I came in last. I was the very last walker in the half marathon to cross the finish line. My supporters, my family and friends are all trying to make me focus on my accomplishment of FINISHING. But seriously, I am NOT BOTHERED by being last. However, I can see why they would think that. It’s me and I am VERY opinionated when it comes to athletics. Not all athletics, just the ones I care about – like Hockey or the Olympics or Hockey IN the Olympics. It’s not that I don’t enjoy other sporting events, because I do. I love sitting at a football game on a warm summer evening, or a baseball game on a Sunday afternoon. I love the atmosphere, the beer, the pile of peanut shells at me feet. But hockey is my passion and with passion comes opinions that cannot be swayed.
I don’t know if you are familiar with how tournaments work, but the final 4 teams play each other. The winners move on to play for the Gold medal. The losers play for the Bronze medal. That leaves Silver as the loser medal. Loser as in Loooooooooooooooza’. The Gold medal contenders know they both get a medal, but to “win” the Silver you must lose. That sucks. Because Bronze is a winner’s medal. When in reality, Bronze is just a nice way of saying, you suck but not as much as everyone who was eliminated before you, so here you go. It is a pity medal. Gold is for winners, Silver is for losers and Bronze is for the pity party.
I am often heard saying if you’re not first you’re last, or another favorite, Silver is for losers. So it is no surprise when I fist pumped my hands in the air and shouted “WOHOO I’m last!” Everyone was quick to say…”Nooooooooo you finished! It is about finishing and setting goals and yadadadada”. What they don’t realize is, the loser – me – get’s treated like a rock star. It was AWESOME and I mean that in a serious way, not my usual sarcastic way. It took me 4:27 to finish. Why you ask when I walked 20k in 3:15? Good question, not that I am making excuses, but I shall give you all the gory details.
1. It was F’ing hot. Sure this is only by Canadian Standards. But We ( the runners and walkers) all trained in cold and rain all summer long. We were not prepared for the heat of 30C. AND There was not enough water stations…just saying.
2. I had the worst sleep I had in ages. AND 6:00 AM sucks donkey balls. It is established that I am not a morning girl…just saying.
3. The pace bunny sucked. She had a mouth on her that made my partner run away, if I could have, I would have run too. So GREAT JOB OtherNiece! I wish I had whatever juice you had. So proud and envious of you…just saying.
4. I stepped off the curb at the groat bridge and saw stars. This was 8km way from the finish. I felt like puking it hurt so bad. That F’ing Bunny was ahead of me telling the traffic cops that we were LAST, so no one didn’t notice what happened and I was not about to say “MEDIC!” No chance, I was finishing….again, just saying.
8Km left was far. AbronxTurtle wrote on my facebook wall that morning “Focus, you can do this, no fear”. So as a mantra in my head, I kept saying “focus, no fear, you got this”. I saw my partner and inspiration keep the same pace, I struggled to keep up with her, but couldn’t. So I let her go, off into the distance while I maintained a pace I could manage. Before the curb, I was on track for under 4 hours as planned. Now, the best I could hope for was under 5.
That stupid bunny walked ahead of me and would stop to wait, look at her garmin and say “your doing great, good good.” Then talk to me about stupid stuff and tell really bad Irish knock knock jokes. I am excellent at focusing inward and putting myself into the zone. I call it self reflection or meditation. It got me through months of training solo, I needed to do that to get me through. THANK THE HEAVENS ABOVE for Sweeper Bike Guy!!!
Sweeper Bike Guy checks the course for bodies. Usually dead ones, he has a radio and can call for ambulances and hearses. He was sweet and offered his water because THERE WAS NO ENOUGH WATER STATIONS and sunscreen because IT WAS FREAKING HOT! Best of all, he talked to the Pace Bunny so I wouldn’t have too. This saved my life. My coach said to me months earlier in training, your muscles know what to do, you have trained them, it is the mental state of mind that brings you home”. She wasn’t kidding. At that point it was all mental, I no longer was aware of what was going on around me, until I made it to the 18km mark.
At 18km, that was the water station and I had made friends with a fellow who had cheered me on the way past this station the first time. He saw me and smiled and said “I’ve been waiting for you! I knew you’d be back!” Then he gave me water and Gatorade and said, “but you don’t like the Gatorade do you?” I could not believe he remembered! I replied that I needed it so he gave it to me plus more, then offered me a water bottle and some for my head and neck. All this went on while I was still walking. He walked 2 blocks with me asking me what motivated me to do this. He had only ever volunteered.
I told him my story of standing on the sidelines and cheering on everyone last year. I told him I couldn’t understand WHY people did it, but now I know. It is like I have been given the key to the secret box that lets you into the marathon. He asked me a few more questions and was so supportive, he got me through to 112 Avenue – the home stretch.
112 Avenue was closed for the race. I was the only one on it except for traffic cops, Bunny and Sweeper Bike Guy. I called them my entourage. As Bunny said she was the last, she was ALWAYS ahead of me, so I always told the traffic cops, “Clearly she is a liar, I am last because I am behind her” I managed to still joke and stopped only once. I folded over and clutched my thighs and told her I was in agony. I then told her about my injuries. The long standing MCL that was slightly pissed off that I had been walking for over 4 hours, and my new injury – the stress fracture. Her tone completely changed. Suddenly she became a normal person. We talked about where she worked, then I looked at her face – I had worked WITH her in brief circumstances for diagnostic reasons for our mutual clients. She then asked me my motivation and what kind of supports I had. By this time I could see actual marathoners running across the avenue towards the finish line. DAMN I was so close!
I rounded the corner and saw my Chatterbox! That made me cry a bit. She waved and took pictures. Then I saw Genetic Offspring sitting in the shade with my dad. I waved and cried a bit more. I was then shown the way into the chute. There was the finish line. DAMN it was so freaking far away still!! My kids walked along the barrier with me. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me. I saw my time approaching and there was no way I was finishing under 5, I was going for under 4:30 – so I picked it up a notch and Bunny hung back so I could go ahead of her – thanks Bunny. All I remember is My name being announced as I crossed the finish line. I saw the medal dude and took my hat off and leaned forward to accept it. I saw Honey, my coach and my niece along the fence. My coach hugged me and told me how proud she was. Then I heard my mom call me. I turned and she had roses. She hugged me and told me how proud she was. That was when I lost it. I cried like a baby. All kids, no matter how old or young they are, live for the moment when their parent tells them how proud they are. Somehow I magically was sitting on a bench surrounded by my family. My Coach came by again and for the life of me I cannot tell you what was said. I remember everyone leaving and saying they loved me. That made me cry again
I recall being helped to the car by Honey and Genetic Offspring…that is all I can remember. I am not sure how I got home or how I made it upstairs to my room, or how I ended up sleeping in the bath. I do remember the celebration afterwards… That I’ll save for tomorrow.
You see being last doesn’t bother me. I know what it took to get there.