Is Covid a Reason, or an Excuse Not to Run?

Maybe it’s a bit of both. Maybe it’s a reason sometimes, and an excuse at other times.  Before we go there, maybe my assumption should be challenged. Anecdotally, some of my friends seem to have run about the same, and some like me, seem to struggle. Also the question as posed, is binary, and incomplete. Did people run less during lockdowns?  Did they resume when things opened up a bit?

In Nova Scotia, even during the first and strictest lockdown, we were allowed to run and walk. Just by yourself,  stay away from people, and don’t dilly dally!  I did attempt some walking before signing in and starting another day of working from home.  During these early pandemic walks I saw few walkers, and almost no runners, but would I have at any other time? Good question. When my office was open I often walked the 3k to work. The only other people I would see would be other people walking presumably to work or other responsibilities.

Regardless of my less than scientific observations, social media tells many stories of us getting larger and lazier. There are memes, self deprecating humour, and at least a little desperation and sadness.  

So, did we, or didn’t we, exercise less during the pandemic?  For a more scientific answer, here’s some bona fide scientific research.  When I peruse research like this, I look for an OMIGOSH finding. Something surprising, something I didn’t see coming.  Here is that finding. 

“While the majority of all respondents indicated exercising as much or more during the lockdown, nearly half of them also reported sitting more. This result is not without risk, as a positive balance between both behaviors is required from a health perspective [19]. Regardless of the extent of physical activity, too much sedentary behavior is unhealthy, and can lead to not only physical but also mental health issues.”

What a disastrous outcome! Stop exercising, and become sedentary. I was not completely unaware of this, but it did strike home. I realized not only was I running less, but not at all. Who was I kidding? I was  becoming sedentary.  Pre-covid I insisted on micro walks during the day at the office. That was easy. There were people to drag along to talk with. There were stores for window shopping. There were step counting bragging rights. Often I took the three kilometre walk to and from work. Working from home changed that. Especially early, during the restrictive lockdown. There was the occasional morning walk, and not much else.  Even prior to this running had become sporadic. 

To answer the the question, is Covid an excuse or reason?  My answer is, it doesn’t matter. Nope, not one bit.  Especially with the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are here, the rate in Nova Scotia is bottoming out. Restrictions are relaxing. So whether  it was an excuse or reason, it’s neither anymore. 

The more important question now is, “whatcha going to do about it?”.

I’m on a bit of a walking streak. I’m hitting 10,000 steps about 80% of the time. On the 17th of March I went for my first run since November, 24th, 2020. Coincidentally it was again, 3.2km.  I’m encouraged. My legs were a little sore. My heart rate was just short of 100% maximum.  However, no injury, and I gained a feeling of accomplishment. I’m taking a few days of rest. I’m playing this by ear. Yesterday consisted of walking up and down staircases in my building. My legs were burning. Despite this, they were feeling strong from the recent walking. 

This blog started back in 2013. I had broken a promise to my boys. I’m not going to break it again. More to follow. 


My New Sparring Partner

I fought the good fight this May. I finished. But Blue Nose kicked my butt. I can still remember the fear in friend’s faces afterwards. Apparently I was pale as a ghost. Just not any ghost. But a real pale ghost. Color eventually returned after rest and some bananas and anything else I could get my hands on to consume.

I had met my goal of crossing the finish line. My other goals would not be realized. Among them the desire to cross the finish line not looking like an extra in the walking dead. I wanted to cross feeling strong. Well as strong as someone can feel after a marathon. And relative to my training I was disappointed in my finish time.

I’ve analyzed, ruminated, speculated on what went wrong that day. I knew before the gun I was in trouble. Before I went one step my heart rate was too elevated. It was at least 10 bpm were it should be. Race anxiety? Over training? Was my body fighting a flu? I hadn’t  been feeling well the last few days prior. And there was the 32k training run on only two or three hours sleep. I never did feel energetic after that run.

