Yesterday, the alarm went off at a most unwelcome hour for a Sunday. I noticed that the Fella ignored it. Instead, he buried his head in his pillow and snuggled deeper into the duvet. If I am honest, he threw an arm around me and promptly went back to sleep.
I lay there for a bit and listened to a CBC radio programme (over the Fella breathing in my ear) - I heard one presenter commenting on how lovely the sunrise was and listened when the follow-up weather report forecast 10-15mm of rain, due shortly after sunrise.
I groaned and poked the Fella awake again, "We've got to get up. Rain is forecast - we'll need to take some wet weather gear."
His face was a picture of misery at the prospect of losing both his Sunday lie-in and going outside when it was due to tip down with rain - simply because I was determined to fulfil a promise to my sister. Now she lives in India at the moment and has probably forgotten what rain and 9 degrees Celsius (without wind chill factor) feels like.
Ok, my promise to my sister? To get off my backside and do some more exercise. My sister decided - in her infinite wisdom and after some googling - that participating in a 9.5km run around the Stanley Park Seawall would be the perfect way to kick-start my exercise programme.
In horror, I told her that I have never been able to run anything in my whole, wide life. She laughed (somewhat gleefully, I feel) and told me not to be so ridiculous. In the end, we compromised on me entering the 'walk' category...this year, at least. Plus I got a promise from her in return. If I do my walk; she has to fulfil a promise to me in India.
Now the problem for the Fella is that he tends to get roped into the things that I do. So if I am going to walk 9.5km on a Sunday morning in Stanley Park... then so is he. Hence the wretched expression on his face.
"Okay, tell you what," I said, "you make coffee; I'll make bacon sandwiches."
His face brightened and he rolled out of bed. I called out after him, "Although, in view of the occasion, I realise that I should probably give you a healthy bowl of cereal or a bowl of oatmeal."
He said something that I didn't catch but from the indignant tone, I think that it might have been something rude.
* * *
A short while later, the Fella sat at the dining table, one hand clamped around a hot mug of black coffee and the other gripping a substantial bacon sandwich. I was similarly equipped (albeit with a smaller portion).
Over our carefully considered pre-race breakfast, we discussed the improbable fact that we were up, dressed and about to take part in a 9.5km run (okay 9.5km walk). The improbability is probably summed up well by the fact that the Fella does not even own a pair of trainers, we have not done any practice walking and the fact that we are have this conversation while munching on bacon.
I can just tell that the Fella was really and truly trying to look on the bright side of being dragged outside on a cold, grey Sunday morning when he said, "Well....at least we aren't doing this for erectile dysfunction.*"
I reassured him that it is really only 9.5km; hardly a marathon. The expression on his face suggested that 9.5km may as well be 26 miles, as far as he was concerned.
*Notes: Film: Run Fat Boy Run
* * *Now if you are any kind of serious runner, you will know that it is essential that you skip the bacon sandwiches and get yourself to a race venue early - at the sparrow's fart, preferably. Not just to avoid the intake of bad calories and do your pre-race warm up but also in order to park close to the race Start/Finish line. Otherwise you are just going to end up parking with the rest of us amateurs, quite some distance away and sad in the knowledge that you are likely to regret your tardy arrival later.
We were oblivious to this, of course. We simply rounded the last corner from our gentle 0.8km warm up walk from the car, saw the race registration tent and focused on the realisation that we had just arrived in a very strange land.We were in the Land of the Enthusiastically Fit and Lithe. The land where lycra is your flattering friend and the toned body may run free. People were happy and excited; some were even in fancy dress. They were not hunched up against the cold, swaddled in raincoats like we were.
They had that happy glow of people who are familiar with, and happy to be, up early and about to do something that they love. There was even a DJ pumping out high energy versions of tracks like, "It Hurts So Good" while some competitors improvised warm-up routines that other runners were joining in with.
Now please excuse the expression but I cannot bring to mind a different one that would sum it up as well - we felt about as out of place and uncomfortable as a packet of sliced ham delivered wrongly to a bagel shop. Here is the picture that I snapped of the Fella, just after the majority of runners had left the Registration area to go to the Start Line:
When you look at this picture, you need to know that "The Eye of the Tiger" track was playing very loudly in the background. At this point, I think that I am just lucky that the Fella has not turned on his heel and headed back to the truck! As for me, I just started to giggle nervously.Now this is the view ahead of us in the race line up, just before the start:
This is pretty much the same view, just after the start:
I would like to point out that this was about the last time that we saw the majority of these runners. Not only were we the last two people over the start line, we were walking. The only other participants visible in the distance ahead of us was a family group with young children.
As we left the start line and walked up the road, we became aware that we were being tailed by a woman on a bicycle (apologies that the picture is blurred). She peddled up to us and introduced herself as the race sweeper official:
The Fella voiced discomfort in my ear and asked why we hadn't just walked the Seawall on our own. To make matters worse, the cyclist was joined by a Transport Authority patrol vehicle (which looked like a police squad car, complete with emergency lights going) who wanted to reopen the roads.
