Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Marathon - The Bombing Will Not Stop Us!

 "We're going to keep running . . . . This isn't a hobby! This is who we are. This is our tribe"

The events of last Monday at the Boston Marathon, were truly, terrible and tragic. Others, have described much more eloquently than I ever can, the horror and the massive out-pouring of emotion from the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

I'll try and take a slightly different approach here.

In a way, the Boston Marathon is the Grand-Father of ALL participatory endurance sports events and races. Before all the other big marathons - there was Boston. Before - triathlons, and the Ironman - there was Boston. Before all the other big running races of any distance - there was Boston.* Before - gran fondos and century rides - there was Boston. The Boston Marathon came before all of this!

The Boston Marathon defined, what is a large participatory endurance sports event, and the concurrent, embracing of that event by the host community. On Patriots Day in Boston and all along the route, from Hopkinton - everything and everyone stops, and focuses on the Boston Marathon. There are no complaints about road closures or other inconveniences. There is no whining about not being able to get around. It's an all-in thing for everyone! Every last runner, is cheered for, heartily and with vigor all along the route. As women's marathon running pioneer and the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer put it so, succinctly, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go and watch a marathon"!

The Boston Marathon is the template, the hope, and the wish, that I am sure every event organizer who ever starts up something, even the humblest 5k fun run, tries to get to - or at least envision. Wouldn't it be great if one day, we could be like the Boston Marathon?

I sense that's why, other than the absolute outrage over the tragedy of what happened on Monday, that this has been such a unifying phenomenon. Even if we've never been to Boston, or done the Boston Marathon, we've either all wanted to, or took part in, or stood on the side of the road cheering, at a very similar event. We all felt like we were there. That we had been attacked and violated. It was personal.

I saw it written somewhere this week, that - "these guys picked the wrong group of people, if they thought they were going to stop us". Hence, Bob Babbitt's great quote at the top. Everyone who's ever pushed the aerobic envelop, is part of this tribe. That's why after the horror and shock of Monday, there has been this extraordinary force of unity amongst all endurance sports athletes, and an emboldened feeling of, we must go on!

The Boston Marathon will go on, all endurance sports events will go on and endurance sports athletes will keep going on!

*Note - I would be remiss, if I did not acknowledge here, that indeed the oldest foot-race in North America is, the Around The Bay 30K, race in Hamilton, Ontario. In fact, Around The Bay, has a catchy slogan that they use from time to time to promote their event "Older than Boston" - which I think is great!

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Last Triathlon - A Possible Exit Strategy

At the time it seemed a bit odd. I was giving the keynote address at the Toronto Triathlon Club's AGM, and I was going over in detail, how to get out of triathlon! Well, to be true, it was the details of my last Ironman triathlon race which also happened to be my last triathlon. Whatever the case, it's always good to have an exit strategy!

For those still new to the sport of triathlon, or still in pursuit, of that first Ironman race, please ignore the following, but book-note this for the future. You may want to come back and review this at some point!

In 1997 a lot was going on for me. My son was born in July. I was entered in Ironman Canada (Penticton) in August of that year, and I had also started a new, very exciting, but demanding job at Sugoi. Matthew was born on July 13. Training had been sporadic that year to date. If I was being honest with myself, my enthusiasm to keep training and racing at the same level, was starting to wane. Two weeks after Matthew was born, I had a bit of an epiphany while out for one of my last long runs before IMC. I decided on that, run, that IMC would be it - the last triathlon!

Much to my surprise, the race at IMC went extraordinarily well - swam OK, biked strong and, pulled a rabbit out of the hat on the run. It was particularly satisfying because my age-group had been fairly competitive with a close battle for 2nd - 5th spots, that went on step-for-step, deep into the run - rare in long distance triathlon. I managed to finish 2nd on the strength of what had always been my strength in the sport - a strong run. I held, my one month old son in my arms, just over the finish-line and wept, genuine tears of happiness and gratefulness. This was it! Not my best race. Not my best finish at IMC, but on that day, in that race, in that moment, it was fantastic!

The lesson here, with the luxury of hind-site, is when you have a really good/great Ironman race, and you know you are towards the end of your triathlon, "career" . . . . . . walk away!  I see many people grimly struggling on, still trying to have that amazing or prefect Ironman race, and unfortunatly for them it never comes. It's a race with so many variables and can be brutal and uncompromising - you have to take your "victories" when and where you can. Rarely does an Ironman triathlon go completely to plan. Knowing when to pack it in is sometimes, just as important as knowing when to start things up!

Years later, I am pleased that I did decide to end it there. It's always good to go out on high note. To be able to look back at that last race, with happiness and satisfaction that, you gave it your best on that day, and that it went well.

Sixteen years on, I have no regrets. It was time to move on.

Final Thoughts: If you have moved on from triathlon, hopefully you've stayed active. Moved onto another endurance sport - you have a great base and experience in three, from all that hard work in triathlon!

If you have moved on, what have you moved on to?

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