Crossing the Line
The streak started because my Achilles heel was my Achilles heel. I’d registered for a spring marathon. Three weeks later I was slated to run my first 50-Miler. What better way to prepare than by doing intervals, on a track, in trail shoes? A shooting pain down my foot signalled there were better ways to prepare, and that a chronic problem was now an acute injury.
I didn’t finish either race. I didn’t start either race. The streak had begun.
That was over two years ago. Look out Joe DiMaggio, because my streak is at seven now. Seven races I’ve signed up for. Seven races I haven’t started.
I haven’t stopped running. Far from it. I average around five runs, and 50k, a week. A few years ago, I ran for time. One or two marathons a year, with a coach, a training program and a firm goal: break 3:20 and qualify for Boston. A sub-three-hour marathon was bound to follow. And then life intervened. For worse, and then for better. Worse was bad. Injury, illness, divorce and death. Better was brilliant. I met a wonderful woman. And then, against long odds, we had a daughter. First-time parents in our mid-forties. We were overcome with joy.
Running hasn’t left my life. I love running. I crave running. I just don’t know what its role is anymore. Maybe the streak offers some clues: injury knocked me out of the first two. Work cost me the 10k, because I had to be out of town, so we can throw those out. That leaves four. Four races where I was healthy enough to complete, but didn’t even start.
There was a half-marathon I’d signed up for the day before, because it was a great opportunity for a hard Sunday morning training run. When I woke up Sunday morning, I couldn’t be bothered to go. I had no time goal and I hadn’t trained for it. I searched for motivation, but my desire, which triggered me to sign up the day before, faded away. There was no good reason not to run it. But no great reason to run it, either. I froze, and didn’t bother racing.
Then there was a marathon that I’d signed up for as a means to motivate me to get back into shape, to have daily goals and to be working towards something. I started the training, but grew to hate the long runs. I’ve always struggled with anything longer than 90 minutes. In the past, I’d fought through them. This time I didn’t have it in me for some reason. I wasn’t enjoying them so I didn’t do them.
And there was the doozy, a 50-miler. I loved the idea of doing this ultra. My brother was attempting the 100-miler on the same day. I wanted to share the day with him. But my daughter had just been born. Every long training run would mean hours away from home, and exhaustion for the better part of the day that followed. I signed up and then never really trained for it.
Finally, there was a compelling 50k trail race on a beautiful course at a mountain resort. Training started well. But, as race day got closer, I realized I’d rather use the time off work, and the money it was going to cost to travel to visit my family in Ontario. I missed them, and wanted them to see my daughter, more than I wanted to run a pretty 50k at a ski resort in the summer all by myself.
The examples my family have set take some sting out of a streak of which I am not proud. My father has run for 50 years. Running buttresses his faith, family and health. In all that time I’ve known him to do just a single race. He’s never needed time or distance goals. My brother has set such goals. He still does. But interwoven with his running is his Buddhism. He finds meaning in every stride. Meanwhile, I remain torn between running solely for the sake of doing so, and challenging myself with goals that take me outside my comfort zone.
I can’t get the 50-miler out of my head. It’s coming up again in a few months.
I’ll probably sign up. I hope the streak ends. Daryl Baswick lives in Sidney, B.C. His essays have been published in Canadian Running, the Globe and Mail and the Victoria Times Colonist.