Fragility 

I’m typing this with my left thumb while sitting in the emergency department of my local hospital. I tripped on a tree root this afternoon while running down a hill and managed to fracture my wrist. I made it 44 years without breaking any bones, so it was a good run while it lasted (ooh, that cliche is so perfect).

It’s amazing how fast one can go from feeling strong and healthy to fragile and broken. I’m grateful to live in a country where I can access medical attention so quickly and efficiently.

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Tears of Joy

Today I ran with R as she completed her first full marathon. It was rainy and cold at the beginning, but she kept to a steady pace and ran strong from beginning to end. There were a few rough patches in the middle, but she remained focused on meeting the challenge before her throughout the race. I did my best to keep her motivated and moving and it was a precious gift to share in this experience.

I was excited to see how happy she became in the final few kilometres of the race as she got closer to completing her goal. We crossed the finish line together holding hands and then separated briefly as we received our finishing medals from the volunteers. When I looked over at her again I saw that she was crying and then she hugged me tightly. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “Nothing. I’m just so happy that I actually did it after training so hard for this race.”

In addition to filling me with immense pride for R, today’s race has also left me wondering whether there is a goal in my life audacious enough that accomplishing it would elicit tears of joy. Perhaps I need some bigger dreams.

 

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Accompaniment 

I just arrived at a hotel where R and I are staying the night before her first marathon. Since I forgot my computer at home, I’m typing out today’s post on my phone (and starting to regret my decision to blog every day for a year). 

Anyway, I’m reflecting on how proud I will be tomorrow as I witness R running just over 42 kilometres. A marathon is no easy feat, so completing this race will be a significant accomplishment which required many months of preparation. 

It’s a privilege to journey with others as they take on challenges or face adversity. Whether supporting a spouse, child, family member, co-worker, neighbour, or someone needing assistance in the community, it’s a humbling and precious experience to accompany people in the midst of their victories and losses and on the paths they take to get there. 

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Smash

In Grade 9, I went on a class trip to a camp located near Thunder Bay, Ont. I have many vivid memories from this adventure, such as canoeing across a lake to see a beautiful waterfall, going on my first solo trail run in the woods, and attending a scary séance led by a strange girl who had recently transferred to our school.

On the final night of our stay, we were treated to a raging bonfire that was surrounded by a circle of old cars and trucks. I’m not sure if we were given permission to do this, but at some point in the evening many of us started jumping up and down on the cars and trucks and smashing in the windows and metal frames with large tree branches that been cut down for the fire. This night remains the wildest and most reckless experience of my life.

Now that I’m old and boring, I spend my days focused on protecting and repairing my employer’s brand and reputation. Sometimes I wish I could regain the freedom to simply smash and destroy something large and breakable with complete abandon. Perhaps I should consider changing my hobby from running to home renovation.

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Why?

I woke up early this morning so that I could run on the trails around Signal Hill before I needed to start work. Halfway through my run, I stopped my watch and sat silently on the rocks with a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, someone else woke up in Toronto with an ugly view of the world and decided to drive a van into innocent people walking on the sidewalk, killing at least nine of them and injuring many more.

Why? What is this ugliness? Does it exist in everyone (and in me)? Where does it come from? How do we remain focused on what is beautiful and good?

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Lost

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”—Robert Frost

When you’re lost in the woods, you look forward to seeing a road or a marked trail or a small cottage with an inviting light shining through its windows. What’s not comforting is coming across a large and uninviting tent in the middle of nowhere when you’ve been bushwacking off the trail for many minutes. It’s even more disconcerting when there’s a large axe propped up just outside the dark entrance to the tent. I’d be too scared to live out there in the dark, so I figured only someone scary enough not to be scared out there must be living in the tent. I ran quickly through the woods until I eventually found my way back to an actual trail. And yes, I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was chasing me.

I’m in St. John’s for work, so I’d taken the opportunity to go for a short adventure on the East Coast Trail. My plan was to take a taxi to the Cape Spear Lighthouse and then run along the trail back to the city. The trail from Cape Spear to Blackhead was easy to follow with the Atlantic Ocean just off to my right. I didn’t run too fast as I wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery and I stopped many times to take photos. I probably hiked more than I ran. It was on the next trail section from Blackhead to Fort Amherst that I ran into some navigational challenges.