After a bit, the patrol vehicle caught up with us and the official started to make small talk with us out of his passenger side window. First of all, observing our speed, he jokingly suggested that we cheat by taking a shortcut via the totem poles.
When we rejected that suggestion, impressed by our determination, he suggested that we seek to improve our efforts by joining his running group. It meets every Sunday morning at 08:30. This group, apparently, includes a lady of 76, who doesn't run when conditions are slippery.
Plus under all this close scrutiny? It meant that he felt that he couldn't have a cigarette. Now if you know the Fella, you will realise that this is a serious, deal-breaking issue. It simply had not occurred to him that he might have to endure a 9.5km walk without a single cigarette. Luckily, we moved onto the Seawall footpath and lost the patrol car before he had a complete snit.
However, to his chagrin, we could not shake the woman on the bicycle. The poor love was doomed to spend the whole race peddling as slowly as she could behind us. In the end, she realised that she just could not peddle slowly enough without falling off her bike, so she tailed us the rest of the way on foot:
The Fella's mood worsened - her prescence eliminated any kind of cigarette stop. I noticed that his walk became very purposeful. To the point where I was almost jogging along beside him to keep up. After about 4km, I asked if he might consider slowing down a little.
He glanced over and said, "We cannot slow down. We are gaining on the kid."
There was a short silence while I digested this news. Then, "What kid?!" I asked, scanning the horizon.
"That one. The one with the fairy wings. We are gaining on them. I am not going to be beaten by a kid in a pair of fairy wings!"
Yup, one of the children in that little group ahead of us. After 4km, we had gained a few feet on the family group who had been ahead of us at the very start. Only a few feet, mind you. It seemed that in order to ignore his cigarette craving, the Fella had decided to focus on overtaking a child aged under 10 years old and adorned with fairy wings.
I thought that this might not be the best time to tell him that he was being ridiculous.
By this point the child had handed its wings over to a parent to carry. The race wore on and each time we crept a little bit closer to the family group ahead of us, I caught a glimpse of this little smile on the Fella's face:
In the end though, to his credit, the pace that he set us did mean that we eventually caught up with them. Mind you, it took us about 8km to do it.
Actually, I have to be honest and tell you that the real reason we overtook them is that they actually stopped in order to take photographs of each other at some rocks by the path:
However, the smile on the Fella's face was still like this after we passed them:
Hmm, not a man who can hide triumphant joy very easily - I must remind him never to play poker!
The family group had been joined by two male runners somewhere between the 5 and 6km markers (one of them is the tall person wearing black and a bright red wig). Basically, they had run the race, finished it and run back to find their families trailing behind them - just in order to accompany them back to the Finish line. At one point, the guy in the red wig even ran back to us and offered us some kind of 'Power Energy Bar' that they were giving out to runners at the end of the race.
We refused them on the basis that we were only doing the race in order to shed a few pounds. In truth, I think that we were more worried that if we consumed any runner chow that originated from the 'Land of the Enthusiastically Fit and Lithe', that might be it! There might not be no return to the 'Land of the Sofa Bound Slobs' that we know so well.
At long last, the Finish line came into view and I was not at all surprised when the male runners plus the children, picked up their pace to pound past us down the home stretch - after all, the Fella might not have wanted to be beaten by a kid in a pair of fairy wings but can you imagine how the kid might have felt about being beaten by some old guy who doesn't even own a pair of trainers?!
Our official race time? The timer above the Finish line said something like 1:54 as we crossed it. I promised my sister that I would try to complete the race in under 2 hours and we just about managed it. Here is a shot of the Finish line that I took after we had passed through and handed in our ChampionChip timers:
Our actual, personal times were 1:53 something. We came 946 and 947 out of 949 runners!
Ho hum. Well, race done, we stood there and looked at each other. The prize giving had long been held and most of the real runners had pushed off home. It was all a bit forlorn. It was probably at that point we realised that we still had to limp another 0.8km to the truck along Lost Lagoon.
It felt like a very long way. Mind you, it did provide the Fella with an opportunity to chain smoke a good number of cigarettes. The final part of our walk it was very peaceful - no race officials and no patrol cars. We came across a whole family of racoons and we made it back to the car just before it really started to pound down with rain.
When we got to the truck, I suggested a light lunch at Cardero's in honour of the race's Rear Guard Couple and I was rewarded with this tired but grateful smile:
Fella: I love you for being just so bloomin' supportive. Last night and this morning, we even discussed working a good long walk into our weekend routine, rain or shine. Yes please.
PS, Little sis'? I did mine - now it's your turn. I believe that we agreed on something that might be a stretch for you? Now, wasn't it something like a 10 mile/half marathon run?!