at the races On Global Running Day, a reminder of why we do this

On Global Running Day, a reminder of why we do this

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It seems like a lot of work for a free banana. 

That sign appears without fail at every respectable marathon, and at the Marathon de Longueuil Sun Life last month, no fewer than four spectators held their homemade versions in the air, two in English and two in French.

The banana line is worthy of repetition on this Global Running Day because it gets at the core question: Why, exactly, are we doing this? 

Maybe you started with a fun run, then tried a 10K, then a half marathon. Maybe then — because you aren’t the kind of person who does things halfway — there was the full. Maybe you emerged from that tunnel of pain aching all over but with the suspicion that you could have gone a bit faster. And maybe then there was Boston! You and Malindi, on the same course! Like getting on the ice with Gretzky! Maybe after that an ultra, a whole 50 kilometres, just because. 

But then what? All that forward momentum, to where exactly? More free bananas?

Well, back to the starting line, of course. This time in the suburbs of Montreal, and this time with my brother-in-law, a man who rolled his eyes at the thought of marathoning a few years ago, who ran his first half last fall, and who was, for some reason, back for more in Longueuil. His second half-marathon, my 16th, and our first time running together.

The race itself is fast and flat, on the warmer side in mid May but well supported with water, electrolytes, pace bunnies, and at the end, a full meal with plenty of bananas. “Let’s go” is the chant in both official languages, and if the course was a bit jammed at the start, well, c’est le post-pandemic running boom.

We stuck with the 1:50 bunny until about 19K and then got a few steps in front. I said all the things I always want to hear — Empty the tank! You got this! Don’t save anything for the end! And we shaved off a minute per kilometre, accumulating more than enough Strava data to bore everyone we came into contact with for the remainder of the long weekend. 

The answer to the “why do we do this?” question, then, is all in the we, the oui, the first-person plural pronoun in the affirmative. It’s all those who observe Global Running Day as well as those who’ve never heard of this admittedly made-up observance and run together anyway. 

Or to put it another way: Give your brother-in-law a banana, you feed him for a day. Help your brother-in-law shatter his half-marathon personal best, you give him the secret to free bananas for the rest of his life.

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