The Lady Who Carried Me Along to the Finish Line


It was in the wee night-time hours of March 1st.  With sleep eluding me, I had flipped through the 100 plus channels on the hotel television for about the umpteenth time, only to return back to the same station again, and again and again….The Weather Channel.  Perhaps the forecast has changed in the past 20 minutes.  I check my layering system laid out on the other bed, walk to the window, and open the blinds a crack too see what the weather is doing in real time.  Then I would lay back down in bed, but my mind was not shutting down, as I was thinking, “I am SOOOOOO NOT READY FOR THIS”.

Race day gear laid on the hotel room bed.

Race day gear laid on the hotel room bed.

I had registered for the Chilly Half Marathon 4 months ago, mostly as a training run for Hamilton’s 30k Round the Bay race held on March 29th.  But a lot can happen in 4 months.  For the most part, I took the first two months off running, to give my sprained ankle time for a compete healing following my full marathon last fall.  My goal was to begin training again in earnest, once 2015 came around.  But shortly into the New Year, I got a gum infection that spread into the jawbone.  The problem was that with the exertion of running, or any cardio workout, it seemed to push the infection deeper into the body.  Antibiotics did clear it up, only to have it return worse than ever 2 weeks later.  This time antibiotics did not work.  Into my 4th course of antibiotics while maxing out my pain killers, I had become a lethargic, depressed, tired and grumpy old fellow.  Finally 4 days before my half marathon, my dentist eventfully pulled my tooth, a bottom back molar.  What a difference, but with only 4 shorter lacklustre runs completed in the past 8 weeks, this half marathon was going too be a HUGE challenge.

Shivering in the starting corral.

Shivering in the starting corral.

Coming off of the coldest February since 1934, race day temperatures were in our favour, a start time temperature of a more seasonal -8C, with a dampish cold breeze blowing off of the still open waters of Lake Ontario.  Though shivering in the starting corral, it does not take long to warm up, once the race began.  Even though I was not physically prepared, my goal was simply to complete it , nothing more.  I picked a pace that I was comfortable with,  one that I figured would carry me the distance, with a time I would be happy with.

At around 5k’s, I had a pleasant surprise.  A lady came up beside me and started talking with me. I was very happy, because in times past, races flew by when I had someone running with me and talking with me.  She was very fast, and I had to pick up my tempo big time, just to keep pace with her.  Time did fly, and at the half way mark, the thought hit me, if I kept this pace to the finish, it will easily be a Personal Best.  I was ecstatic.  Very soon however, my lack of training was catching up with me.  I was fading, and fading very fast. Desperately trying to keep up, I would lag half a stride behind, then a full stride, and I would lunge ahead to catch up.  I could only do this a few times, and at the 14k had to say, “Please, go on ahead”.  I am glad she did not hesitate.  As I pulled back, she was quickly gone and out of sight, as she weaved her way around the other runners.  This lady was a 1st time Half Marathoner.  She had SO much focus and determination. I knew she was going to finish very, very strong.

Meeting between 6and 7 kilometres from finish

Meeting between 6 and 7 kilometres from finish

As for me, this 9k very fast run from 5k to 14k had taken a toll.  I was COMPLETELY out of gas.  This was the feeling a runner should have at the END of a race, not with 7 k’s to go.  Somehow I knew if I started walking, I would be finished, so mentally I kept pushing forward.  While mechanically pushing ahead with each stride, in the corner of my eye, I noticed a runner a half a stride back. Thinking the runner wanted by, I moved over a bit, but the runner did not.  She kept pacing with me.  I looked over and asked, “How are you managing?”.  She replied with a discouraged voice, “These next 6 kilometers are going to be so hard”.  Knowing she was probably going through EXACTLY what I was going through, I slipped back to pace with her.  We barely talked, but there was no awkwardness at all with our silence. Every stride we were silently receiving strength from each other.  The most we did talk in a stretch was maybe about 3 or 4 sentences.  I asked if this was her first half marathon.  She smiled, and laughed and said she has done numerous ones, including a full marathon last year.

