Some non-runners just don’t get the deal about running. Or races.
What’s the fun, they ask, of being packed in with thousands of sweaty people, blocking traffic and then running ‘til you feel like your heart’s about to burst from your rib cage?
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I learned the answer at Ottawa Race Weekend, when I joined 32,872 other participants — 8,417 of whom, like me, were doing the 10K — in the biggest-ever event.
I’ve been running (OK, on and off) for about 13 years and training (not enough) for months, but packed into the corral with other participants, nothing could have prepared me for the excitement and the adrenaline of the moment.
The starting horn sounded. Runners inched forward, and as space freed up, took off like a shot. The first three kilometres were easy — the thousands of spectators, sometimes dozens deep, cheering from the sidelines on Elgin Street kept me going, if only by making me too embarrassed to stop.
We all veer left for a water station at kilometre four, a herd of thirsty buffalo tromping to the watering hole.
Runners blow by, grabbing cups from volunteers’ outstretched hands. I drink sloppily, and dump the rest down my back in an attempt to cool down. Against my better judgment, I take a second cup and greedily slurp it down.
We toss our cups to the ground. As someone who never drops so much as a popsicle stick, I felt a bit bad about littering and wondered what volunteer’s been assigned the enormous job of picking them up.
By the seventh kilometre, I’d lost track of my 60-minute pace bunny. I look around, and realize in a panic that the 70-minute pace bunny is just steps behind. By now, I’ve got a stitch in my side and I can feel water sloshing in my stomach.
I’ve developed a new respect for Metro colleague and friend, Tim Wieclawski, who is running the marathon the next day. I contemplate walking the next kilometre when a passing runner urges me on, giving me my second wind.
I trotted over the finish line with a time of one hour, 14 minutes, placing me 501st out of 629 in the women’s 25-29 category and in 5,775th place. Yikes!
My time wasn’t amazing, but I had an amazing time. Call it herd mentality, but it’s more fun to run in a pack than alone at the crack of dawn. It might be your own two legs carrying you, but really, you’re all in it together. From the breathtaking scenery, to the kids offering high-fives to participants, to the runners’ cheers that echo beneath the bridge, there’s an energy surrounding this event that makes you feel proud to be a part of the city.
So why do we do it? Why do we sweat, ache and push ourselves when we really, really want to stop?
For moments like those. See you next year.