During the run I felt like Rocky. In the original Rocky.  Getting clobbered repeatedly, and refusing to quit. And just like Rocky, finishing was a victory. And I definitely want a rematch. I want more than a rematch. I want revenge. I don’t want to finish Blue Nose. I want to humiliate it.

There won’t be a rematch in 2016. The Blue Nose route will be changed due to work being done on the bridge. It’s taking a break. No doubt in my mind this break is being partially motivated by fear of me. You can’t duck me ever Blue Nose.

I need a capable sparring partner. Word on the street there’s a pretty tough kid south of the border named Sugarloaf Don’t be fooled by the silly name. Apparently this kid has speed and one daunting mountain to go up. Then it’s a brutal punishment on the way down to the finish.  Sounds like just what the legs need to prepare for the ultimate rematch with Blue Nose in 2017.

Sugarloaf give me your best, I will give you mine. And I’m bringing a crew. We will see if you’re rumor or a real legend.  And did be cocky kid, I’m bringing some class heat to pound your 15K race.

Fear and Lying in Nova Scotia

I made a decision today.

We all have that place. That place we hide the fear, the doubt, the insecurity. That place makes us so vulnerable we not only hide it from others, we hide it from ourselves. You know the place. It’s the place we call “deep down”. You’ve had this conversation. “Deep down I know I should have”, or “deep down, I knew if I tried a little harder…”. And the more frightening and dark the secret, the deeper down it hides.

Last year a world class marathoner from Kenya was invited to run in the Blue Nose Marathon. He finished his marathon before I finished my half marathon. To be fair, he had a ten minute head start. Yes, that’s a joke. Another gentleman who ran the marathon is running a marathon in every state and every province. They were both featured in the Halifax media. During interviews they both had a similar comment about the Blue Nose Marathon. That comment? I can’t remember their exact words, let me paraphrase, “holy crap that’s some major hills you have on your course”.

You see, I really wanted to make the Blue Nose marathon my first marathon. I didn’t. The general feeling around the community is that it’s a hard marathon to do for a first marathon. And for my first marathon I wanted to run at a nice easy pace and enjoy the experience. I didn’t want to come across the finish line completely exhausted, bonked, and broken. So I chose the Prince Edward Island Marathon. And I crossed the finish line completely exhausted, bonked, and broken. Oh, and in excruciating pain. I don’t know if PEI is as hilly as the Blue Nose. I know now it is very hilly. I started to struggle midway. I kept waiting for a nice down hill to recover, get a bit of break. Make up some speed. I mean it’s like PEI defies the laws of physics. It’s just up and up and up, but no down, down, down. Finally at 36k you start your descent down. It might have been my delirium but I think we went through some clouds on the descent down. Unfortunately by that time the downhill didn’t provide any relief. I did discover what a painful IT band feels like. Just another addition to the pain. After PEI my fear of hills only worsened.

My plan after PEI was to run the Blue Nose. But deep down I feared the Blue Nose. I told a lie to myself. And when you lie to yourself it becomes real regardless it’s a lie. That lie was the goal of surpassing my PEI time was mutually exclusive to my goal of running the Blue Nose. I hid this lie deep down. Safely hidden away in that dark frozen place deep down I could rationalize doing the Fredericton Marathon. You see, this is a flat route. I could surely best my previous PEI time. That was my rationalization, my lie, my dirty little secret.

It gnawed at me. Shut up deep down. Tracy often reminds me of my original goal. What it is deep down I want. Heck I’ve even thought of going to Ottawa to run my next marathon. A lot of friends are running their first one there, including Tracy. On all accounts it sounds like the perfect place to run a first. Ottawa would provide perfect cover for my lie, my deception, my misrepresentation, my shell game.

Ultimately, maybe, sort of, it was peer pressure. I just started training. And on the first night of training I stood in a room where other runners stood up confidently and without fear stated they would be running the Blue Nose as their first run. Deep down couldn’t hold my fear and doubts any more. Like dangerous criminals escaping prison those fears assembled in my heart and thoughts. They weren’t going back to their prison deep down.

