The half-marathon was, in many ways, not what I was expecting. Knowing that the route had changed, and that we’d be winding our way through Chinatown and Hintonburg and Westboro before heading north to Quebec and then back to Ontario and around the Canal…well, I confess to having imagined a leisurely 21km/13 mile walk, with perhaps a coffee or a glass of wine on a patio, and maybe a light lunch at Fil’s Diner. I even imagined free massages in the recovery area.
But that’s not how the day unraveled.
We got up early and went for a power breakfast at Tutti Frutti: Oatmeal with bananas and strawberries, and rye toast. We got one of the good waitresses, not the maniacal Australian, so that was nice. (I swear, one of these days that Australian waitress is going to lose the last shred of her sanity, and there will probably be semi-automatic weaponry involved.)
Anyway. While we waited for our oatmeal, we attached our timing chips to our shoelaces, and our bibs to our t-shirts. Then we ate, and headed home to catch the #14 bus downtown.
We went to the Red Corral, which is at the back of the line. It’s where the Half-Marathon walkers start from.
The race began promptly at 9:00, and we passed the Start Line at approximately 9:08. I was a little alarmed by our pace right from the get-go. We were going too fast. I almost had to jog to keep up with GC. It’s a classic beginner’s mistake to get high on the energy at the Start Line, and burn yourself out in the first few kilometers.
I suggested to GC that we pace ourselves, slow down, take it easy. But he was having none of it. He was pumped.
“Let’s make some good headway while we’ve still got lots of energy!” he said enthusiastically, as he sped down Laurier avenue on his super-long, energetic legs, while my stumpy little legs struggled to keep up.
Before we even hit the 1km mark, we saw our first runner down. He was flat on his back, with someone giving CPR. Heart attack.
Actually, we didn’t see any more runners down. It was a cool enough day, and it rained pretty much the whole time, so there was little danger of heat stroke.
But we did get soaked. Right through all our clothes, underwear, shoes and socks.
I was wearing a knapsack filled with things that would make for a lovely stroll through Ottawa: iPhone with fresh podcasts, peppermint lifesavers, fruit, extra socks, jacket, camera, that kind of thing. GC was packing gum, fruit, bandaids, kleenex, paper towels.
Knapsacks get heavier in the rain. And we never did use any of that stuff, except the gum and bananas. Next year I’m not bringing a knapsack. Or a jacket.
Here’s the thing. Shortly after we started walking, we saw the 3.5 hour pace bunny. (The pace bunny, for those of you unfamiliar with marathons, is someone with bunny ears and a sign, and he or she keeps a certain pace throughout the race. If you stick with the 3.5 hour pace bunny, you’ll finish in 3.5 hours.)
The specter of the bunny inspired us to try to keep up. That meant walking 6km an hour. I normally walk 5km an hour. I really didn’t see how we could keep up 6km an hour for three and a half hours, since I already felt I was practically running, but I agreed to try. Maybe we could do it for awhile and then slow down to a more sustainable speed.
The amazing thing was, we did keep up even though we were going so much faster and further than we’re used to. But it wasn’t easy.
Our hypochondria first flared up at about the 7km mark, and continued for the rest of the race. My hips hurt, my lower back was sore, GC’s little toe hurt, he hallucinated that his fingers were all swollen up like big fat purple sausages, my legs were red, my throat hurt, his blood sugars were low, my butt ached, he had a headache.
At about the 10km mark, GC had to pee. I tried to encourage him not to, but he had his heart set on it. When he emerged from the porta-potty, the pace bunny was way up on the horizon. We had to run to catch up with him again.
After that we tried to keep ahead of the Pace Bunny, but the Bunny kept gaining on us again. He was like something out of a horror movie: indefatigable, inexorable, always right behind us.
Finally, finally, the Finish Line was in site. We motored across, just ahead of the Pace Bunny. Yay. A volunteer handed us each a light metallic cloak, so we wouldn’t get chilled, and another volunteer put a medal around our necks. We headed into the Recovery Area, where I thought we’d get a free massage, but no. Just boxes of oranges, bagels, yogurt and granola bars. And Porta-Potties.
GC went for another pee. When he came out he was readjusting his metallic cloak when he happened to look down and see a blood stain on the front of his khaki shorts.
“Is that blood?” he asked, aghast. “Is my penis bleeding?”
I had to admit it sure looked like his penis was bleeding.
He wrapped his metallic cloak around his waist so no-one would see the blood stain.
“Go back in the porta-potty and check it out,” I suggested.
“No,” he said, “It’s really gross in there.”
“Would you like to stop by the First Aid tent and have them take a look?” I asked.
“NO,” he said emphatically, “I’ll check it out myself when we get home.”
Our muscles started seizing up, and I suddenly sprung blisters on the balls of both feet.
We hobbled out to Elgin Street and waited for the #14.
“I’m cold,” I whined.
“If my penis was chafing,” he said, “It would probably hurt.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “Does it hurt?”
“No,” he said. “I can’t actually feel anything below my waist.”
On the bus he grew silent, and I drifted into my own imagination, which included a nice hot bath and a glass of wine. “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we get home?” I asked dreamily.
“I’m going to look at my penis,” he said.
And that’s what he did. We walked into the house to a cacaphony of animals thrilled to see us – birds shouted out greetings, Logan wagged his tail, Duncan rubbed up around our ankles. GC excused himself and hurried upstairs.
A minute later he shouted from upstairs, “I figured it out!”
“What?” I yelled back.
“I had cherry cough drops in my front pocket!” he said. “They got wet and leaked red!”
We were both really happy that his penis hadn’t fallen off.