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I Signed Up For My First Marathon, And Now I Am Scared Shitless

I’m scared shitless. Given the timing, you may actually think I am talking about the upcoming Death Race (10 days, not that I’m counting). But I’m not.

All things considered, I think being scared shitless is actually not a bad place to be. As compared to… say, content. [shudders] Some yoga teacher, I am.

Let me take you back about five weeks or so.

May 5, 2013. Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon. Yonge Street, the main artery of our beautiful city, is closed to cars, and will see thousands of feet meet the pavement instead.

I am teaching my regular Sunday morning yoga classes, and make sure to leave the house extra early, expecting other road closures. I do not face any delays, and twenty minutes later spot a steady stream of runners, making their way down Yonge Street. I suddenly tear up. The Boston events unfolded only three short weeks ago.

With over an hour before my first yoga class, I am so impatient to park and head over to watch the runners, I actually jog to the intersection.

I pick a sunny corner, and lean against a railing, scanning faces of people running by. It’s a sea of colors, with a frequent splash of blue and yellow, “We run with Boston”. A little hug every time.

“Do you have someone running?”, someone asks.

I look around to see a friendly face. A woman in her late 30s is holding up a sign. “You can do it, Karen!”, it says. “This is my sister’s first marathon”, she explains. I shake my head no, and smile in response. I realize how many people standing by are holding posters, pom-poms, cameras and other support crew paraphernalia.

This is the race I could have been running. Training for Around the Bay 30K (ATB), it slipped my mind many times. My mileage was at 30k already. A marathon would be another 12km + half a lap around the track.

But I have this block about doing a road marathon. A physical block, a mental block.

I could feel pain in the bottom of my foot, the telling sign of plantar fasciitis, for at least a week after ATB. Running a full marathon four short weeks later simply wasn’t intelligent. The registration deadline came and went. I think part of me was relieved to arrive at that decision. Hell, I wonder how much of that foot pain was psychosomatic.

“Do you want to run too?”, a mother asks her 3-year old. She crouches down beside him. “Come on. Let’s clap!”. Toddler pauses, glancing at his mother, then at sweaty runners, and suddenly breaks out in a round of such ecstatic applause that passing runners pick up the pace.

An elderly woman with her hair neatly curled up is not impressed. “My girlfriend is waiting for me, and they closed down the whole street!”, she said impatiently, her lips pursed. “I’m late for church!”

“Church?”, I think to myself. “But why? Look at these people. God is right here.” I don’t think I was quite the sympathetic ear she was looking for.

Today, watching the race, I think about all the different runners on course.

Some have qualified for Boston today. Some even without trying. Some did not.

Some trained incredibly hard for this race. Some simply showed up to the start. Some ran their best time yet. Some struggled. Cramped up. Stumbled.

Some ran their first marathon. Some ran their second. Fifth. Twentieth. Some ran their last.

As Forbes dubs obstacle racing “the new marathon” in an article on five fitness trends to watch in 2013, I am going back to basics.

Kathrine Switzer, women’s marathoning pioneer, writes “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” It’s true.

You go out there and watch a marathon, and you may indeed find your faith in humanity restored. You may smile. You may cry. You may get sunburned. You may sign up for a marathon.

I certainly did.

“Do you want to run too?”, a mother asks her 3-year old. “Yes”, I think to myself. “I do.”

*What scares you? Do you have an event (athletic or not) coming up that terrifies you to no end?

Signing off, SOLO


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