I can’t lie to myself any more. I can’t lie to you anymore. I fear the Blue Nose. There’s only one course of action. Tackle the fear. Kick its butt. I will own it, it won’t own me.

Today I decided to run the Blue Nose.

The Next Chapter Begins

The winter and fall has seen some fantastic runs. Without the rigors or demands of a schedule you’re free to explore. Try new distances. Try new distances and different paces. Try some new snacks while running. Try running new routes and different times I had a small group of friends to do a sort of kind of schedule to keep our legs going before the marathon clinic starts. That was extremely rewarding to push some peers and to be pushed.

Learned some new things along the way. Some valuable lessons. First if you’re sick, just stay home. I don’t want to elaborate. I also learned I may be more able than I thought, and a bit of a wimp. Just a bit. I learned this at the end of a funsy 21.1 with my running buddy Paul. Near the end of the run he dropped the gauntlet and started to pull away. Boys will be boys. There was no way I was going let him get away. At the end of the run I had a new PB for 21.1 Had I been running alone I’m sure I would never of pushed at the end. It was the first time I pushed so hard so late into a long run. My legs didn’t fall off, my lungs didn’t come out my nose. Just sheer euphoria. A similar thing happened with Paul and Lisa, one of our resident elite runners and one of our coaches. Another incredible push from some great friends and runners that left me with that great feeling of exhaustion and euphoria.  And a new 14k PB and a 10K PB while doing the 14k.

Now the training starts again. I will be better equipped and feel more confident. I may finally be able to keep up with our esteemed leader and great mentor John, on one of our 10k tempos.

I find training for a marathon all consuming. Life starts to revolve around it. I’ve had people comment to me about not having a life. They couldn’t be more wrong. It forces me to be focused and organized. My mind clears. There is no background noise. At that discipline and hard work ethic starts to become part of every facet of life.

This weekend I started the process. Cleaned my condo. It’s clutter free and very clean. It will stay this way. Each night everything will be in its place before I lay my head down. Breakfast will be already made and in the fridge. My clothes will laid out the night before. My eating habits will improve dramatically. I will force myself to sleep better. Everything that makes life more efficient and easy helps keep me on track for training. I look forward to it. It’s here.

And at the end of it all I’ll run my second marathon. Not exactly sure which one yet. But my goal isn’t  to a run a marathon. My goal is to follow the process. To live and eat healthy. To surround myself with fantastic people who understand that feeling, that euphoria. To continue put pavement under my feet. To celebrate the victories of others. To be part of my community. To do what I love.

I reached my goal last year of running a marathon. My new goal is to never stop running marathons until the good Lord calls me home.



It Takes A Community For One Person to Cross a Finish Line.

I’m laying on the Hotel bed typing this. I’m almost afraid to move off of it. Ouch. But that’s not a complaint. I’m proud of my pain. I’ve earned it. And in case I forget it, the three meter walk to the bathroom reminds me. Even during the race I joked about the pain. Well the pain that isn’t the race ending type of pain. That pain isn’t funny. There’s no reason to complain about the pain when you are running. It’s not going to help. And there truly is only one option to stop the pain. And we won’t speak of that option.

I expected physical pain. Not in my wildest dreams did I expect this much pain. Ya, I know I’m really selling running a full marathon with that sentence. I expected mental challenges. Surprisingly this went well. I had a picture of my two boys with me. I didn’t have to look at it.  I knew it was there. And they knew Dad was running a full marathon. Quitting wasn’t an option.

There were things though that I didn’t expect. Fear. The pain in my quads was relentless from about 26k on. But whatever. Suck it up Princess. But that cramp in the foot. It taunted me from 30k on. It would come unannounced, just linger like an uninvited guest then awkwardly leave when it wanted to. It wouldn’t take a hint. And this is the kind of pain I’m not sure I could physically run with. Not with a full blown cramp. No salt tablet. But some recovery juice in the back pockets. I started to woof them down. Seem to do the trick. Then my calves got in on the fun. And from past experience I know that is a race ending injury. Unless you’re stupid and want the injury to be permanent. Thankfully if just teased me. I have done some stupid things. Running on torn or cramped calves isn’t on of them.  The cramping seem to go away. The burning pain of sore muscles stayed with me. I suspect it will be with me for a few days.

