The case of the missing marathon

Remember a while ago when I mentioned it was marathon season?

Well, it seems my marathon went missing.

Where'd you go marathon

I looked all over London for it… from Tower Bridge to the Battersea Power Station, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.

tower bridge to battersea

I looked around the British Museum and the Tate Modern but, nope, no marathon there.

I walked through Canary Wharf, through Soho, up to The Mall, around Buckingham Palace and, still, no marathon.

buckingham palace

Somewhere around Richmond, I saw some runners. “Hey, maybe they know where the marathon’s gone”, I thought.

I followed them into Richmond Park, but they soon disappeared over the horizon. I stopped to look at a herd of deer.

“Do you know where the marathon went?” I asked.

They just blinked back at me and turned away.

richmond park deer are jerks

I left Richmond Park and entered Wimbledon Common, thinking maybe I’d find my marathon there, but it was still nowhere to be found.

Fully exhausted, I did what any thinking person would do. I went to the pub to have a pint.

pints and pubs

In case you haven’t already noticed, I missed a run in London thanks to my recent foot injury.

At my last physio appointment before flying out, I asked my physiotherapist to level with me.

“So,” I asked, “what do you think? Can I run London?”

“Well, you could, but you won’t walk for at least a week after.”

physio enabler

Fully enabled, I tried smuggling my running shoes in my suitcase.

Unfortunately, I got caught by the no-fun-police (aka my husband).

“What are those?” he asked.

“Umm, just shoes,” I replied, quickly zipping up my suitcase.

“Which shoes?”

“Sensible walking shoes for people with busted feet.”

“They’re running shoes, aren’t they?”

shoe fight

He unzipped my suitcase, and removed my running shoes. “No running, Fleck. You don’t want to injure yourself any more. Don’t you want to run your other races this year?”

“Bu… but… but, London…”

He handed me my shoes, and put a hand on my shoulder. “If you run, and you get hurt, you’re going to ruin your vacation. What will you do if you can’t walk? Do you want to spend your holiday sitting in our friend’s flat nursing a busted foot?”

I snuffled and put the shoes back in the closet. “No.”

lies

I spent most of our flight telling myself it was okay to miss the run. I reminded myself that I had other races lined up this summer, that I could run London another year, that I’d still have fun on our vacation even if I didn’t run.

None of it was helping my mood.

everything sucks

On what would have been run day, we woke up to a rare sunny London morning. Our friend’s flat was flooded in light.

boys suck

“So, what do you guys want to do today, then?” Our friend asked.

“Run,” I growled.

My husband shook his head and snickered. “It’s a nice day. Let’s walk about the city and see where we end up.”

And so we did.

walking can be fun

We walked the length and breadth of Central London, through 2 parks, past castles, in and out of museums and shops and, of course, a few pubs along the way. We walked for so long that before we knew it, the day was done and we were sitting in a pub in Wimbledon.

“What a marathon that was,” our friend said.

wimbledon pub

When we got home, my friend’s words still rang in my mind, so I went to the computer, and retraced our steps around the city. To my shock, we’d actually walked a marathon.

walkathon proof

Case of the missing marathon closed, I laced up my shoes and went for a quick 5K around the neighborhood.

Afterwards, I poured myself a pint of ale, put my feet up, and celebrated my many marathons to come.

I love your face

Happy National Running Day, everyone.

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Smarties, the universe, a vending machine, and a Fleck

Not so long ago, training season began.

As many of you know, marathon training is fantastic horrible. Suddenly, your hobby becomes an obligation. You start rationing your food and drink in terms of “how many miles do I have tomorrow?” and any social life you had is reduced to “I can see you between naps on Sunday. And you have to come to me, because I’m not leaving the house for anything.”

Just about the only thing I like about marathon training is that it’s one of the rare times in life when you’re actually encouraged to increase your caloric intake by 500 calories a day. Now, they say this extra 500 calories should be in the form of “good gains”, but that’s just not my style.

drink all the juice

Like many places of employment, we have vending machines at my office. Most treats and drinks are only $0.50. Pig Lion that I am, I try really hard to avoid the junk food while I’m at work because, let’s be honest, daytime is the only time I eat a healthy-ish diet. Often, while my co-workers chow down on their afternoon snacks I sit furiously chewing gum in my cubicle, because I know that once I’m home my face will find itself buried in a bowl of ice cream.

spoons are overrated

This year, I decided that my caloric increase would be had in the form of afternoon snacks from the vending machine at work.

“Is it that time?” I asked my cubicle-neighbor on a Friday afternoon, week 1 of training nearly complete.