When I arrived at Freshwater Bay halfway through, I didn’t realize that I needed to cross over the formation of large rocks that stretched from one side of the bay to the other. Instead, I ran up an old fire road only to find the path completely flooded out a few minutes later. Then I ran back down to the water and found another trail that turned out to be a “trail in progress.” It didn’t take long until I wasn’t on any trail at all and just scrambling through the woods in circles.

It was at this point that I got a bit worried, especially when I came upon the tent … and then came upon the tent a second time. While the first 80 minutes of my trail run had seemed perfect as I travelled close to the ocean, now that I was disoriented in the woods with evening approaching, I began to wonder whether this beautiful place would become my resting place.

Before I left Toronto I’d prepared a running backpack that contained two emergency blankets, a whistle, a flashlight and some food. But in the busyness of the weekend with my family, I’d forgotten to put the pack in my suitcase before flying this morning to St. John’s.

Thankfully I found my way back to the trail and returned safely to the city, but I could have easily broken my leg or ankle and been stuck outside by myself overnight. The crazy thing is that it’s an easy trail to navigate except for that one specific section I managed to screw up. Regardless, since I was running this route for the first time, I should have been better prepared, particularly as a husband and father. There’s no excuse not to carry some basic safety items with me when hiking or running in the woods, especially if I’m travelling by myself in an area with no cell phone reception.

What I found most interesting about this experience is how quickly I transitioned from feeling invincible to vulnerable. I suppose this is similar to other situations in my life when the paths I’m following suddenly change. Perhaps I need to pack a bigger bag?

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Absence

“Of all the springtimes of the world
This one is the ugliest.”—Paul Éluard

The weather has been horrendous today in Boston, and I’m not-so-patiently waiting at the airport with R for our flight home to Toronto. Our departure has been delayed four times already, but hopefully we’ll get on the plane before the night is over.

We’ve been away for three nights now, which doesn’t seem overly long, but we’re missing our boys. With our flight delay, we’ll miss seeing them before they go to sleep tonight, which will make four nights in a row without tucking them in. In the past, we’ve always looked forward to travelling, whether for work or pleasure, but now that we have K and B in our lives, we no longer enjoy going away for long periods without them. I’m in St. John’s next weekend, and then have more travel to Indianapolis, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Whitehorse, and R is going away to Uganda as well, so there will be more time away from them. The good news is that one of us will always be staying home with the boys during those trips, which makes things a bit easier.

While it’s hard for us to be away from K and B, I think they have a great time staying with their two sets of grandparents. It must be nice to be spoiled for the duration of a weekend.

This morning I ran the Boston marathon in heavy rain and winds. There was snow on the ground in Hopkinton where the race starts, so it was also a fairly cold morning to run. It was a hard day for most runners, whether elite or back-of-the-pack. In the male division, the eight elite Ethiopian runners all dropped out, and only two of the 11 Kenyans managed to finish. The finishing times for the top 10 male (which included Canada’s Reid Coolsaet) and female (which included Canada’s Krista Duchene in third) runners were much slower than usual, and I think most of the 30,000 runners would have posted slower finishing times than normal. Over 2,300 runners required medical attention, primarily due to hypothermia.

I had trouble staying warm during the race and also had to stop a few times to use a washroom. This seems to be a constant challenge for me while running in the rain (must be psychological). After running at race pace for about 12 km, I slowed down and just focused on maintaining a steady effort, finishing just under three hours. I’m hoping that by shifting my goals and using this race as a steady training run, I’ll be able to recover more quickly for my next race. When I finished, I became incredibly cold trying to get my gear from the pickup tents, so that was a bit scary. Thankfully I wasn’t one of the many runners who required medical assistance. R was spectating for a few hours in the rain, so she was also soaked and chilled to the bone. Marathon running (and spectating) is a stupid hobby.

Tomorrow morning we will see our boys and also Shadow, our puppy.

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