The other thing I didn’t expect was the emotional roller coaster. After a few jitters at the beginning things seemed to fall well into place. It was a beautiful morning. We were bang on pace.  it was euphoric. Running into the sun along the ocean. Perfect running weather. The early adrenalin.  Hard to believe it would get harder. And when it got harder my running buddies Laura and Colleen did a fantastic job of keeping things fun and interesting for the most part.

The middle part of the race was emotionally deadening at times. Not depressing. Just dead. Almost indifference. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re heart is too busy trying to meet the demand of major muscle groups and forgets to send some oxygen to the brain. Those moments were rare.

The elation at the end was also unexpected. I expected happiness. What I experienced was complete elation. From about the 39k mark it finally became real. For something There was no pain during the final sprint. There were no doubts. Three amazing friends came out to run us in. John, Sharon and Colleen made the last few hundred meters effortless.

Before the celebrations, before the half way point, before the starting gun, it’s important no to lose track of the fact this wasn’t accomplished alone. My celebration is and will be a celebration of community and bonding.

I believe no single person person can cross a finishing line without a community. They’re the ones that pick you up after a bad run. They’re the ones that push you on tempo night. They’re the ones that run you in. They’re the ones at the finish line that scream and cheer for you when you need it most. They’re the ones that keep you company and keep you going on those long runs. And sometimes it’s the camaraderie and story telling on run night. Or the laughter over a good post run coffee.

I can never express in words my gratitude to my running family.

One more unexpected emotion. A bit of sadness. It’s hard to say good bye. My life has revolved around marathon training for months. And now she’s gone. The celebration begins. The training is over. It’s going to take an adjustment. The training was challenging. It was also fun. She left without a whisper in the dark of the night. Last night when we didn’t need each other any more.  I knew the day would come. I didn’t think I would miss her. Oh well, training for the hypo half starts soon. More adventures. More stories. And more time with my running family. I can’t wait.  Well, that’s not entirely true. I can wait until the fire in my quads go out.

I’m keeping my promise to my boys.

I’ve realized a life long dream.


When Willingness Marries Ability

It takes two things to accomplish a goal. The first one is willingness, the other is ability. Conceptually simple. One of those ideas that is made more genius by it’s simplicity.

But when you start to apply the idea in practice it quickly becomes complicated. First off, which is more important in determining success? Can you overcome a lack of ability with sheer willingness? Physics would argue no. People who have witnessed or performed extraordinary feats against the odds would argue yes. And if someone very capable decides they don’t have a lot of interest can the task get completed?

And there’s the things that shape and form how willing or capable we are. Probably one of the most important and easiest to understand is DNA. My dreams to be in the NHL died when I turned 17. All of a sudden I was playing with kids who were much taller and heavier and faster than me. A body check just wasn’t an annoyance any more. They were starting to hurt. The willingness was there. But the writing was on the wall. Without the correct DNA I wasn’t going any further.

The military is an interesting place to observe where willingness is often pushed up to and sometimes past ability. I particularly remember my diving course. We did all kinds of crazy exercise before our day even started. And like the movies you’ve undoubtedly seen they screamed and pushed and pushed. One morning around 6:30 we running up a long steep hill. Something to this day I struggle with. Not being a strong runner I started to lag behind. But it gets worse. We were ordered to turn around and start running the hill backwards. I immediately slowed to a crawl. I struggled and started walking. Within seconds an instructor was two inches from my face. He very calmly told me I could run or I could quit. Walking wasn’t an option. I was a young man full of ego and machismo on a tough military course. I couldn’t quit. I already worked too hard to get to this point. I wanted the bragging rights that comes along with wearing the dolphins on your uniform. And I started to run. Lungs burning for air. Calves cramping with intense pain. The instructor kept taunting me as I struggled. “C’mon Larose just quit. Go have a nice hot shower. Be done with this.” I would have screamed ‘NO Master Seaman’ but that required energy I didn’t have. I made it to the top of the hill. I turned around and kept going. Obviously I had the ability. As slow as it was. But it took willingness fuelled by ego, machismo and the desire to join an elite group. I passed the course. It was a very proud day when I pinned the dolphins to my chest. I had the ability to be trained to a diver capable of diving in very adverse conditions. The willingness was also there. Two people didn’t have the willingness. They quit. We will never know if they had the ability.

