing Karen (my ex-sister in-law aka “cousin”) near kilometer 35. She has come out to see me every year since 2007. It means a lot to me that she does this every year. She took this photo of me just after the water station just after kilometer 33. I’m happy see Slavica there also.
At this point it starts to get warmer. The sun has burned away all the fog. The race is almost over. The crowds are plenty as we approach the National Gallery and beyond. It sure helps. The half marathoners join us at the convention centre. It’s more crowded but manageable.
One last sharp turn off Pretoria bridge and it’s the final stretch to the finish. Time to empty what’s left in the tank. Crowd support is great. I kick it into high gear when I catch a glimpse of the finish arch.
At 3 hours and 43 minutes I finish my 31st marathon. Yes! Not only have I beat my secret goal of running a sub 3:50, I’ve beaten my personal best for this course. I’m grinning from ear to ear. How I wish all my races could be like this!! Perhaps the trick is to run two marathons back to back?
I talk with some friends at the finish and get interviewed with Radio-Canada television. It runs later on the 6 o’clock news.
I am ready for the adventure that awaits in the Gambia! I can’t wait to meet the wonderful people there! I fly out June 3rdl.