“Yep, let’s go,” he replied. We locked our desktops and headed happily to the vending machines.

My mouth watered and my eyes lit up when I saw the third row from the top.

Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Kit-Kat, Big Turk (gross), and the moneymaker – SMARTIES!

smrtahhhs

I gleefully inserted my 2 quarters and watched, in rapt attention, as my box of Smarties uncoiled itself from the metal snakey-arm-thing. I held my breath as the metal snakey-arm thing hesitated, and then released the Smarties box from its grip.

My eyes followed the graceful arc of the Smarties box as it fell 3 rows and landed…

… and landed…

… and landed…

no.

Not landed.

My box of colorful chocolatey candy-coated delight wedged itself on the bottom row of the vending machine, between the label for the dried fruit snacks (that no one ever eats) and the bottom of their metal snakey-arm thing.

I looked at my colleague.

He looked at me.

Flabbergasted, neither of us spoke for at least 10 seconds before I, professional that I am, burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

fat vending machine

Ever the gentleman, my colleague tried shaking the vending machine.

The Smarties box wedged itself deeper in the slot yet, somehow, it also protruded outward, nearly touching the glass, at a most impossible angle. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous.

It was at this point that I lost my legs and fell into an obnoxious puddle of laughing-tears on the floor.

irony

“I don’t think anyone’s having Smarties today,” he shrugged, and then did what anyone in his position would do – he took pictures.

View 1

View 1

View 2

View 2

“It’s okay,” I said, “clearly, the universe is telling me not to eat the Smarties.”

Empty handed, I went back to my desk, popped a piece of gum and, chomping furiously away, tried to mathematically calculate how such a fail was even physically possible. I arrived, again, at the conclusion that it was the universe telling me to take those extra 500 calories a day and make them healthy ones.

But that’s just not how Fleck rolls.

So I did what anyone in my position would do.

After work, I bought a tub of Smarties ice cream.

Smarties ice cream

Take that, universe.

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The full spectrum of human emotion that was my first half marathon

Having taken the Senior Gazelle’s advice, prior to signing up for a half, I made sure I could run the distance “comfortably” (if that’s even a thing), by running it many times. By the time it was race week, I felt pretty good.

But then there were the two disasters.

One, I couldn’t sleep the night before. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I finally dozed off sometime around 4am.

And the race started at 8am.

And it was a half hour drive to the race.

Beep beep

Two, in typical Fleck style, the morning of my race was absolutely miserable. It was (barely) 5 degrees Celsius.

And it was raining.

And it was windy.
cold matthau

Typically, because I am hardcore  stupid, I run in a t-shirt when it’s 5 degrees. But, because of the cold wind and the rain that day, I put my zip-up on over my t-shirt. Remembering that my bib had to be visible at all times, I fastened it over my right side pocket so that if I had to lose the zip-up mid race, I could tie it around my waist and my bib could still be seen.

Blogger fleck

I placed myself just ahead of the first pace bunny, among some of the slow(er) gazelles. I still didn’t count myself as one of them, but my goal was to finish the race with, or just ahead of, the pace bunny.

gazelles at the start line

The first 6KMs of the race were glorious. I managed to keep up to the gazelles, and the rain and wind died down. But, thanks to the clouds, the air remained cool.

keeping up

At the 7KM mark, it all fell apart.

First, the sun came out.

die in a fire rain

Naturally, I decided to lose my zip-up, so I tied it around my waist. And all was good.

For a short while.

I’m not used to running with anything around my waist and, thanks to the pressure of the zip-up, at 8KM I got the worst cramp I’ve ever had.

ow

I untied my zip-up, thinking I’d just hold onto it in my fist until the cramp subsided.

It was then I discovered my fail.

When I fastened my bib to my zip-up, I somehow fastened one safety pin through both the zip-up and my t-shirt. This meant I couldn’t remove my zip-up from my waist without stopping. Which, lion that I am, just wasn’t happening.

So, unnaturally, I continued to run with my zip-up awkwardly bundled in my right hand, while my left was raised precariously above my head in an effort to kill the cramp.

ow with hoodie

It was then I saw her.

It was one of the gazelles from the start of the race.

And she was limping.

limpy

As I approached, my first instinct was to trip her pass her. But, the closer I got, the more I realized she was truly in trouble. Another gazelle I’d been drafting gently touched her shoulder in support as he passed. This nearly stopped her entirely, and I knew I had to do something to help.

“Would you like to pace with me?” I asked, slowing down.

“Oh, thank you so much,” she replied. “It’s my knee… I didn’t train properly for this and it’s acting up if I go too fast.”