And here I am today. 48 hours from now I should be sitting somewhere relaxing and celebrating. First I’ll have to answer the willingness and ability conundrum.

I’m not a young man any more. My ego has been tempered by experience and and the wisdom from failures you tend to accumulate over the years. And although am thankful to be as good as shape as I am this point in life there’s no escaping physics.

When things go bad can I manage willingness on my own? With no one taunting me to quit will I be able to reach deep down and keep going? What about ability? I’ve done all the training. I’ve improved. My resting heart rate has fallen through the proverbial floor. I am much faster. I put in the long hours and long kilometres every Sunday for almost half a year. What about the DNA though? What will my body do past 32k? And will the goal of completing outweigh the urge to just go have a hot shower.

Rationally I expect to finish. Emotionally it’s a little tougher. I’ve had bad long runs before. I know what they feel like. And I remember in those moments you start to wonder what ever possessed you to put yourself through so much pain. Do balance that I have had great runs. I finished the Bluenose half marathon with energy to spare. I’ve tried to reproduce everything I did in that training cycle. Shortly after that I did the Johnny Miles half marathon. That one didn’t go so well. I’ve tried to avoid the mistakes I made there.

Do I have the right marriage of ability and willingness? Hopefully I can answer at the finish line. But please don’t ask me at the 37 km marker. I’ll be busy fighting the dragons of pain and doubt.

Passing Through the Running Event Horizon

I’ve been watching a lot of science stuff lately on Netflix. I’ve become enthralled with black holes. The idea of mass so concentrated its gravity can consume anything that gets close to it, and crush it into something infinitesimally small. Not just matter, but light. Science isn’t really sure what is in the centre of a black hole. It can’t be observed. Light can’t escape its gravity. Nom nom nom, hmmmmm light.

I’ve watched a few documentaries where they explain what they believe would happen if you got sucked into a black hole. Of the many fascinating facts that swirl around black holes is the concept of the event horizon. That point where there is no turning back. This is the point at which nothing can escape. Prior to this point things can theoretically turn around and escape. But once you reach this point it’s game over. You’re going to experience spaghettification and just end up squished with all that other mass. And this is where even scientists will engage in speculation and fantasy. Is there another universe in there? A worm hole to another dimension? Or just some unbelievable amount of mass squished into something the size of a pinhead.

I think when it comes to running my first marathon I’ve passed the event horizon. That period in my training where there is no turning back. I’m in free fall. No longer able to escape. Hurling toward a great unknown. This body has never been beyond 32k. And it’s frightening. Last post I was talking about walking a tightrope between excitement and fear. Well I’ve fallen off and am clearly headed toward fear. Oddly afraid I can’t stop, even though I started this process. I ran toward this voluntarily. Not just voluntarily, but with enthusiasm. Yet lately when someone or something reminds me it’s only x days away I feel the anxiety hit. It’s not overwhelming. But it is unpleasant. And it’s not needed and it must be addressed. If I have passed the event horizon I want to be excited. I want to celebrate the final moments up until the gun goes off at the start line. I want to enjoy this. That’s one of the reasons I write this blog. Focus, focus, focus. Concentrate.

A fair amount of relief came at our clinic talk tonight. The speaker was Stacy Chestnut. She was an incredible inspiration. She has run over 40 marathons. She is a Boston qualifier and a bona fide Ironman competitor. But it wasn’t her impressive running resume. It was her spirit. Her passion. And she hit all the right notes with perfection. She impressed upon me the importance of just finishing. Being proud of just finishing. No one is going to care or remember your time. They are going to remember you ran a marathon. Genius in its simplicity. She talked about staying positive. And then she reiterated staying positive. Suffice to say her talk had a very positive effect.

