Meditations in a storm

With all the craziness of telling the story of my two medals (Part 1, Part 2), I didn’t have much time to write anything in the way of my usual post-race reflections.

Ottawa Race Weekend continues to grow in popularity. That’s both a positive and a negative. It seems like every year they add more spaces and the event sells out faster and faster. When I ran the 5K last year, I think I spent as much time weaving from side to side as I did moving forward. I noticed it was pretty much the same this year for Kalin’s 5K.

The longer distance of the half marathon was helpful in thinning out the crowd, but not by much. Pretty much each wave had as many as the 5K or 10K race did the evening before. Kalin took this shot on her walk from the Booster Juice at the Rideau Centre to where we met.

I’m somewhere around the bend, off in the horizon. We think.

She said the 2:15 pace bunny passed underneath after she took this. This is the arse end of wave 1, with another 6500+ people to come .

You can put more people on the course, but the streets are not getting wider. In fact, they’re getting narrower. Compare Kalin’s photo to this one Vicky took of my 5K last year.

While they’re from different bridges (Kalin was at Laurier St., Vicky was at the MacKenzie King Bridge), it’s pretty clear last year we had the full width of Colonel By Dr. from corner with Wellington onward whereas this year we only had half the width between Wellington to the end of the median. I don’t know whether this was by design or by accident it. Either way, it should be corrected for next year. If you’re going to grow the event, don’t shrink the width of the course. It’s even more important for the shorter races as they have less opportunity to to get past the slower runners and make up for a slow start.

My fellow runners have a lot to learn about race day etiquette, as well. When you’re running in a race with 11,000 people, a little communication goes a long way. I learned from previous instructors that it’s proper form for interval runners to signal that they are slowing down by raising their arm, like one would if they are cycling.  Remember, there are thousands of people behind you. Don’t just stop in the middle of the road and start walking, unless getting trampled is your sort of thing. I would try to do one better by getting to the side and placing myself just ahead of someone already in their walk break before signalling.

That consideration didn’t stop some woman from putting her hand on me and saying, “You people are supposed to be off the road.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being touched from behind by strangers under normal circumstances, more or less in the middle of the race. In fact, I’ve taken a few lessons over the years to deal with people who do that sort of thing for nefarious purposes. I fought back that training to offer the most polite response I could muster:

“Get your f—–g hand off me.”

I may have also added something about her future being a runner in the disabled category or something like that. About thirty seconds into my next run interval I waved to her as I passed, never to see her again.

Maybe it’s the Boston qualifier status or even the time of year for Ottawa Race Weekend, but the race seems to attract more self-important douchebags than any other race in the city. Here’s what I tell my students when I instruct a clinic: unless you’re so fast that Run Ottawa puts your name on your bib instead of giving you a number, you’re probably not winning a prize. The only opponent you have to worry about is your last finish, if you have one. If you don’t and this is your first race, have fun because whatever result you get is by definition your personal best. If you don’t have fun, running becomes a chore. Just like the chores your parents gave you as a kid, you won’t want to do it. Have fun on race day or don’t race.

I think a one-sheet on etiquette in the race kits may be helpful. I try to drill it into my runners. There is a safety element, as well. We train on routes shared with walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, and even cars. Your provincial motor vehicles act may give a pedestrian the right of way, but it doesn’t obviate the laws of physics. The law isn’t a forcefield against impact with a heavier solid object. Not everyone trains like we do, in groups on shared spaces, and it shows. Something pitched like, “Welcome to Ottawa. Heres a few tips …” would go a long way. They could even toss it in the envelopes with our race bibs, since that’s the one of the few items we’ll all get and use.

What saves Race Weekend from drowning in jackassery though are the volunteers and the people who line the course to cheer. Some may be there cheering a relative or friend, but many are there cheering everyone. There’s also the various community groups that come out  to the official neighbourhood cheer stations. From the samba band in Westboro to the pipe and drum band at the War Museum, the community really comes out to rally the runners.

My favourite was, of course, the family that had the sign “Go, Mike, go!” How did they know I was running?

Yes, I know I used the joke last week.

The people on the sides are what make the event a success, not us on the road. Thanks from a grateful runner.

With my first half marathon done, I’m back at training for my second, the Army run in September. I’m pace leading the 2 hour group again. I half thought of leading the 1:50 group, but didn’t want to push it. Let’s get a few finishes closer to 1:50 before you start to put me in charge of a group. Leading the 2 hour group last time was a big challenge last time because it was my first time training for a half marathon. Whenever we increased distances, I was doing that distance for the first time in my life. On top of that, I was responsible for getting a group of people through their runs. Thankfully, most of my pace group were really good and cooperative. There were a few challengers, but instead of letting myself get worked up about it, I just fed them rope to hang themselves. I really saw myself more of a resource available to them than an instructor. Besides, that was Colin’s title. 😉

Kalin is training for the Army Run, too. This Wednesday, she came with my pace group for our 3K temp run. We had a little extra fun with this one because practice run night overlapped an event Running Room held in conjunction with Tim Horton’s Camp Day. Our run ended at the Tim Horton’s on Spark St. where there was free Timbits, yogurt and water. A nice post-run treat.

I’m also easing back into my workout routine with Greco Lean and Fit. Since I took two weeks off for pre-race tapering and post-race recovery, I thought it best to start slow. By slow, I mean three of the regular Lean and Fit classes instead of my usual four (two regular and two Extreme Lean and Fits). I’m pretty glad I did. The workouts were great, but I definitely needed the in between days to recover.

Kalin and I had a nice little adventure in social media this week, too. We attended our first tweet-up at the Ottawa Mill St. Pub Tweet Up. For those who don’t know what a tweet up is, it’s simply a meet up for twitterers, or twits, or whatever people on Twitter are supposed to call themselves. We had a great time. It was really nice to meet some people I follow, like Tanya (@Sobbee) and to meet knew people, like Ross Brownfoot and Bethany Harpur. It also gave us a chance to finally go to the Mill St. Pub, which despite being open a few months now, is still quite difficult to get into without a reservation. The manager, Peter, treated the group like VIP guests, chatting with us and comping some nachos and their signature tacos. When the waitress brought me my sample flight of their seasonal ales, I noticed a chip in my glass and Peter promptly apologized and brought me a fresh one. I had their beef deep and it was fantastic. Service was great and prices were reasonable for the level of quality. The only downside was they were out of their seasonal stout. I love stout and pretty much want to try everyone’s. Make more. We’ll be back.


Finally, a heartfelt congratulations to two of my best friends, Christian and Ramona, who this week became the proud parents of little Danica Hope Maillet. Also a late breaking congratulations to my cousin Glenn and his wife Cathy, who this morning became the proud parents of baby June Alexandra MacEachern.

They were among the people I would have invited them to my Diamond Jubilee Medal ceremony, they’ve certainly helped me on this journey from the beginning, but that was the weekend Ramona was due and just a week shy of Cathy’s date. With the all the traffic issues Race Weekend creates, I wouldn’t  want them caught downtown without easy access to their hospital should the little one have decided to make her debut  appearance.


Knowing their parents like I do, I bet they both skip walking altogether and go straight to running. We’ll be cheering them at a finish line someday very soon.



One response

  1. […] sure by now, you’re tired of me writing about Ottawa Race Weekend (here and here) and that other […]

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