Two years ago today, I entered my first running race, and so I’m celebrating that. (That would be the first race of this running career. I ran a couple of 10Ks and a couple of marathons in 1980. But that was a lifetime ago, and so it doesn’t really count.)
The race was Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K, in Toronto, held on Sunday, April 5, 2008. It’s a fund-raiser for prostate cancer research, which was appropriate, as I’m a prostate cancer survivor (diagnosed in December 2005, a heavy course of radiation therapy in March and April 2006).
Although I’d only been running for four months at the time – and not running very much in that period, to tell the truth – it seemed like a good idea. There was the cancer angle, of course, but it was also about getting back to running after breaking my hip in May of 2005 and the 14 months of physiotherapy that followed my surgery.
In early 2006, I was told by one of my orthopedic surgeons that I would never run again. For quite a while after the accident and rehab, I couldn’t. But, beginning in early 2008, I managed to do a number of 4K training runs. No pain, surprisingly, and in doing them I rediscovered the joy and freedom of running that I’d known almost 30 years earlier.
So I thought to myself, “Why not try a race?”
The Spring Run Off 8K takes place in Toronto’s High Park. Narrow roads, lots and lots of people, and – something I’d forgotten entirely – lots of short, sharp hills. In the course of hammering my way through the crowds and the hills, I discovered something I hadn’t known before – running up hills is a bit of a chore with a hip full of stainless-steel bits and bobs, but running downhill is much, much worse.
I finished with a respectable chip time of 50:07 (a 6:15 mins/km pace), but could barely walk afterwards. As I drove home, the pain increased and my body seized up completely. The next day, I made an appointment to see my physiotherapist, and, over the next week or so, he pulled and twisted me back into functional condition.
I went on to run two 10K events and one 16K race that year, and after that just kept on going. In 2009, I ran a 10K race, two half marathons, and my first ultra (a 50K).
It all started two years ago with that 8K race. It was one of the most important days of my life, and a whole new beginning in many, many ways.
And, two years later, I can still remember how much it hurt.