To non-running, non-cold-weather people, the idea of running a half marathon in Edmonton’s winter conditions perhaps sounds like punishment. But the Hypothermic Half Marathon, which is held annually in February, is one of my favourite races.
I’m not alone in loving it. It typically sells out even though two separate race dates are offered, and even though both include two start times to accommodate hundreds of eager runners, like me.
To ensure a spot, I again registered early this year and was pumped about running my seventh annual Hypo Half in early February. My training included embracing minus 30* Celsius temperatures in mid-January for a pre-race gear-testing run. I even ran the first 5 kilometres into a strong headwind to ensure my gear was adequate (it was) before returning home after 17+ kilometres.
It was a fun, memorable run but in the days that followed, I was troubled by a tight left hamstring and a sore right foot. Both seemed minor however and I was confident that by reducing my pre-race mileage somewhat earlier than planned and by seeking some early physiotherapy, I would be race-ready before February 7th. No problem, I told myself.
But with less than a week before my race, my injuries were getting worse. So when the race director sent out an email asking people to consider selling their race bib to someone on the waiting list if they knew they wouldn’t be able to run, I contacted him.
Instead of selling my bib though, I learned that I had another option. I could switch my race date to the second race two weeks later–more than enough time, I was sure, to finish addressing those pesky injuries.
I stepped up my rehab efforts but my injuries persisted. I finally had a frank talk with my physiotherapist who said he’d support whatever decision I made while also cautioning me that if I race on February 21st, I would potentially set my injuries back three or four weeks–which would take me pretty much back to where I started.
While still on the physio “slab” that day, I made the tough decision to pull out of the race. Runners never make such a decision lightly, but I was feeling beaten-up and I didn’t want to jeopardize other upcoming running goals.
Filled with self-pity, I emailed the race director and asked him to give my bib to someone else. I also confirmed that no, I didn’t want any payment for it. I just hoped it would go to someone who would enjoy the event as much as I have for the past six years.
At this point, I was up to my neck in “woeful”…
…but “wonderful” soon kicked in when I got this email from the person who received my bib:
You don’t know me or my team, but I’m hoping you can call me at 780-XXX-XXXX so I can explain. You have made my athlete’s day let alone world! It is unfortunate that you couldn’t make it, but you have affected my athlete who has CP in a way that can’t be measured. We really wanna thank you and let you know how important this is to us. Hope to hear from you soon.
I rang him up and learned that Morrie is a member of KwadSquad, which is a team of runners that pushes physically-disabled individuals in specially-designed chariots over various running courses.
Our phone conversation also gave me the opportunity to tell Morrie that he was wrong about something: I do in fact know him–sort of.
We ran together for a short stretch at the Rotary Run For Life–the suicide awareness and prevention fundraiser that I ran in September. In my subsequent blog post (“Run And Write For Life,” September 2015), I described the unknown KwadSquad member as a “kick-ass runner” and an “angel” given his running prowess and his commitment to offering such a memorable experience to an individual who would otherwise miss out.
I was incredibly inspired by the KwadSquad then, and am even more inspired now upon learning about Morrie’s background. At one time, he was seriously injured and wasn’t expected to live. He not only survived his injury–which makes mine feel unutterably puny by comparison–but his commitment to the KwadSquad and to its wheelchair athletes represents his way of giving back.
So after feeling sorry for myself for 24 hours, I’m done.
I’m not gonna lie–I’d still love to be racing on Sunday. But I couldn’t be happier that the race team of Morrie and Raminder, his athlete-partner with cerebral palsy, will be enjoying the gorgeous Hypo Half course in my place.
Let’s just say that my perspective has been restored. Morrie’s kind words warm my heart–something that can’t be measured in my world either.
Special thanks to:
Justin Ng, Race Director of the Edmonton Hypothermic Half Marathon, for finding the substitute running team of my dreams;
Miles Morgan, Physiotherapist/wielder of many IMS needles who “gets” people like me who need to run;
Morrie and Raminder of the KwadSquad, who inspire me while carrying a piece of my heart in their race-day chariot. SO. MUCH. RESPECT.