My first Marathon: 2003 ING Edmonton Marathon

It all started with an email.  A friend of mine and REALTOR had run many different marathons over the coarse of a few years.  We had often talked about them and he knew I had a small nagging interest in pursuing the challenge.  We were exchanging emails on a file one day and once we had completed that series of emails he sent me one last one that said “Oh yeah, if you are going to run the Edmonton Marathon, training starts today”.  He went on to attach an 18 week training schedule.  Now I have never been a distance runner in my life and have always had trouble with my shins so was a little skeptical but thought “What the heck, I need to get some excercise”.  The first days run was only 4 or 5 KM anyhow so I figured lets see how it goes.  I did not respond to the email and did not tell anyone that “I was going to run a Marathon”.

I kept up with the training program and gradually improved both my times and distances. By the time I got to, and finished my first 18KM run I started thinking, “Holy crap, I may actually be able to do this!”. The next weeks long run was 22KM and once I finished that one I was committed.  Heck, if I could do 22KM, a distance I would have never thought possible, then why couldn’t I work my way up to 42.2!

At this point I started telling people about it and made the plunge.  I registered for the race, shelled out my money and was mentally “IN”. As this was my first kick at the cat I had no illusions about trying to set world records and really did not care about ‘time’. Unfortunately, being the competitive soul that I am, as I became more and more comfortable with my runs, I started looking at what my pace runs might mean for a finishing time. I set myself a goal of 4 hours and picked up my training to try and hit that target.

Fast forward to race day and man was I feeling great! I had come a very long way in those 18 weeks. Moving my previous longest run from 10KM all the way up to 32KM and feeling good. For those of you that I have never trained for a marathon, my training program never actually took me up to race distance and 32KM was as far as we went. I guess the idea is that 42.2KM is a large stresser on your body and you do not want to do it more than you need to.

I lined up at the start/finish line with thousands of others. My family would be out on the course cheering me on and I was so high on adrenaline that nothing could stop me. The gun went and the race was on. I found myself the 4 hour pace bunny and settled in with that pack. I felt GREAT! 18 weeks of training, no pain and I was ready. We hit the half way mark at just under 2 hours, I had seen my wife and kids twice so far and both times waved back at them vigorously excited to see them out on the course.

Once I hit about the 30KM mark I started to realize that I may not be able to keep up the pace for the whole race and started to lose the 4 hour pace pack. I saw my family again at about the 34KM mark but this time it was all i could do to raise a hand and acknowledge them. I was glad they were their but was in a battle of mind over matter with my body and needed to focus 100% of my mental energy on simply moving forward.

By this time I had mentally adjusted my time goal and started thinking about perhaps a 4:10 finish. At about 38KM the 4:15 pace bunny passed me only to turn around jogging backwards yelling encouragement at his group. It was about 40KM that my leg started to cramp and I had to walk it out a little. The experience was surreal. There were racers scattered across the route in various states of pain, exhaustion and joy. Some were walking in obvious pain, others focused intently trying to keep up the pace and others looking entirely fresh. I felt like I was on a battle field. One runner passed me and yelled out “Rub it out buddy we’re almost there”. I started jogging again and managed to overcome the cramp.

For the last couple of kilometers we crossed the high level bridge and ran up the hill at 109th Street. I thought that may finish me but as I got to the top, the REALTOR that inspired me to run was there in his capacity as a course martial and his smiling face encouraging me on was exactly what I needed to help me round out the last kilometer or so.

I finished the 2003 ING Edmonton Marathon with a time of 4:20. I was thrilled! After I found my family I went and found the massage tables, paid my $20 and got the best leg rubdown I have ever had in my life for the next 15 minutes. It took a lot of time and commitment but completing that marathon was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my life.