Less than a kilometer to go

Less than a kilometer to go

 

Ironically, her 1st ever half marathon, was the Chilly Half, done 10 years ago, in 2005. Each stride was one stride closer to the finish, 5k’s, 4k’s, 3k’s, 2k’s, 1k.  Rounding that final bend the lady told me to go on. I said, “No way, we’re crossing that finish line together”.  And we did.  After crossing that finish line, we high fived and then spontaneously embraced.    What a wonderful feeling to be able to finish. Looking at the final results, my new running friend and I crossed the finish line with a clock time exactly the same. (2:05:45.1).

Crossing finish line together, after carrying each the distance.

About to cross the finish line together at 2:05:45.1, after carrying each other the distance.  My chip time was 2:04:14.

 

 

Life is a lot like running.  Sometimes we do make mistakes and have to pay the price.  And if we look around hard enough, we will notice people struggling to make it through a bad day, or a bad situation.  Our support can make all the difference whether that person will make it or not to the finish.  And who knows, maybe some day, WE COULD end up in that situation ourselves.

With these races, there is always lessons learned.  I know now I should have paced myself a lot better than I did.  But looking back as well, how these 2 complete strangers running and struggling in the same race found each other, then supported and carried each other to the finish line.  It just really blows me away, and gives me Goosebumps!  Always so amazing how things work out.  Thank you my new running friend!   And thank you everyone for reading.   🙂

~Carl~

Categories: RunningTags: , ,

66 comments

  1. Carl,
    And thanks for sharing your beautiful story with us. Very wise and truthful words to start the weekend with enlightened words.
    I’m amazed about this chilly marathon. Running is already hard and with low temps makes it even harder. Congratulations on your mental and physical endurance.
    I wish you a lovely and peaceful weekend, Carl.
    Best
    Lucile

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Lucile for reading and your kind comment. I think, the trickiest part with cold winter running is knowing what to wear…..not too much so that you are excessively sweating, and not too little, so you get chilled and risk hypothermia.
      Thanks again for stopping by. May you have a wonderful weekend yourself my friend! 🙂
      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  2. CARL!!! You went through all of that suffering, with little-to-no training, in the bitter cold… and you finished with a time of 2:04?!?!?! That is absolutely astounding. You should be proud of that finish time.

    Also love the fact that you paced with the other runners. And the part about watching The Weather Network on repeat made me laugh. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww, thanks Fleck. Yes, I AM very happy with my finishing time. Had no idea what to expect. My goal was just to finish, so to avoid any pressures of “times”, I did not even have a watch with me. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I found out my time at the end. 🙂

      I love running alone, but I also love pacing with other runners, and the camaraderie that comes with it!

      Thanks for reading and your wonderful comment! 🙂

      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful analogy to life, my friend…I hope you are doing well. Not much longer to go before the weather breaks. Hang in there. Lovely post and as always very inspiring and true to who you are in your love for others.
    I am so sorry though that in your elderly condition you were not able to run faster… maybe with more training 😉 Hahaaaaa!!
    Much love and good thoughts always,
    CC

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s wonderful- I just love it when runners can really connect and are there for each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! Great running! You and your complete stranger running partners!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Natalie. Not sure if it is a “Canadian thing”, but every race I have run, part of it has been alongside a complete stranger for at least a kilometer. This last one much more, 15 out of the 21 kilometers was with a partner, which was SO cool.
      Thank you for stopping in.
      Have a great weekend my friend. 🙂
      ~Carl~

      Like

  6. Carl, I don’t know why your story brought tears to my eyes, but it did. I love how you tied running to life and we need help and encouragement along the way. This is also true in windsurfing–the constant encouragement from other sailors. Windsurfing is not a competition, there is no racing, etc. Everyone sails at their own pace and level. I think we, as athletes, can be brutal on ourselves to measure up to standards we create. Congrats on your run!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love your comment Terri…THANK YOU! In a city nearby, there is a lake, where in the summer when the wind picks up, the windsurfers will congregate on the water. As part of my commute, I will often bicycle around that bay and watch them. At 1st glance the sport looks really solitary, but then a windsurfer will tip over, and 2 or 3 others will go over to see if they are okay, and/or if they need assistance. Always very touching to witness this.