We started to jog together. I was secretly grateful, because it was at a slower pace than I’d been enduring, and it was helping my cramp.

running with the gazelle

We ran together for the next 8KMs, both hobble-jogging, when she stopped.

“I can’t anymore,” she said. “It’s completely given out. You go ahead. I’ll catch up.”

“Ok,” I replied, and went on my way, refreshed from the slow jog and the conversation.

lovely

At 18KMs, she caught up, and we paced together again. By now, the sun was beating down on us and, thanks to the fatigue of a sleepless night and the race, my legs were screaming.

“I need to just finish this,” she said to me suddenly, and she sped up.

I looked over at her, and studied her face.

She’d gone lion.

“You go ahead. My legs are heavy and I need to be careful,” I said, fully resigned to the fact that at any moment that stupid pace bunny would pass me.

Near tears, I watched as she broke away from me.

never let go

As it turned out, the pace bunny didn’t catch up to me. And, as I passed the 21KM mark, I heard a volunteer yell:

“You’re still in the Elite Class! Go for it!”

That gave me the kick in the pants I needed.

Going lion, I took off at a sprint.

no marathon matthaus

At the finish line, two faces greeted me.

The first was my husband who’d waited, first in the cold rain, and then in the hot sun, to see me cross the line.

The second was the wounded gazelle.

She ran up to me and threw her arms around my neck. “I never would have got through that race were it not for you. Thank you so, SO much!”

My eyes filled with happy tears.

“Likewise,” I replied. “Likewise.”

awesome

After taking my medal, I went to find the Gatorade and pizza (a race tradition). It was around this time that I saw the first pace bunny cross the line.

“Maybe I’m not a lion after all,” I thought to myself, as I stuffed my face.

Maybe I’m a killer rabbit instead.

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Advice from a rare breed

Eventually, when 10KM runs became tolerable, I decided I wanted to enter the world of distance running.

I started researching training programs and diets. My browsing history was an endless list of articles like “How To Run Your Best Marathon”, “Eat to Complete” and “The Best Shoes for Over-Pronators”. To be frank, it overwhelmed me.

overwhelmed fleck

One weekend, while visiting my in-laws, my husband mentioned that his parents’ neighbor, now a senior, used to run marathons and triathlons. In fact, now in his 80s, he still cycled for 2 hours every day on his stationary bike.

My husband suggested I talk to him about training.

My mother-in-law kindly invited him and his wife for dinner so I could. This made me happy, not only because I could pick a gazelle’s brain, but because company meant my mother-in-law would make pancit and spring rolls.

filipino food

He was a quiet man, unassuming and gentle, who looked more like 55 than 82. Towards the end of dinner, we finally got to chat about running.

“So, how many races have you ran?” I asked expectantly.

“Oh, dozens, but I didn’t really keep track. You see, I didn’t decide to become a runner until the kids were grown up. I was probably in my late 40s. One day, I just put on my shoes and thought I’d see how far I could go. And each day, I went a little further, until I was able to run a marathon. I enjoyed it, so I just kept running them.”

40 start

“You didn’t compete or anything?”

“Oh, no. I was never interested in that. Tell me, what distance are you wanting to try?”

“I’d like to run a half marathon this year,” I replied.

“Oh yes, the Half is probably the most pleasant of all the distance races. It’s long enough to be a challenge for elite runners, but not so long that first timers struggle to finish.”

I gulped.

My biggest fear was signing up for something I couldn’t accomplish, so I asked him if he’d ever failed to finish a race.

“Of course! I remember once running the Ottawa Marathon in a terrible cold rain. My heart just wasn’t in it. At the 30KM mark, I called it quits. It’s important to listen to your body. Sure, it can play tricks on you, but it will also scream, loud and clear, when it’s done fighting. That day, mine was done. And that was okay, because I knew there’d be another race, or another day when I’d finish the distance on my own.”

bad days can be good

“So, I’ve been researching diet and training regimens for the half marathon. But I really don’t know if I can stick to a weeks-long program. What kind of training program do you recommend?” I asked.

He grinned. “There’s so much information out there, it’s overwhelming, isn’t it?”

I nodded, dewy-eyed.

“But running isn’t hard, really. It’s just one foot in front of another until you need to stop. Just try to run the distance on your own and see how you do. You’ll know when you’re ready.”

It was so simple.

Just get out there and try.

Why hadn’t the Internet told me THAT?!

mind blown

By then, dinner was over and I got up to help clean. During dessert, he leaned over to me.

“You know,” he whispered, “us runners… we’re a rare breed.”

I smiled.

“No,” I thought, as I looked at his kind face.

“You’re the rare breed.”

rare breed

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