Saturday, June 13, 2015

Running lessons: You never know how strong you are until strong is your only choice

My long run two weeks ago didn't go well - I suppose because it was warm, humid day and I was still tired from Cabot Trail Relay the weekend before. I intended to run to Lahave 15 kms away to meet Husband for brunch at the Lahave Bakery but only managed a little over 9 kms before calling for a pickup.

My goal last Saturday was the same - LaHave Bakery - but I hoped to get there via a longer route through town and down the east side of the river. According to Google maps, it's 20.5 kms from our house to the LaHave Ferry dock at East Lahave. My plan was to run to the dock, arriving in time to catch the 11:45 ferry to LaHave, where I'd meet Husband for brunch at the bakery. What could go wrong?

As I headed out the door, I was optimistic the run would go well. It was raining steadily but it was warm enough to be comfortable and my legs felt strong. I set a moderate pace and focused on enjoying the scenery. 

For the first 16 or 17 kms, everything did go well. I was a worried Google may have underestimated the distance so didn't dawdle to take pictures the way I usually do. In any case, with all the rain there was little chance of capturing the improbable shades of green I saw at every turn.

At the 18 km mark, my plans fell apart. I'd seen a sign indicating there was a detour ahead but assumed I'd be able to pick my way around or over whatever was blocking traffic.  I was wrong.

Short of swimming to the other side, there was no way I was going to make it to the ferry terminal so I called husband and asked him to pick me up. I told him I'd turn around and run back towards him, figuring I could run another 2 or 3 kilometres before he reached me. Brunch would be a tad later but, on the upside, we could stop at the house on the way and I could grab a shower.

Thirty-five minutes later, there was still no sign of him so I called him on his cell phone.

"Where are you?" My voice was tinged with panic. Having already run more than 22 kms, I was tired and the rain felt colder and harder than when I set out.

"I have no idea", he replied. My heart sank. Husband has many gifts but a well-developed sense of direction isn't one of them.

A few questions and answers later, I realized he's missed the turnoff and was 15 km down river from where I stood, on the far side of the detour. Tersely, I explained where he could find me, then carried on running in an effort to stay warm while he found his way back to me.

Needless to say, I was relieved when our car finally came into sight. My Garmin read 25.68kms and my clothes were so wet I stripped off a layer before climbing into the passenger seat. Husband was distraught at having let me down - though, in truth, he shouldn't have been. I'd not given him proper directions, it was pouring rain, and there was no sign marking the turnoff so it was an easy mistake to make.

By the time we reached home, my legs were aching and I was ravenous, so we skipped brunch at the bakery and cooked up a late breakfast of eggs, ham, toast and baked beans instead. As tired and sore as I was for a couple of days afterwards, I was pleased to realize that I was stronger and fitter than I thought I was.

I hadn't run longer than 20 kms in a couple of years and, at some level, I suppose I was worried my marathon training days were behind me. But, when it was forced to, my body rose to the occasion, performing well and maintaining a relatively even pace even as I tired.

Thinking about the run this past week, I was reminded of a Bob Marley quotation, "You never know how strong you are until strong is your only choice." The fact is we don't know how strong we are or how much pain we can bear until we've no choice but try. This past year, Husband and I have borne more grief in a short time period than we ever expected to. It wasn't easy but we've come through stronger and more appreciative of all we have. We also learned a lot about what's most important and who's really there for us when the going gets tough.

The lesson's important too in terms of reminding me that I sometimes need to try things - even when I'm not sure I can do them. Like many women, I too often let a confidence gap prevent me from "putting up my hand" in circumstances when a man with similar training and skills wouldn't hesitate. My own experience is that few men doubt their ability to tackle new challenges, while far too many skilled, talented and successful women suffer from "impostor syndrome". The truth is we're usually capable of much more than we realize, and we'll never know what we're capable of unless we try.

Tomorrow, my friend Nancy is running a marathon in Liverpool, England. Three years ago, I'm sure she'd have said she could never run 10k, let alone 42.2. Now, not only is she doing it but, over the past few years, she's raised tens of thousands of dollars in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada and mentored dozens more to do the same. I know she'll do great tomorrow but, whatever happens during the race, I hope she'll take pride in and celebrate everything she's achieved getting there.

That's the magic of running. It surprises and inspires us by showing us we're how much we're capable of achieving, how much we can overcome, and how much pride we can and should take in our accomplishments.

Happy running and writing friends. And good luck tomorrow, Nancy! I'll be thinking of ya!


  1. That would be a really pretty run! Bummer about the bridge. And missing breakfast. Men are sometimes jerks about pushing forward to try something new, especially if there is the potential of a reward out of it. Many men see it as a competition, and can get quite fierce about it, often inappropriately so. But many women are inappropriately UN-fierce about it. They would rather get along than to be seen being too aggressive about claiming what might well be their just due. How's that go, he speaks up, she's mouthy. He is firm, she is unreasonable. He has candid opinions, she is a bitch. Sigh.

    1. It was a pretty run, Keith. I'm hoping they'll have the road back together in time for me to fun a 36km loop down the east side of the river and back on the west side.

      You're right about women being a little too inclined to "get along" rather than compete. One of the most irritating things is male bosses with female sidekicks who do all the real work - a phenomenon I've witnessed far too often. :-(

  2. Those moments where we are able to stretch ourselves a bit farther than expected are precious. You should be proud of yourself! And also, good on ya for choosing a bakery as a meeting point. :)