Well this journey all started about a year ago. My friend Patrick Voo was a pace bunny at the 2014 Prince Edward County Marathon (PEC) and I volunteered to accompany him and volunteer at the race. I parked cars in the darkness of the morning and placed medals around finishes as they crossed the line – it was a great experience! So when Patrick asked if I wanted to pace the ½ marathon I hesitated but remembering the hospitality and vibe from last year I said yes. After a few e-mails back and forth with the pace bunny organizer Erin we decided on 2:10 or 6:10/km. A bit of a challenge for me as I settle in at about 5:30/km naturally. So adjust my training, learn to slow down and we are on our way to Picton.
A four hour drive down had my legs achy and sore, but the time with Patrick to chat about faith, family, life and running (and running, and running) was well worth it. We showed up to the expo, got our bunny ears, bibs (mine was listed as “SABO” not Lewis – Patrick says they do that for the elites?), shirts and socks and headed out our motel for the night.
Got our clothes all laid out for the race based on listening to the weather (the weather is of great concern for this particular location). We probably put more though into this and spent more time on it then a teenage girl getting ready for a prom!
Out for dinner in scenic Napanee and somehow avoided maybe the best and biggest fish & chips in the world (every other person in this little restaurant was having them) and settled for a toasted western and a huge salad. Back to check the weather again, write, read and lights out about 9 pm.
Race Day – Pre-Race
Rotten sleep and up at stupid o’clock (4:30am). Patrick went out for a run! I ate, checked the weather again, got on our race gear, packed up and on the road at 6 am. To the PEC and dropped Patrick off to catch his bus for the marathon. Now I had three and a half hours to do something with.
Planned on sleeping in his car for at least an hour but as I settled in and closed my eyes I started to question and wonder what I had gotten myself into? The running a ½ was no problem at all, but keeping a consistent pace and encouraging and talking to people and having them rely on me to help them cross the finish line at 2:10 started to freak me out! I can force myself to be an extrovert and hold a conversation but really I am very introverted – “what have I done by agreeing to wear these funny bunny ears and draw attention to myself!” There must be easier ways to give back to the running community which has given me so much? Anyway, no rest ever came.
Up to catch to bus and people started talking to me (SABO) right away. Come to think of it “SABO” was a nickname when I was an awkward teenager trying to get through high school alive. Memories I did not need floating through my head at this time. On the bus and a totally beautiful 15 minute drive on a crisp perfect fall morning.
We get to the ½ start out in the county and it was a bit breezy so I duck into a tent they have set up. It feels like all 400+ runners are in the tent and they are starring at me because I have bunny ears on! I make my way through the crowd, lean against a pole and nobody talks to me and I do not know a soul – a few long lonely awkward minutes! Eventually Erin comes over to say hi, but leaves after a brief chat. A few ladies sitting near me have pity on me and finally say hi. They ask about my plan to run 2:10(which I had not really thought of - I was just going to run?) and a couple say that they will be sticking with me to the finish. I step outside the tent to see Patrick pace by at exactly 1:45 into the full marathon; we snap a picture of all the bunnies and line up to start the race.
Off goes the gun and I start my two watches (just in case!) but I am a good 200m from the chip time start and this takes about a minute before I cross.
And we are off!
One of the original ladies in the tent, Debbie is with me and a few others fall in close by. Turns out to be an absolutely beautiful early fall day, mostly clear skies, about 10 degrees and a refreshing wind from the south. The course is very flat and very scenic with water stations every two km's and many local residents out at the end of their driveways cheering us on. I settle in to my almost effortless pace and begin to compare with my watches every few kilometers. My watches are way off the km markers because I started then so early, so I had to always do some math to make sure I was on pace.
Debbie and I begin to chat about all kinds of stuff and it turns out she has the same birthday as me – now that deserved a high five! After we settled into our rhythm a few runners passed us, Debbie and I passed quite a few runners, and I few times I heard “So, Sabo are you going to hit 2:10?” Again the running itself was almost effortless for me at a 6:10 pace, but I say that very cautiously and with great respect for any other runners regardless of their finish times. My biggest challenge was not tripping as I fumbled and checked my watches every few kilometres.
At about 19 km I was a bit ahead of schedule and Debbie felt great, so as we made a right turn onto the main street I slowed down and encouraged her to go on and finish strong.(Which she did – somewhere around 2:08 and a PB by about 3 minutes). At the final left turn towards the finish line four other runners were just behind me so I slowed down to let them all pass and cheer them on. I crossed the line at 2:08:41 chip time and 2:09:36 official time – not to bad, just off by 24 seconds. Will have to be closer next time!
And there was Patrick right at the finish line cheering me on! Found Debbie and gave her a hug, got something to drink and eat. We took some pictures with the other bunnies, chatted with Erin a bit, stuck around for the awards and headed out home.
I write in a journal every day and at the end of almost every day I write "Good Things" and try to list a few things that stand out for the day.
- the people - the volunteers, the residents of Prince Edward County, Patrick, Erin, Debbie, and all the other bunnies
- the place - Prince Edward County is like PEI with out the hills or red dirt yet it is only four hours away, not twenty one
- the pace - “It’s all about the journey, not the destination” I did put in the effort and training so the pace was almost effortless. So the 21.1 km journey from the start line was incredibly enjoyable. Finishing at 2:09:36 was just a tiny little perk compared to how much I was encouraged by others during this race.
Trust, Love, Act – Now!