The Run

Yesterday was the “5K Your Way” run in Toronto for which I requested donations a little while ago. The run started at Queen’s Park at 8:00am, so I stayed at my sister’s place in downtown Toronto on Saturday night. We got to the start line around 7:30 and met the other members of our team. One of them had made custom (hot pink!) T-shirts for the rest of the team that said “Trudy and Jean 2008” on the front and “We acquire the strength we have overcome” on the back. The picture near the bottom of this post shows me wearing mine. BTW, Trudy is my sister and Jean is my mother, both of whom have been fought cancer within the past year. I will write more about that sometime later this week.

My parents were originally planning on walking as well, but my mom had an appointment at the hospital, so they were unable to. I was planning on walking with them while Trudy ran on ahead, so with the change of plans, I was going to walk alone. A couple of minutes before the race started, I told Trudy that I was going to start out running with her, and then when I was no longer able to run, I’d walk from there. I didn’t have any kind of goal in mind at this point; I was hoping to make it more than just a couple of blocks. If I’d really thought about it, running half the race would have been quite optimistic, considering I don’t run and didn’t do any training for the race (since up until Friday afternoon, I figured I was walking it with my parents, and I can walk 5k without any problems).

The Race

The race started at the northwest corner of Queen’s Park and looped around to University Ave. We ran southbound on University to Wellington Ave., then turned around and ran north on University back up to Queen’s Park, and looped around it again to the finish line at the south end. We didn’t start near the front of the pack, so the first few minutes was mostly walking since there were just too many people around to run. We passed underneath a large metal scaffold-like thing that I assumed was the sensor for the electronic timing chip that each of us was wearing. I assumed at this point that this was also the finish line, though that turned out to be wrong. Once the pack thinned out a bit, we started to run. There were a number of us running together for a while — me and Trudy and a bunch of her friends: Maria, Monica, Lindsay, and Jen (who has run full duathlons in the past, so this 5K was like a warm-up for her). We were between College and Gerrard when we saw the first guy coming back along the course approaching the finish line.

Trudy and I several years ago
Trudy and I several years ago

Before I knew it, I had run with the girls down to Dundas. I was feeling a little tired, but no big deal, so I figured I could keep going. Shortly thereafter we hit Queen St., and I realized that I only had a couple of blocks to go before we hit Wellington, where we would turn 180° and go back up University. I was excited about running half the race, so I made that my goal. I had kind of pulled away from Trudy and the other girls at this point without realizing it — it had ceased to be a social event at this point. I was simply trying to run as far as I possibly could.

Halfway there

After making the big turn, I got a bit of a second wind, and I started making smaller goals. I wanted to make it back up to King St. Once there, my next goal was Queen St., and then Dundas after that. It was when I passed Dundas that I realized that my “pipe dream” of running the whole thing just might really be possible. I mean, my legs were pretty sore, but Queen’s Park was right there a few blocks in front of me, and the finish line was at the north end of that, so I was almost done! As I passed Gerrard, I saw Toronto General Hospital on my right, which is where Trudy had had her surgeries back in January and March. As corny as it sounds, that gave me a little more energy when I “remembered” (not that I ever really forgot) why I was doing this in the first place. Up until there, I was hoping that I would be able to run the entire race. Once I passed the hospital and College St. and realized that I just needed to get to the north end of Queen’s Park and that was it, I decided that I was going to finish it. No more of this “hoping” crap, I’m going to do this.

I remember the very second that I first saw (what I thought was) the finish line; the song “I Kissed A Girl” was blasting from a loudspeaker, and I tried to concentrate on the song rather than my aching legs. It wasn’t until I was maybe 50 feet from the finish that I realized that it wasn’t the finish. There were no people standing around it, and people who were passing it ahead of me kept running without slowing down. Then I remembered that at the beginning of the race I had seen an actual finish line near the south end of Queen’s Park, complete with a timer and everything. I’m kind of glad that my brain fooled me like that, since for most of the last quarter of the race, I was concentrating on the finish line at the north end, and didn’t think once about running all the way around Queen’s Park. By the time I realized my mistake, I was at the north end, and so all I had to do was loop around to the south end.

Beginning my recovery
Napping after the race

The Finish

About 50 feet from the finish line, there was a mat that went across the track, and as I passed over it, I heard my name being read out over a loudspeaker. A few seconds later I crossed the finish line (I didn’t actually raise my arms in the air, though I felt like it), and immediately slowed down to a walk. This was almost a very bad idea, as my legs decided “Finally, he’s finished the damn run and we can shut down now.” Luckily my brain convinced them to hang on just a few minutes more and kept me from collapsing. Trudy and her friends finished a minute or two later and we celebrated our collective triumph.

Each runner was given a timing chip, which was a little RFID tag that you attached to your shoe. As you crossed the start and finish lines it recorded your start and finish times, thus giving you an accurate count of how long it took you, even if you were in the back of the pack and hit the start line long after the start of the race. It also allowed them to post the results of the race on the internet in real time. I ran 5 km in a time of 32 minutes 3.7 seconds. I finished 869th of 2071 participants, 406th of the 769 men in the race, and 48th of the 89 35-to-39-year-old men. The comparisons are rather meaningless, considering it wasn’t a race where everybody was running; it could very well be that all 41 men in my age group that finished after me were walking, not running. I have no idea, and frankly, I don’t care. I finished the race, and I considered it a race against myself. Next year, I plan on running it again, and the only time I’m interested in beating then is my time from this year.

More importantly, I raised $480 and Trudy’s team raised almost $6,000 for cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital. Our team raised more money for gynecological cancer than any other team. To my sponsors: a huge thank you to all of you, and I hope I can count your support again next year! (BTW it’s still not too late to sponsor me!)

Hurts so good

After the race came the pain. We took a cab back to Trudy’s place, got changed, and went over to the restaurant where the team was going to have brunch. My parents came too, as did Gail and the boys. My legs were a bit sore at this point, but I didn’t really feel it until I had to take Nicky to the washroom, which was upstairs. Going up was bad enough, but coming back down was brutal. We spent the afternoon at Trudy’s place and then came home, where I soaked my legs in a hot bath then took some more Tylenol and flaked on the couch for a while before going to bed. This morning I could barely walk, and I decided very quickly that there was no way I could sit in a car for an hour to get to work, so I worked from home. I made sure to get up every now and again and just walk around the house a little, and by dinner time I felt pretty good. It’s now almost 8:00pm, and I haven’t taken any Tylenol since early this morning. Stairs are still tough, but getting better.

I’ve never felt pain like this though. It doesn’t actually feel any different from other times I’ve had pain from overexertion (for example after skiing or the baseball tournament), though maybe a little worse. I think the difference is that because I’m happy (OK, proud) that I ran the entire race, it’s like I have really earned this pain, in a good way, and that makes it somehow different from the “I haven’t been skiing in a year and now my legs hurt” pain. I plan on running again next year, though I will be training long and hard beforehand, and next time, the expectation will be that I run the entire thing, and beat my time from this year. I also expect to feel less pain after next year’s race, but right now, I’m kind of enjoying it.


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