Support and encouragement from total strangers

Novice runner finds that the Manitoba Marathon brings out the best in Winnipeggers

The Manitoba Marathon came and went this year, in a burst of avid and amateur runners. On June 20, 13,686 participants crossed the finish line at the University of Manitoba’s stadium.

But it was months earlier that my own race really began.

Having been a fair-weather runner for three years - one who would only run outdoors, on days without rain, in the summertime - this year was a marked change. I learned a great deal about myself, the power of community and solidarity, the resilience of the human body, and particularly, about my feet.

My method of incremental running - going as far as a street lamp or the end of a block - was usually enough to help me improve my overall stamina. I would often run at night, after everything I needed to do was complete. I find that evening runs are relaxing and reflective.

Having people to run with at first was hard for me; I used to be unable to stop and start up again.  However, having running partners who spurn on and encourage one another really pushed my body farther than I had ever done on my own.

My regimen developed into three runs a week; twice with my girlfriend Kerri and once alone. I began to consider distances in kilometres or the time it would take to run from place to place. I would occasionally run to Cresentwood from St. Boniface when my work shift was finished, as it was quicker than waiting for the bus.

When it came to the day of the marathon, I still had no idea what to expect. I woke at 4:40 a.m., put my gear on and shaved. Kerri (#6748) drove our friend Becca (#2243), her brother-in-law Boris (#0198) and myself (#7477) to campus. As we stretched, I observed all types of runners. I was awash in a sea of quadriceps and sunscreen.

The half-marathon runners trudged upward to the line, then we broke into a run. It was strange to be put forward at such a steady pace. There was an ethereal droning of feet to pavement, accompanied by the panting of thousands of people.

I had to go to the toilet by mile six; my stomach felt empty at mile eight. From mile nine to 10.5 there was soreness in my right foot. At mile 11 I noticed nipple chafing (that was new to me). By the time Kerri and I got to University Crescent, we were closing in on the final mile. As we came up to the stadium, there was a din of applause and cheering.

When we entered the track, we kept running to the end - no time for walking. Cheers erupted; it was a roar. The full marathon winner was entering the stadium as Kerri and I crossed the line, hand in hand.

What amazed me the most about the day was not that I was able to run 21 km in just over two hours and 32 minutes, it was the support and encouragement of total strangers all around the city - cheering on the runners as they passed by.

Their warmth made me very proud of Winnipeg. 

Timothy Dyck is a fine arts student at the University of Manitoba.

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