I left the clinic calm. Relaxed. Grounded. Ready to be excited again. Confident. Looking forward to the final journey to the start line. It would be futile to try and stop light from passing the event horizon, and would be futile to stop me from making it to the start line at PEI.

The Beginning of the Beginning

Something happens to me in the last month of training. It starts to get real. The first couple of months are a study in process. It’s about doing the same things consistently day after day. The race is far off. The only thing I can do in the present is focus on the day to day process. Keep to the schedule. Be patient, keep on pace. Eat properly. Sleep properly.

The kilometres rack up. Distances get longer. Runs take close to four hours. You run when you feel energized, you run when it’s the last thing you want to do. But you do it.

Then after hill training it starts. The excitement, the terror. It’s going to happen, you’re excited. You can fail, it’s terrifying. What if I have a cold? What if I eat something that makes me sick? What if my calf cramps up and I can’t finish. But it’s not just the fear of race day. What if training goes bad in the last month? Early in the training you might feel a tight hamstring. Meh, it will get better. Just relax. When it happens now I start to panic. Is this mild pain going to turn into a full blown injury? I become acutely aware of every ache and pain. I landed with a little twist. Felt it in the knee. Should I stop? Will it swell? And sniffles. Is it allergies? Is it the beginning of a three week cold? Can I miss that many runs?

And then there’s the excitement. There’s only a handful of long Sunday runs. I look at the schedule and I get a short burst of adrenalin. It’s coming. It’s real. I’m beginning to see the start line. I’m furiously planning. Nothing can go wrong. I imagine crossing the finish line. I replay the moment over and over. Visualize, it will happen. I well up with emotion. I’ve been imagining this moment all my life. Once it was just the dream and fantasy of a young man. Now it’s there. It’s close. It’s becoming real.

It’s still time to focus. The process still has to be followed. It’s Saturday night. My hydration belt is laid out on the kitchen table. My food is packed. The bottles are in the fridge. My gear is laid out beside the bed. I look and double check, from top to socks and sneekers. Super is done. I’ve eaten the same thing I eat every Saturday night before the long run. Breakfast is laid out. The all natural Peanut Butter is there. Beside the knife and a loaf of whole wheat bread. The banana is close by. I will eat exactly one hour before the run. It’s 29k. I’m not too nervous. I’ve done it before. One time it almost killed me. I still respect the distance. But I feel ready. One foot after another and three and a half hours later it will be done. Another day in the process. Another day closer to the start line.

The terror and the excitement.

Slaying the Bad Run Dragon

After 15 months there is still one aspect of running I struggle with. That is the enigma of the bad run. Or more correctly the inexplicable bad run. Some runs are bad because you make them bad. Going out too fast and the tanking, one of my personal favourites on race day. Running too soon after an injury. Not taking a break between races. Just a few great ways to turn what should be an enjoyable run into a torturous affair that seems to go on for ever and ever. And if you really want to have a bad day run and run and run without ever resting. It catches up. It hurts.

But what’s soul sucking, heartbreaking and totally demoralizing is the unexpected run from hell. They exhaust you, hurt you and rob you of all confidence. After a horrible run if you listen hard enough you can hear the run dragon from hell laugh as it rides off into the wind carrying the last bit of your confidence and dignity.

I don’t remember having any one particular bad run like this. I usually can find a cause and effect relationship. But sometimes the reasons remain subtle. Hidden. You never find a reason. You just have to accept that some days you are just going to have a bad run. And August 23rd I had on of these.

The run from hell.

As hard as I try I can’t think of why this run was so miserable and painful. I panicked. Was this a sign it was a sign to go back to 10ks and halfs? Looking back that was panicking. At the time the fear was real. Was 29k the bridge too far? The end of the dream? In retrospect it seems dramatic. At the time it was real.

