I can safely sum up my year with just 4 words…
What. The. Eternal. F***.
Last year at this time, I had my upcoming year all planned out as far as races and running go. But alas, the universe had other ideas; it’s interesting that while it’s great to plan ahead, sometimes we forget to be prepared for all the unexpected twists and turns that WILL happen…
That was 2015 for me.
My over-all goal was to (FINALLY) run my first marathon without the costume. The long term goal is to run the Boston Marathon and with this in mind, I’ve realized running in a cape and cowl won’t get me closer to my qualifying time. So, the time has come to shape up and get real.
Race #1 – Harry’s Spring Run Off. Dominated. Best 8k I’ve ever run, and that was because I dressed up as ‘Bruce Wayne’ (Bruce Wayne…get it?). Never thought I’d run in a shirt and tie and have fun doing it. A beautiful, cool and sunny day where I finally finished up High Park’s famous hills and finished strong. We’re off to a good start, 2015.
Next up, the Toronto Yonge Street 10K with my team, The Justice League Runners! First off, we doubled in new member from the 2014 squad because so many new running friends wanted to help our charity of choice, the SickKids Foundation, and that half the team was made up of female super heroes. I’m very proud that there was a larger presence this year. I believe in inspiring the younger generation, so the bonus of having more girl power contribute to the JLR helps drive the message home. Supergirl, Batwoman, Batgirl, Lady Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Robin – from the bottom of my hear, thank you so much.
On that note, there is one thing that can be said about the power of a superhero’s logo – it can mean so much to someone at any given moment. A simple wave hello, a high five, stopping for a photo, words of encouragement – these are small yet simple gestures that can brighten ANYONE’s day, be it a spectator or runner. Any of these actions don’t require a cape – they can happen anytime. Our world needs more of that more than ever.
As much as it was a blast to promote TYS10K, my time was just stretched too far to allow me to be mentally ready for a spring marathon, so I had to bow out of Mississauga. Ask any runner – the real marathon starts after the 30k mark, where you need your brain working for you. I was just mentally spent. But looking back, I would not trade it for anything – the JLR created something magical for SickKids, and that meant more to me than anything. I was okay with not running a spring marathon; I will get that chance to earn my spot in Boston very soon.
A few more appearances as The Dark Knight Runner would follow after at some smaller races in Ontario, one of them being my favourite 5k, the Kidsability Superhero 5k in Guelph (if you ever want to see the cutest kids dressed as superheroes, DO THIS RACE!). These races would be key to balancing things; just have fun what you love doing.
Speaking of balance – remember when I talked about twists and turns and planning for them? Well, a reminder was on the horizon…
By August, my mileage for the year hit around 1500k, and I felt I needed to step it up. All this running going on, and I’m already working 60 hour work weeks (insane). One fine Saturday morning, I joined my pals Green Lantern and Superman for what was suppose to be a pretty easy-going 34-36k training run. We started out near Taylor Creek Park by Main Station. Things were going really well for the first 3-4k; cracking jokes, laughing it up, running. Nothing could go wrong.
Then I decided to BELIEVE I was Batman…
We approached a rock that is only a foot and a half high. I think to myself, “Oh, I so got this – I’m Batman!” I jumped and the first mistake occurs – the take off. I didn’t leverage myself to get good enough height to even pass over 10 inches high; that resulted in colliding with the rock, attempting to land on my left foot but rolling and landing on it hard on the outside of it with my full weight of 210lbs coming right down right behind it. Oddly enough, it didn’t hurt right away, but man I sure felt it.
I opted to continue running, despite my friends objections. However, I paid a price for that (really, what was I thinking going an extra 4-5k?). I couldn’t go anymore but was able to get to the subway to head home and still try to go to work. I felt brave enough to be able to handle work tasks, so that’s why I still went. Another decision I am questioning to this day.
(NOTE: I have to take time right now to say thank you to my friends Mike & Steve for sticking with me. I felt like I wasted their time and day, but they were only concerned with my well-being. Much appreciated, lads.)
