Why I Do it

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Last Sunday I ran my third Parkinson’s SuperWalk 10km.  My running buddy did it with me and my husband, bless his heart, did the 5km walk with our nine year old daughters.  Guess who had more fun?

My day started at 6:00 am when I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my running clothes and crept out of the house.  I had volunteer to help with set up for the event and I needed to be at 2nd Beach in Stanley Park by 7:00.  Having never really been a morning person I was astounded at how many other people were on the roads at that God forsaken hour.  Had they volunteered too?  It was the only reason I could think of that anybody would be awake and out of bed at that time.

When I arrived a small crowd was huddled around a coffee urn at the event site waiting for instructions from the event coordinator.  Once she showed up things stared happening quickly.  If you have ever volunteered or worked on an event you will know that the start is typically organized chaos.  Instruction is given quickly and if you don’t get it the first time around you need to find somebody else who looks confused and ask them.  I’m not saying they will know what to do, but at least you will have company in your confusion.

One of the first announcement was that we were waiting on the park ranger.  The night before a beaver had chewed through a tree and it had fallen over the walk route.  There were some rumblings about finding said beaver and making a nice hat but it was quickly shut down and everybody went back to work.  Only in Canada.

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At 10:00 the walk/run began.  My shift of volunteering was over and we headed out into the route.  About 2km in we fell into pace with a nice man named Jim.  Jim’s wife Peggy has Parkinson’s and they both do what they can to volunteer and get involved.  The three of us spent the next hour running and chatting about running.  Good runs to try, how to train properly, what to eat.  You know, boring stuff that runners think is cool and the rest of the world could care less about. Oh, did I mention that at 18 degrees and sunny it was the penultimate running weather.

As we closed in on the finish line I thought, once again, about my mom.  How she struggles with daily activities because of Parkinson’s Disease.  Her life irreversibly changed.  She would have loved to be out on the seawall on a day like today.

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That’s why I participate in this event every year.  To remember that I am fit and able and to bring awareness to the disease that cripples so many.  The Best Thing in Life is that participation and donations were both up this year.

33 Hours in a Van

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It’s 7:30 am and twelve moms are arriving in two vans at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. The plan is to race with 500 other teams on a 200 mile course from Blaine to Whidbey Island, Washington. Each team member will run three legs over the course of about 33 hours. Some legs are easy and some are hard. Some will be run in the heat of the day and others in the dead of night. We are all excited and nervous at the same time. Am I ready? Can I do this? Too late now. The announcer is calling our team. We line up to see our first runner go. Five, four, three, two, one…..race!

Lisa starts us off with a 10 km leg while van two heads back to the hotel. They won’t start running until 1:45 this afternoon. They may get a bit more sleep but I don’t imagine waiting around for five hours does anything for the nerves. At least we, van one, are off and running; literally. The temperature isn’t bad for the first two or three legs but by the time I run at 11:40am the sun is full on and it’s hot in Ferndale. As I start my 10 km run through the small town, I can’t see any other runners and no vans have passed me for a while. I start to panic and my heart rate goes up. What if I missed my turn. I don’t see any signs. Crap. Finally a van passes me with writing all over the windows. Okay, I’m going the right way. Head down keep running. Where the hell is that “one mile to go” sign? Once I’m done there’s one more runner and we are done our first legs. Time to eat and rest.

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After a much needed meal at the Train Wreck pub in Burlington (how appropriate) we get out our sleeping bags and find some shade at the high school designated for our exchange with the other van. All over the schools lawn teams are sleeping, fueling or just chilling. Team spirit is alive and well in these events. Some go all out with costumes and themes. We see two team members dressed as sumo wrestlers preparing to meet their runner. The “butt girls” as we have named them, are all running with plastics bare butts around their waists. These runs are hard enough as it is, why make it harder? Another team is dressed as the cast of Star Wars. Storm Trooper and all. We are Team Reruns Eh. We proudly represent Canada in our red and white maple leaf t-shirts with some embellishments provided by Sharon. We can easily identifiy Emily by her sparkly tutu. We wonder how van 2 is doing? It’s hot and they have some serious elevation to run.

At about 6:30pm our second legs start. It will be dark soon so we all make sure we have our night gear. Reflective vest, butt flasher and head lamp. My second leg starts at about 9:30pm. It’s pitch black as I ran up the hill and around the corner in a light rain. I hear bull frogs croaking in the ditches and imagine some backwoods crazy jumping out and pulling me into the woods. It weird what goes through your head when you’re running alone in the dark. All the runners I had seen during the previous leg have suddenly disappeared. Did I smell that bad? Slowly they start coming up behind me. One at a time they pass me. Good job. Good job. They each say as they motor past me. I was probably at about 13km and I needed to walk for a bit and stretch my calves. A guy comes up behind me and says “Don’t stop.” Under my breath I say “Asshole.” Two seconds later another guy passes me and says “You’re doing great. Keep it up”. As he catches up to the asshole who has just passed me he chastises him for being negative. My faith in runners is re-established.

So we are done with our second legs and it’s time to get some rest. We drive to Oak Harbour and find some space in the gym to lay out our sleeping bags. It’s 1:15am. Within minutes we were all asleep. Okay, maybe not everybody as Donna made the unfortunate choice to lay down beside somebody who snored; loudly. In what seemed like about 10 minutes it’s time to get up. it’s 4:30 am.  At this point the only thing keeping us going is the fact that we know this will be our last leg. When this one is done we were finished. It’s cool and threatening to rain. The last runner for van 2 is coming in. They have had a brutal night. Three of their head lamps died, Leanna had to give another team her flashlight as their headlamp died too and didn’t have a back up and Rosa tripped and gashed her knee. They are still smiling though.

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At this point you can tell that runners are tired. Stiff legs and lack of sleep is catching up with everybody. My final 8km leg is along a beautiful shady road with views of the water. I could have just stopped and headed down to the beach. No, really I could have, that’s how tired I was. Somehow, though, we all manage to cut a few minutes off our projected times and arrive in Coupeville ahead of schedule. Chris, van 2’s first runner, is fueled with a good breakfast and ready to go. They have gotten some rest and are also looking forward to their last legs. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have accomplished so much in really, a very short time. As Jen said on Saturday night when it was all over, it’s a leap of faith to get into a van with 5 women who you may or may not even know and push yourself to do things you probably have never done.

At about 3:45 pm as we all run across the finish line together I think to myself, The Best Thing in Life is spending 33 hours in a van, finishing a race with 11 other crazy women and having memories and friendships that will last forever. It is a leap of faith that I will most likely take again…..but not for a couple of years.

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