      And I TOTALLY agree with you. The standards that we create for ourselves can be brutal, and take the fun out of why we participate in the sports we do.

      Thank you for reading, and for your wonderful comment. 🙂

      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful and touching. The best I have is finally bringing my voice to life with a song I wrote. I was born deaf and this was the ultimate to me. Your story is beautiful and I enjoyed every word. I’ll be following from now on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michelle, this truly is a wonderful start to my day to read this message. I am touched by your comment, honoured by your following, and filled with awe and inspiration of what you have been overcoming and accomplishing through music. This really is AMAZING! THANK YOU! 🙂

      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love hearing about your running experience! I just ran my first 5K this weekend and am training for my first half in May. Can’t wait to hear more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Amanda. 🙂

      Loved that you shared about your running. Thank you so much.

      Congratulations on your 5k. Always such a neat feeling to have that accomplishment. And wow, that is exciting that you are training for your 1st half. It is a tremendous experience! All the best! 🙂

      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Carl I so enjoyed this post. Your time, by my standards, was very good! I did my first and last marathon just over a year ago. If Dave had not run with me I’m not sure I could have made it. I so get what you mean about gaining energy just by running beside someone. Congrats to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you much Sue for your wonderful comment. I did not know you were are a runner. When you mentioned your “first and last marathon,” have you stepped away from running completely, or just the long runs? I admire you for your fitness level, which enables to travel and hike like you do.
      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am registered for a 10km run at the end of May but I think after that marathon and three half marathons, all done after the age of 50, that 5-10km will be my distance. It’s funny because I still don’t feel like a runner. I spent a lot of de axes declaring I wasn’t. Turning 50 and realizing so many others who loved to run now couldn’t it got me thinking. I’m always about living with no regrets and I decided I needed to try. It wasn’t pretty, the years of training or the marathon, but it was possible. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Quite ironic Sue, have done 1 marathon and 3 half marathons myself. Hopefully, I will be as good as you, to gracefully pull back when I should and need to. I know that day is coming. I will be 57 in 3 months time, and just started to run when I was 55.
        Thank you for sharing your adage, of living with no regrets. And you do just that! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is quite the coincidence! Hopefully you will continue to run for many years ahead in a pace and distance that feels right to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. So sorry to hear about your jaw!! Glad it’s better now. What a fantastic race. You are such a friendly person, both online and in real life. I might remind myself of the lesson of this story when I’m pushing others away and trying to be alone. Life is better when shared with others. What a wonderful story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much April for reading and sharing your extremely kind comment.
      There are definitely times when I seek out solitude and being alone. I am very fortunate that my family is older, and I am more able to do that. Then there are the times of companionship and camaraderie, sharing something together with another human being, which I also love. 🙂
      I have ALWAYS regarded you as a very friendly person, and it is an honor to know you. THANK YOU! 🙂

      Like

  11. Congratulations! I can feel your excitement to finally cross the finish line after all the troubles! As a running event supporter, I can feel the excitement of every runners when they passed the finish line – and it’s a moving moment when a dream or goal is finally completed after hard training and efforts. No matter how many times you have crossed the finish lines, each moment has different story, challenge and experience. It’s great that you met someone who share the similar goal and to achieve it together!

    Wishing you the best for the 29th March for 30K run! Count me in as your virtual running supporter 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indah, I have such a HUGE appreciation for running event supporters such as yourself. Those who cheer tirelessly from the sidelines. Those who marshal and volunteer. If it were not for those supporters the events would never mount to much. THANK YOU! 🙂

      I love your comment that every finish line has it’s very own story, challenge and experience. This is SO true. Am really looking forward to the March 29th run. Thank you so much for your support both running and blogging. You work so tirelessly encouraging so many others. It does not go unnoticed. THANK YOU! 🙂

      ~Carl~

      Like

  12. Oh! Good that you finished Carl 🙂 I can understand how a 4 month break can do to stamina and strength.. unintended lessons come your way then! I have observed that running and dancing are the two activities where you can encounter extremely nice and supportive strangers who can end up being your friends for life. Good to know you had the opportunity to meet TWO of such amazing people who helped you cross the line.