Pain – nothing but pain, and I still tried to tough it out. However, my coworkers convinced me to go to the hospital, and after checking into the ER, waiting to take an X-Ray and for the results, I got news that was really scary – a hairline crack of the bone just below the ankle, out 6-8 weeks. F***.
However, right from the start I was determined not to let this sidetrack me. As soon as I got the news, my mind shifted to “What do I need to do to get back?” I made a promise – to my family & friends, to my teammates on the JLR and just as important, to the SickKids Foundation. I didn’t want to fall trap to the thinking of “why me?” I soon realized that, as bad of a spot I was in, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. I knew I would be back very soon. I would return to run STWM – there was no option.
One work colleague said that perhaps I was willing myself to heal, and I believe that to be true. The mind is a powerful tool in all aspects of your life; it can derail you, if you let it. But it is also your most powerful ally; this is so true: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Six weeks after getting hurt, then being in a cast, then an air boot for support plus a prescription of swimming and bicycling to help improve strength and motion, I was back on my feet running again. I just refused to be stopped.
Finally, race day October 18. And what a day it would be…
To sum it up – magical and inspiring. The start line stands out – our long walk to the back of the pack. The smiles, the whispers, the high fives – yeah, the Justice League Runners sure know how to make an entrance!
Now, we split the team into two – one team would tackle the half distance, while four poor souls (myself, Superman, Green Lantern and Thor) would do the full 42.2k. As a team, we did our absolute best to keep the crowd and runners smiling and engaged as we headed out of the starting line (You can bet that there has never been a group of folks dressed as superheroes singing “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers in a race – guaranteed!). We wanted the mood to be a fun one; we even became an impromptu cheer station by the CNE along Lakeshore Blvd (and that’s thanks to me. Hey JLR, the guy in the Port-A-Potty took forever, what did you want me to do? Hehehe…).
As we made the split at the halfway point, my foot was holding up just fine. In fact, aside from a little light soreness (which was to be expected), there was nothing bothering me. Thor, Superman, Green Lantern and I were just moving along, taking some walk breaks as need but over-all, enjoying the experience.
At around the 24K mark, while taking a walk break, we came upon “Super Insane Running Human Being” JP Bedard. Now, if you’re not familiar with what JP was doing that day, he was running the marathon to support survivors of sexual abuse. But not simply running it once – he was running it…THREE…TIMES. Yes, that’s 126.6k. In one day. At one race…
And you thought yours truly was insane running in a rubber Bat cowl, right?
JP was joined by a mutual friend of ours, Athena, who herself is a survivor of sexual assault. I truly admire her – she was returning from running not long after what happened to her while on a training run. It angered me to know that something such as this happened to a close friend of mine, but seeing her at the race, overcoming it, with JP truly gave me the vision of what it means to be brave, courageous and stronger than the evil in this world.
Sometimes, running a race isn’t just about the time you’re trying to aim for; sometimes it’s about coming back from what you once thought you couldn’t. It doesn’t hurt to have company that helps you out in the process. While on the course the six of us certainly entertained each other with jokes and stories, nothing that can be repeated here but I was certainly it all.
Being able to cross the finish line with not only my super friends but with Athena and JP is truly the single greatest moment in my running career. I will never forget JP telling Athena that he would not cross the finish line without her hand in his, raised in victory. Witnessing that moment while living it is etched in my memory; I saw two people look at horror in the eye and tell it “You will never keep me down – you will never beat me.” I’ve never seen that before in my whole life. I’m still inspired by the photo finish we shared.
So, that was 2015 for me. A lot of realizing that you really have to have balance and be truly prepared for the unexpected, but rediscovering & finding inspiration. In the weeks since STWM, I have actually allowed myself to step back and take a breath. I did this because in the past I would carry on with hard training and not want to lose what I worked so hard to gain. However, now I’ve realized that I will never allow myself to stop running; I will be in better tune with my mind and body to strike the balance that I need in order to continue to grow mentally and physically.
I will come back reinvigorated and ready for the next challenge – continuing to help others who can’t help themselves. I won’t stop being The Dark Knight Runner, and if I could help everyone I would. For now, I’ll just keep doing my part to help as much as I can, along with my team – one race at a time.