Life can change in the blink of an eye

Most years for our family summer vacation we make our way out to see my parents in beautiful Hope, British Columbia.  They have a gorgeous spot directly on Kawkawa Lake with about 60 feet of beachfront.  Their place comes complete with a second floor deck that spans the entire width of the home.  Surrounded by a glass railing this West facing deck offers a stunning view of the lake.  At the far South side of the deck before you get to the stairs that lead down to the grass, their is a large 8 man (woman) hottub.  Just perfect for warming up on those sometimes cool days after a hard day of skiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding or tubing.  Dad has a 19 foot SeaRay with a 115 HP outboard that isn’t exactly a $90,000 competition ski boat like some on the lake, but it gets us around just fine.  Add a few other amenities such as a Kayak, a canoe and a 12′ aluminum fishing boat and you have a recipe for a whole lot of summer fun.

As we typically also take a nice winter vacation, I will usually come down to BC for one week with my family and then fly home leaving them to enjoy the lake for a second week.  My brother will typically fly in for week two and drive home with Christine and the kids at the end of the second week.  This gives me a little time to catch up on some work, a little R & R and gives the kids some more time with Grandma and Grandpa.  It usually works out fairly well.

This year however I was caught a little off guard when I got a phone call from Christine at about 9:30pm.  I answered the phone and she said hello, I asked how she was doing, her response… “Not so well, we just got hit by a boat’.  My mind instantly goes to some horrible accident that involved the kids, so I start walking toward the door thinking I am hopping on a plane and headed back to Vancouver for a hospital visit.  My stomach was in knots and I felt like I was going to vomit.  I ask if everyone is OK and she quickly reassures me that everyone is physically OK, but that Christopher, our 10 year old, is pretty shaken up and would like to talk to me.  So without giving much in the way of details so she doesn’t exacerbate the issue.  She explains that they were out for an evening tour in the fishing boat when they were hit by one of those fancy competition ski boats that I mentioned earlier. She then puts Christopher on the line and I say “Hey buddy, how are you” like I normally do.  He replies with a “Not so good” in the saddest little voice I think I have ever heard from him.  My heart is breaking.  I ask if he wants to talk about it and he says ‘no’ so I try and change the subject and ask about his day.  We get our usual banter done and he asks if I would like to speak to Mikaela.  I say of course and tell him how much I love him and say goodnight.  Mikaela picks up the phone and fortunately she sounds much more perky than Christopher did.  The incident didn’t seem to phase her nearly as much and she tells me about the rest of her day.  I say Love you and goodnight to her and get back on with my wife.  The kids are still within earshot so I only get a watered down version of the story still.  We discuss what actions should be taken with respect to the boat driver and whether the incident needs to be reported or not.  We agree that we’ll sleep on it and discuss later.

So it is not until Saturday when I talk to my brother that I get the whole story and the full extent of the jeopardy some asshole put my family in.  Turns out Chrisine (my wife), Darryl(my brother) and my two kids (Christopher 10, Mikaela 8) were out in the fishing boat exploring the lake.  The boat has a little 9.9 HP motor on it as well as a small electric motor.  They looked up to see this bright orange ski boat approaching and heading directly for them but still 3 or 4 hundred yards away.  Lots of time for the driver to alter course.  Time marches on and no alteration in course.  Darryl stands up and starts waving his arms.  No change in course.  He’s in disbelief, the boat is relatively full surely someone must see them.  Christine stands up and starts yelling and waving as well.  Still no change in course and now no time to time to try and motor out of the way.  Christine makes the last second call, grabs the kids and yells jump.  They do and the ski boat instantly mows down the small aluminum craft.  Fortunately everyone on board jumped clear just in the knick of time.  Unfortunately the yahoo driving the boat is shocked out of watching his wake surfer and back to focus on driving his boat, and decides that he better slam the boat in reverse.  He backs right over Darryl who is holding onto the swim platform being pushed backwards by the boat frantically waiting for the V-drive boats propeller to hit his feet as they get sucked underneath.  Luckily this doesn’t happen and Darryl lets go and gets pushed directly under the boat only to pop up on the other side.  Thank God.  Disaster averted.  Everyone is fine if not a little shaken up.  A nearby boater who watched the whole incident unfold in disbelief comes and pulls them all out of the water and ferries then safely back to the house.

A police report is being filed and the drivers family will of course pay for all the damages but it is amazing to think that if that had gone slightly differently I could have lost everything I love in this world in the blink of an eye.

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