There was a zip line at my favourite park as a child.
I’d run up the hill and wait my turn, watching my older brother fly down ahead of me. Then we’d race through the park’s adventure maze, pounding our feet across pavement, balancing on swaying bridges, climbing rope ladders and racing each other along new pathways until it was time to head home — exhausted, filthy and happy.
It’s hard to know as a little kid what parts of you are going to stay the course, but my competitive nature and my need for a good, challenging sweat definitely stuck.
And the pure glee I felt from that zip line of my early days was pretty indicative of my need for speed. I also love fast cars, airplane travel, and that incredible, zero-gravity sensation when you hover out of seat on an amusement park ride, just before you plummet back to Earth.
But I especially like running. Yes, that self-propelled slog across pavement, dirt or (ideally) rubberized surfaces.
My running life has intersected through my regular life, sometimes pulling far away and seeming like a distant spot I need to get back to. Other times, the two lives are neck-and-neck.
Lately, it’s been the latter, and I’m thrilled to report that I’ve completed a small-but-momentous goal I set for myself.
I ran a 5K fun run.
It was a goal I set in January, drunk in the optimistic afterglow of doing a cannonball in the Burrard Inlet. At the time I was recovering from an impinged shoulder, but promised myself that as soon as that healed, I would dive as purposefully back into running as I did that frigid water.
In my defence, my brain was frozen.
My shoulder healed slower than I had expected, but I contemplated every single event that has come across my desk at the Abbotsford News. And each time, I’d make an excuse or two for why I wasn’t ready, or why I couldn’t make it.
So many great excuses can be found to avoid pretty much everything in life, can’t they?
Then this fall, I connected with a small, local running group through Instagram. Their laid back style appealed to me. I noted their first annual fun run a few weeks ago, and realized this would match up perfectly with my current routine of running 2K a few mornings a week.
But I’d have to get to work quickly. And this time, instead of making excuses, I made plans.
I made a list of all my favourite places to hike, run and climb. I gave myself daily and weekly goals. I researched which gym to join, and then I joined it.
I told almost nobody for weeks. I just buckled down to do it, and be accountable to myself on this one.
I kept putting one foot in front of the other, while also whittling down which shirt felt best, which music station was best, what amount of water I could comfortably carry, where I liked keeping my phone, and even which ear I’d keep an earbud in. I practiced on hills, treadmills, high school tracks and my favourite neighbourhood parks. I sang while running to keep my diaphragm working and my breath steady, and I worked on my singing to keep my lungs strong.
I made sure to sleep. My goodness, I even started making sure to eat a proper breakfast, so you know I was serious.
And then last week I could muddle through 5K on the treadmill at my chosen gym, so I put my $15 registration toward the run. With just a day or two to go, I started to tell my friends and family, and colleagues — many who are runners, too.
This was actually happening.
I set out everything I’d need on Friday night, and wrote a list just in case I slept in or panicked. But I woke up early, like a kid at Christmas, with a huge smile and a wave of happiness.
The run was a country block on the Sumas Prairie, and there were just over a dozen of us. Some were coming back from injury or a time away from running, like me. Others were fitting it in with longer runs, or doing the 10K option.
But we were all there for the same reason, which is always just to get a good run in. To challenge ourselves, meet goals, and get the heart working.
I didn’t go fast, and I missed checking my time at the actual 5K mark of what was really 5.4K. But I did it. I was exhausted, sweaty, and oh-so-happy by the end of it.
It still feels silly to celebrate such a small win. I am, after all, a cancer survivor. It’s difficult to surpass the high of realizing you’re cancer free. That was the finish line that has mattered the most, and the springboard for everything that has followed.
Which reminds me, it’s time to find that next event.
READ MORE: COLUMN: ‘We all know that cancer sucks. I learned exactly why.’