    Just so you know, I ran yesterday 😀 After almost two months. Restricted myself to less than twenty minutes as the knee is not yet normal. But the high was unmatchable! All the best for March 29, friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Prajakta, I am so happy you have started back running a bit. Please do take it easy. Recovering from a knee injury can be SOO daunting. Do you use a brace at all? I do find it helps stabilize my knee when it has been strained.

      Thank you for your kind words from my last race. My supportive stranger runners really did carry me the distance. 🙂

      Like

  13. Carl,
    What an awesome story! You fought through so much to get there, and then to both be helped and help another…so inspiring! I love the way strangers come together to assist one another like this, it makes my heart happy. Congratulations on pulling through and finishing in what looks like a great time to me! Well done!
    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I loved this so much. It was just the sort of uplifting thing that I needed to hear and remember today. Thank you for sharing and for stating it so beautifully!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Love it. You described the ways we can come alongside and journey together so wonderfully, C. Hope you’re feeling better, too.

    Diana

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great post – and so much truth in how you summed things up. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  17. this is a very inspirational story !

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You are an inspiration, Carl! Maybe if I read your blog it will push me past my 5k block (you know…that, “I just do a 5k occasionally with a friend for the “fun” of it but don’t really enjoy it and I am not a runner” block). Sure wish I enjoyed running. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww, thank you for sharing this so honestly. And what an amazing friend you are, to do this for your friend, even though running is not your thing. You also have incredible grit to manage those 5 km’s when your heart would not be in it.
      If it is any encouragement, I did not enjoy running 2 years ago. But I had signed up for this half marathon, and I never was one to quit. Crossing that finish line the 1st time changed me. Don’t know how, but it did, now I am hooked. 🙂
      Thank you for reading! 🙂
      ~Carl~

      Like

  19. I absolutely adored this! I enjoyed reading every word! I’m so happy that you stopped by my blog, because it gave me a chance to find yours! I look forward to reading your other posts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Too often the race of life is treated like a competition. I found it refreshing that an actual race was an opportunity to encourage each other. We need more of that spirit outside the confines of a timed 1/2 marathon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbie, I really appreciated your comment. As a Christian runner, I want to have a good run in these timed events. But what constitutes a “good run?” We live in a world where our earthly minds can become so muddled when it comes to heavenly things. So many verses, “We are made great by becoming little” Luke 9:48 “We are exalted by being humble” Matthew 23:12 “We reign by serving” Mark 10:42-44, just to name a few. It is a constant learning process, and I too often get caught up in the stats.

      I always need to commit these timed events to God, this is His race.

      Thank you for dropping by, reading, and sharing. 🙂

      ~Carl~

      Like

  21. Very inspiring – your humility, honesty and heart. In the mental battle of running a race, the significance of participating is victory enough, but you finished well! God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Sorry about your jaw. I should know how that feels because I pulled out a teeth sometimes back…. And your story reminds me about “two is better than one” in the bible. Things get a lot easier to bear when your not alone, like drawing strength from the other.. I love this.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Beautiful! Congratulations on finishing!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Finding someone to run with always makes the distance seem less daunting. I completed my first (and only) half marathon a few years ago and I was lucky enough to have my dad run almost the whole thing with me so it didn’t seem as tiring. Congratulations on finishing! Each race is an accomplishment in itself 🙂 I hope, one day, to find the motivation to train and run another half marathon but it’s hard for me to think about months of training for only a few hours of racing, but who knows.. maybe one day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate, that is so wonderful you were able to run nearly the entire distance with your dad. How I would LOVE to run with my children, but they are just not into running….LOL. Every runner is different, but for myself, I always really enjoy having someone to run with.
      It really does take a lot of training, just for those few hours of racing. Last year I had 2 events, a half marathon and a full marathon, a LOT of training, for the 2 medals. This year thought I would run more official events, and include it as part of my training, and have more “bling” to show for all the hard work, and am really enjoying this already. It seems to help keep the motivation up (a 10k event this Saturday).
      You can do it Kate! 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading and sharing! 🙂
      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  25. What a great story. Love Love.

    And your finish time is still impressive to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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