I crawled back on the proverbial horse and overcame the 29k dragon. These bad runs to have a good person. They humble you. They remind you to respect these distances. It’s important to me to finish this and post it. A reminder not to get cocky. A reminder to keep training. The more you train the less likely the dragons will catch you. And the most important reminder? You will have bad runs. Get over it, and get on with it.

There is a Reason Cliches Become Cliches

When I think of my early days of walking two cliches come to mind. First, “The Journey of a thousand miles Begins With a single step”. The second one “No pain no gain”.

After my humiliation with the blood pressure machine I decided my best way back to health was walking. Up to this point in my life I had little use for running. A long time ago I would get my cardio exercise in the gym by running on a treadmill. And that was all the running I wanted to do. To me people that ran were strange and could not be trusted. Walking it would be. My journey of a single step started on the 16th March at 1:08 P.M. I walked 8.63k. It took 2:03:19 to do.
Early in my journey my goals were simply to lose weight, get my blood pressure down and start to feel good again. The confidence and relaxation fitness brings were just distant memories to me at this point in my life.

I’m not crazy about the pain no gain idea. I think people make the mistake of thinking if they aren’t in pain they’re not doing right. In a lot of circumstances the opposite is true. I think though some pain is unavoidable in the beginning. And boy oh boy did I feel pain. My first introduction to pain was when I discovered shin splints. Apparently even when walking you shouldn’t increase distances by more than 10% a week. You should also be in proper foot wear. My Doc Martens although long lasting and comfortable weren’t made for rigorous 10k walks. My solution? Keep going. I figured the pain would get better or worse. If it didn’t get better I could go to the doctor later. I wasn’t going to undo early gains over a little excruciating pain.

On my longer walks I would stop at the Sunnyside Mall. I usually visited the running room and try to get some free pointers on walking. One of the kind runners suggested I try some better footwear. So I agreed and got some fancy, shmancy running shoes. My shin splints got worse. I had to stop sometimes on the hills. The pain was unbearable. I blamed the new sneakers. And I vocalized my disappointment at the sadist who took joy in seeing me in excruciating pain. The reality was my doubling or tripling distances was likely the reason. Don’t worry, I did go back and apologize for my snarkiness. We’re good now. And eventually proper footwear would become a fact of life for me.

Eventually the pain stopped. I wouldn’t recommend the ‘keep going’ method with shin splints. I did it because that’s what I needed to do at the time. I couldn’t stop. Failure was not an option.

Another health related problem struck me in mid April. This one was very unexpected and to this day strikes me as bizarre. I was merrily walking down one of my favorite hills. This was a 10 k walk. One that felt routine by now. But something bad happened. I felt like someone hit me in the back of the head with a bat. Except I didn’t feel the pain, just the jarring sensation you get when your noggin gets a good whack. My breathing immediately went shallow and I felt like I was going to pass out. Then as quickly as it came, it went. I just stood there. What should I do? Call an ambulance? Walk home and risk, well risk what? I thought maybe I was just not breathing properly and may have hyperventilated. Yeah that’s it. Relieved I started walking again. A little slower and breathing a little more intentional.

Then four k from home it happened again. Worse this time. But when it was gone I felt fine. No pain, no numbness, all senses doing what they’re supposed to do. Guess I had been pushing too hard. Once I got home and relaxed I would be O.K.

I went to Starbucks after I got home. Sat in one of those big comfy leather chairs. Things felt good. Relaxed from a hot shower, something good to read. Nothing left to do but relax. And then whack. Felt like I was going to fall out of the chair. And if I was going to pass out I didn’t want to do it in a crowd. That’s stupid, but you would think it too.

O.K resting on the coach would fix everything. Nope. Whack, whack. This was getting annoying. But what to do? I didn’t want to wait two weeks to see the doctor. I felt too healthy to go the emergency department. Then again walking around feeling this sensation could be serious. So reluctantly I went.

