It seems that I have taken on a new activity. It began as a test of my fitness with my first race, the 2019 Vancouver Sun Run in April, which is a 10 km race with 41K+ participants this year, I believe. I had never run 10 km, not as a youth nor with my dogs. The maximum I would run with my dogs at any point was 8.5 km, but even then reduced that to 5 km to keep us all running and walking more often. It seemed more rest and days off were required for our older bodies if we ran too far. But from the way I train on a regular basis I believed I had the strength and endurance to run for an hour, which is what I thought it would take, given my experience with running my dogs.
AS the date of the race approached I was struggling with my allergies to grass and cherry tree pollen. Due to my excess mast cell activation I was struggling to breathe at times as a result. Rather than withdraw; however, I sought out a mask that was designed for running and that would both filter the air while allowing me to breathe sufficiently. I was fortunate to find an excellent mask from an excellent company, the Respro Ultralight; with a hepa filter and valves built specifically for running, which I ran with once prior to the race. And it worked well and made the run possible!
In addition to the pollen in the air, I knew body heat from running could become a major issue for me. I react to excess body heat with excess histamine release and mast cells dumping chemicals to call on my immune system, causing a host of issues including inflammation, which for the 10 km distance could become a major problem for me. Fortunately the weather was on the colder side (In fact I started in hail and cold rain) which enabled me to keep sufficiently cool throughout the race to keep running for 10 km.
So when I set out to run the Sun Run I figured I would run to the 5 km mark as I always did with my dogs. Fortunately it was a good cool day and I felt pretty good when I got there. The plan after was to just run another 5 km, 1 km at a time and setting a target of each 1 km marker along the route. That strategy played out very well for me and I ran the first 5 km in just under 30 minutes and the second 5 km took just under 31 minutes . Very close times and a fairly even pace over the entire run. I finished the race in 60:53, which was an excellent time for my first go at racing and running 10 km!
To follow that up my friend Karin in Calgary, who had recently take up running and was being coached by her daughter Lynsey (and who placed 1st in the 2019 Scotiabank Calgary Half Marathon), suggested I run the 5 km race at the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon on May 26th. For a while I considered running the 10 km race as it started early in the morning, but never having raced that early in the day created a whole st of challenges I was not ready to face so I decided to risk a warm race day and noon start to the 5 km race. A few weeks before the race I committed to running the 5k and registered.
I had learned a lot from my first race, including to start as far forward as I could since I spent a lot of energy in the 10 km Sun Run running around people. The whole race I ran sideways to get around people, sometimes in groups even holding hands as we crossed the Cambie Street bridge in the last kilometer heading to the finish line. Just before I started the race I realized I should be at the front of the group I was starting in, but I should have been starting a few groups forward as I ran around so many people.
For the Calgary race I started up near the front and had a goal of 26 minutes based on the shorter distance, more actual training prior to the race and the fact that I would not be spending so much energy running sideways. I Was a little concerned about the higher altitude, but I didn’t let that dictate my strategy at all. The race went very well; I had a good start; ran strong throughout the race. I did not have as much energy to push faster as soon as I had hoped approaching the finish line. The race was mostly flat with the exception of an underpass in the first and last kilometer of the race.
That was quite the draining experience and the dry air and growing grass actually caused substantial swelling in my throat, which made sucking in enough air difficult and created a challenge to swallow. I couldn’t swallow for a short while even and looking back probably should have been wearing my mask and carrying my own emergency supplies, my epipen specifically. But as I approached the finish line I Was able to push harder for the last few hundred meters and was completely drained when I stepped on the finish line.
But on the good side, I began to recover almost immediately and felt really good shortly after finishing. I felt great after the race knowing I had run as hard as I could and was completely happy and a bit surprised by my results. My running time was 26:13, official time 26:19 (from the starting horn); I had met my goal time!
And to my surprise I finished 3rd in my class out of 37 men 55-59 years of age; 104th overall out of 2022 participants. And that is how the addiction begins. The result was pleasant surprise. The outright effort to put everything into it was the actual addiction. Pushing as hard as I could for the entire distance and leaving everything I had on the course was very rewarding and a great test of my strength, which is my ultimate goal.
I have never run for the sake of running and I don’t think I compete for the sake of running, but I do like how hard it is and how hard I have to push myself. I love the challenge of putting everything into it for 26 continuous minutes of effort. 5 km is an excellent distance for me it seems. I don’t know if I will run longer distances, although I do plan to run the 2020 Vancouver Sun Run and set a new personal best in that race. And I will let the future decide which challenges I use to test my strength and endurance.
I do know that race led to the next 5 km race at the Sotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon and 5k this past weekend. I immediately jumped at the suggestion to run the race with a charity team; running for Cassie and Friends; a Foundation for children with Juvenile Arthritis and other Rheumatic Diseases. Once again pushing myself to the limit! And that I did once again.
But I’ll save that story for my next post!