Sunday, May 31, 2009


We've been away, running in different cities and provinces. Time apart deconstructs the team, loosens us up, makes space where we can activate the skills we've been practicing in group sessions. Our focus changes; we rely on ourselves for motivation and assurance instead of looking outwardly to the coach and the schedule for support. The question of ability shapeshifts to statement form: can I? I can.
When we regroup, our long table buzzes with shiny new tales of travel, romance and adventure. Also: new blisters, running costumes, lobster dinners, salty Atlantic breezes and Cape Breton Island.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Solar flare

Under the orange sign, just below the bluest sky, I traded excited wishes for a good race with the yellow-dressed runner beside me. We started to run, slowly. I fidgeted with my waterbelt which had settled too low on my hips. A runner just ahead and on my right stepped on an abandoned water bottle and the spurting liquid baptized the leg of a man on my left, shocking him out of his reverie and causing him to look around blankly for the source; I explained the linked events and shared a laugh.

Considered the impact of 9,000 pounding feet upon the gravity of the Earth. Looked around for people I know. Thought about thinking nothing. At the first water station Pedro handed me a cup and a friendly smile. The sun shone and I ran. Felt like a vistor as I read signs above bars on the Quebec streets, and a bored local near Carleton. Fell into step with drummers and sang along with singers. Let my eyes linger on runners' tattoos as I ran behind them, and considered how otherwise I'd never stare at a person's calf for so long in public. Smiled at cops who held back traffic and wished us luck. Watched runners ahead of me and thought about who they were, what kind of training they did and how they got to be so fast. High fived smiling kids. Remembered Philly, and how cold the asphalt had felt through the thin soles of my Mizunos. Kids with colorful sponges soaked in cold water, how I loved them eternally, and the energetic fella with the purple cowboy hat, I loved him too. The digital clocks set up at the 10k, 21.1k and 30k markers ticked on and my feet ran to the next water station, a connect-the-dots puzzle. Crumpled every drained paper cup as a gesture of something. Watched kids gather discarded cups with flicks of their hockey sticks. Noticed that my urge to pass was not as aggressive as it had been at the half marathon race last year, when every person in front of me was an obstacle. Noticed my forced exhalations. Tricked myself into believing there was no shame in stopping but that I don't need to stop. It was just me and the road. Felt pained as I watched the faster runners in front of me slow to a walk by the farm where the stetch of road seemed unending and the sun rays the most oppressive, and a stride-lengthening surge of happiness five minutes later as Jess called out from the side in her clear, tall voice, Natalie King, you're my hero, and I turned to see Peter waving at me. At that point I was starting to tell myself I had already run the race and was now into the conclusion, the cooldown. But I bought that line for only a short time and had to replace it with: almost over, 40k down, 2k up, don't think, run. You could stop now, but you've come all this way. Release the inner cheetah.

Then the last signs taken in glances: 300m, 100m, and then the final archway dares me and I hold on to my heart so it won't fly away and I jump over the line and yell and then the finisher's medal is around my neck, as shiny as my smile and heavy as my feet. My face a salt lick.

I talked haphazardly with other runners, ate a half poppyseed bagel and drank some protein, stretched on a picnic table, smiled at a man with lilacs tucked fetchingly behind an ear, sank into the park grass, backpack cradling my head, not a care in the world, nothing on the agenda; I had left home, roamed the world like a hobo and returned filthy, spent and utterly blissed out; the body sacrificed on the road like a deer, the tiny yellow bird of my spirit following Icarus.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The day before

I hope it did it right. The preparation, I mean. My running clothes are laid out, along with gels and shoes. Bottle of ibuprofen. Sun-shielding ballcap. Garmin.
Tonight's entertainment will consist of heavy water drinking and refraining from setting goals. Goal are like tigers: fun to play around with but dangerous.

But, this is a good goal for tomorrow evening.