They poked they prodded. Blood work, ECG, chest X-ray. Then I waited in the room. I had it all worked out in my mind how this would go down. A solemn looking doctor would come in from behind the curtain. He would look at his clipboard. He would flip through page after page of results. Just to make sure, before he had to give me the talk. He would take a deep sigh and put the clipboard down on one of those funny shaped bedside table. He would clear his throat and in his best doctor voice ask if I ever of transient ischemia attacks? I would pretend I hadn’t. The truth was different. You see before heading over I Google diagnosed myself.

It didn’t pan out that way. I young chipper doctor instead came in. He had no clipboard and didn’t look terribly concerned. He said there didn’t appear to be anything major wrong according to my tests. He then asked if I ever heard of panic attacks. I tried to correct him. I said don’t you mean transient ischemia attacks? He just dismissed my Google diagnoses and just barely suppressed a chuckle.

I said of course I have heard of panic attacks. Those are the things hysterical women have on airplanes in B movies. I really didn’t say that. I did remember learning about them when I was a medic so I was relieved. I confirmed with him that they were benign. He said yes. He mentioned something about follow up, blah, blah. Nope. Hopped of the stretcher and left much relieved. As I was walking across the parking lot, whack, whack. Whatever, you can’t hurt me.

I had a lot more that day. A few the next day. Occasionally weeks after that. And rarely months after that. And none anymore. I was curious as to why. My Google doctor said they really don’t know why. They do find that sometimes when we are going through a lot of change even the most normal people can have them. And so ends that problem and mystery.

By the end of April I had walked 257 kms or a 160 miles. I had also made some dieting changes. I had shed close to 15 lbs. My blood pressure was still spiking late afternoons. Which apparently blood pressure does. By golly it was falling. I’m talking 110/66 range. My goals had been achieved relatively quickly.

I didn’t want to enter maintenance mode. I wanted to get fitter. I was loving walking. I wanted to go longer distances. I was up to 16 kms. How much farther could I go? I started May with these questions in mind.

It was about this time a dream that had been sleeping for decades started to stir. When I was young I remember watching a marathon on T.V. How young? I’m pretty sure it was in black and white. There were only three stations on the T.V. And you got those stations through rabbit ears, not a cable. So yeah, it was a while ago. I didn’t intend to watch the marathon. I came across it serendipitously. Just turning the channel changing knob when my dad said stop there. It was near the end of a marathon. Olympic I believe. What left an impression was the enthusiasm and drama of the color commentator. I think the term he enthusiastically screamed was “Man’s ultimate challenge, the biggest test of will and strength”. I remember the runners. Their seriousness, their determination. My dad mentioned something about 26 miles. I had no idea how long that was. But I understood there was something special about this event. What I remember vividly is the finish line. By this time the colour commentator was full on frantic. The winner raised his arms. The camera zoomed in. Although it was so long ago I’ll never forget that look of triumph in the winner’s face. I don’t remember if this was the moment I said I will run a marathon some day. I do remember growing up in awe of the marathon. I remember watching them on TV whenever I could. I grew up fantasizing about throwing my arms up in victory after completing a marathon.

And then something happened. I joined the military. The military would throw many physical challenges at me. And I would complete them. But one thing became clear. I could do pushups until the cows come home. But run? Nope. My first time in basic training running the mile and a half was an eye opener. I was almost last. And I almost failed. We would run it again at the end of training. I improved dramatically. But I was still in the bottom third. I realized I was built more for power than speed and endurance. The ideas of running a marathon became a fantasy not a goal. And then it just became something I used to dream about when I was a kid.

Despite this I started to play with the idea of walking a marathon. You could walk them right? Yes. And then came May and nice weather. I realized if I was walking four and five hours every Saturday and Sunday this would cut into my motorcycle riding severely. As lousy a runner I was I would save time on my weekends. And from previous attempts at running I knew I could never, ever run a marathon. So back to sleep went the marathon dream.

My first attempt at running was an unqualified disaster. I could only manage about three kms. This after so much walking. I walked home. Sat on the sofa feeling dejected and sulked the rest of the day away. Pain without any apparent gain. A journey that had started so strong came to a halting screech.