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Monday, 15 August 2016

Riding a Marathon

In 1997 I moved from my home in Newfoundland to Nova Scotia to start a career at Air Nova. Prior to that I had been flying my arse off at Air Labrador, putting in 1000hrs a year. It doesn't sound like much, but that is a lot of work. I never had a lot of time for regular exercise so I quickly ballooned to a hefty 215lbs. To lose the weight I started running, first it was around the little lake by my place in Dartmouth. It was a struggle and it hurt, but soon I was able to shuffle through a 5k.

I did a 5k running race, which then led to a 10k, then a half marathon, which led to me adding some swimming and biking to the mix. A triathlon was completed, and that pushed me to an Ironman, a couple of marathons, and ultimately an ultra marathon. Never once did I volunteer to help out a race.

This past weekend I combined my love of all things two-wheeled with my like of running. Running and I have a love hate relationship so I'll just call it a like.

The annual Marathon-By-The -Sea was this past Sunday, which saw 1800 runners compete in the 10k, half and full marathons through a very tough, hilly course in the Port City. A friend of mine, Rod Paul, is one of the co-directors of the race, and I asked him if he needed some help. Finally I was going to give back to the running community.

Rod decided to put the Ruckus and I into action as the lead out rider for the marathon. Basically it's like Smokey and the Bandit. I was Bandit, minus the Trans Am, cool moustache and cowboy hat, making sure the course was clear for the lead runner, whom we will call Snowman, minus the tractor trailer load of Coors.

The Ruckus and I had carte blanche to ride all over the course. It was awesome. I was riding on the wrong side of the road, sidewalks, the Harbour Passage walking trail, the Harbour Bridge, the trails in Rockwood Park, and was stopping traffic. It was all to ensure that the race leaders could go as hard as they could, safely and without interference. The roads were not closed, so we had to deal with Sunday morning traffic, which thankfully was light.

It was a perfect day for a marathon, cool, overcast with drizzle and some showers. So needless to say I was dressed in full rain gear.

I lead out all the runners for the first part of the race, along with the lead out riders for the 10k and half. They were on bicycles. The course went up Water Street then onto the Harbour Passage walkway, which winds it's way past the Hilton, and Long Wharf. By the time we hit the open road on Chesley Drive a pack of 7-10 runners had broken away from the main field. The 10km turn was just after crossing the Reversing Falls Bridge which is where some the faster runners turned off.  Part way up Maniwagonish Road was the turn for the half. At this point there was 5 or 6 runners directly behind me, and I figured they were all half marathoners at the pace they were running. I rode up just past the turn around cone and stopped, figuring I'd have to wait a little bit for the first marathoner.

All of them hit the turn around, but one. He looked at me, waved his finger in a keep going motion, and said "I'm in the marathon" Shit this guy was fast. So, fast there wasn't another runner in sight.

I took off and for the next two hours it was basically the two of us. The only point on the course where you can see your competition is at the turn around in Lorneville, and this guy had a huge lead. It was pretty impressive to witness. They guy was running between 15-20kph.

The marathon course is brutal, it's a lot of hills, with some trail running mixed in. There's a section of the Spruce Lake Trail, which was pretty soft gravel, and then more trail in Rockwood Park, plus some tight turns on a narrow sidewalk before the Harbour Bridge. It's not a fast open road course like Boston or New York. Having to slow down to negotiate corners, then accelerate again repeatedly is exhausting.

 Spruce Lake Trail

Once we hit Rockwood Park, we started to catch up to the slower half marathoners. At this point in the race it's hard to see if another runner is catching you. Which was the case. As we hit the open road again I noticed another guy starting to catch the leader.

The leader of the marathon and I had been together for over two hours, and we had only spoken twice to each other, once at the half turnaround and once in Rockwood Park. I had to slightly veer off course to avoid a curb, and he asked me if he was to follow the trail. That's it.

He was in the zone and I didn't want to bother him with chit chat.

However I thought as we got closer to the finish line, I was going to pull alongside him, ask him his name, and congratulate him on a fine performance. Once he crossed the finish line I figured I wouldn't get the chance.

The second place runner was going to ruin my chance of that. With less than a kilometre to go, it's turning into a sprint finish, and I'm right alongside witnessing it. This was so cool. I felt bad at the same time. Here was this poor bastard who led the race for 41km, and could possibly lose within sight of the finish line.

The battle for first

As a volunteer, you have to be neutral in your support of the runners, but I couldn't at this point. I turned around and looked him in the face and yelled "dig deep!" Not that he wasn't already. I have no idea where he found the energy but he surged and held off the last minute charge from the second place runner and crossed the finish line first, FOUR seconds ahead of the next runner. Four seconds separated two runners after 42.2km. Nuts! 2:42 was the winning time.

Turns out the winner was Ryan O'Shay, a New Brunswick boy from New Maryland, and I did get to congratulate him, and shake his hand. He told me he was toast at the 28km mark, and a sprint finish wasn't the way he wanted to finish the race.

The Ruckus turned out to be perfect for the marathon, the big tires enabled me to easily negotiate the trail sections, pop over curbs, race down sidewalks, and it was quite comfortable after three hours in the saddle.

This is where the scooter is far superior to the motorcycle. It would have been exhausting riding a motorcycle at those slow speeds for so long.

I had a lot of fun, was inspired by all the runners, and cannot wait to do it again next year. I might even be inspired enough to do a half marathon next year. Might be.......or maybe I'll just stick to my 7K trail run.

What's next?? The Guzzi maybe going on the selling block, and what replaces it will remain a mystery. Another adventure is in the works, and it maybe of even grander proportions than the Labrador one.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!!!! What an amazing story! I'm crying!! What a beautiful moment to share with a complete stranger! Great job to both of you.