at the races No Watch, No Music, No Time Goal, No Problem: Race Review, the...

No Watch, No Music, No Time Goal, No Problem: Race Review, the Chilly Half


Running the Chilly Half marathon on Sunday was a last-minute decision. My 12-year-old said, “Whisky and junk food.” It wasn’t exactly phrased as a question, more like an observation: oh, is this what we’re doing now? I had to look in the mirror. I’d been missing my workouts. I hadn’t signed up for a race. I was all out of Athletic Brewing and, to fill the void, as my pride and joy noticed: whisky and junk food.

Couldn’t have that.

29 years old, the Chilly brings Ontario out of hibernation and into their fancy sneakers and race day plays our like a family reunion. Burlington, Ontario. One distance. A lovely point to point race course and all sorts of friends representing their race crews and sports brands. I saw Krista DuChene and though I was wearing tights and a long-sleeve, it wasn’t freezing. I’m in the I-want-to-be-comfortable phase of my racing.

I was around the 1:45 pacer at the beginning, but there was a big crowd assembled there and I wanted space. This is tricky. Last year, I tried racing the Chilly alongside my race partner and at 3K, I was rapping out loud. At 6K, I was walking and around 8K, I turned tail and headed towards the start line, my head pointed down at the ground.

When I was a kid, I once ran the half in 1:22, but I’m a long way from there. Experiences have surpassed time goals these days in terms of what I’m looking for with racing. Unlike last year, my goal in 2024 is to finish with grace.

Still, 1:45 didn’t feel good and so I sped up some and ran into a BlackToe Race friend who I actually didn’t really know but just seeing the matching jersey made us instant amigos. She’s training for Boston and looks like a gymnast so I had to be careful. I was breathing heavy as we talked about her fiancé between seven and ten kilometres. My watch wasn’t working and I left my AirPods in my backpack and let the race dictate my speed. This seemed to work because I hung on with my new friend and, somehow, turned a corner. Once I past twelve kilometres, I realized I would finish. This was a huge load off and a relief: the fear left me. Now I could start racing!

I was something like 4:45-per-kilometre for the first half and like 4:25-per-kilometre for the last bit. This is how you want to be racing because as I sped up, others slowed down and, as any runner knows, passing people is the best feeling in the world. It’s momentum and an energy catalyst and here’s the other thing—it’s fun. I was clapping for the other runners, shouting out friends, giving high fives and basically just running around like a kid after eating their ice cream in the park. I never felt any pain. Never missed my watch. Didn’t care about not having music. Did no math. I was playing.

The kilometres ticked down like seconds on New Year’s Eve and how’s this for a sensation: it surprised me how quickly the 17K marker appeared after sixteen. By the time I hit 19K and ran into some kids, I wondered aloud if we could run down the 1:30 pacer. This one guy was amazing. Half my age, he yelled: Let’s go!! And I wanted too, but I’d dug myself too deep into a hole with something like 1:24 on the clock and the last two K to go.

But even that mindset—being alert enough in the last bit to dream about a finishing time is a good sign. I wasn’t just surviving. I was actively engaged and I’d been down enough times before to appreciate the fleeting sensation.

I held on and, when I approached the final hill and Steve Fleck called me in, I had a smile plastered on my face and we listened to Spice Girls and Oasis on the way home on the BlackToe bus and I sang to every word. Later I napped on both of the crevices on my couch and listened to Jimmy Buffet.

I like whisky and junk food. But I like this feeling more.

Top photograph by Ryan Field. 


Comments are closed.