Saturday, December 04, 2010

(Arrive) Alive

Ooooh, here's an interesting prompt!

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

(Author: Ali Edwards)

A preface: almost two years ago, my cousin was driving home from the Ottawa airport, when her car (also containing her father and younger sister) was hit by a drunk driver. She did not survive the collision, but fortunately the other two were spared at least. You may remember that I blogged about it at the time. Well, there is now a [name redacted] memorial run: an annual event at which there are not one, not two, but three whole races of 10, 5, and 2km. I didn't make down to Ontario the first year it happened, because I had just been home for Thanksgiving and I was worried about school scheduling, etc. This year, I forwent a thanksgiving trip and went for the run. I don't run, really, but I had let my sister talk me into doing the 10k. "What the hell", I thought, "I can roll out of bed and do a 5k with my sis, I can run 10k ONCE".

I did. I ran 10k in 48:56. For a guy who was hoping to "do it in under an hour", that's pretty damn sweet. I destroyed my goal. I also beat my sister's goal of under 50 minutes...AND I beat her first years' time by maybe a minute or two. Of course, she was a few minutes faster than me this time around, and she didn't have an older brother to egg her on that time, but this isn't really about any rivalries between the two of us. No: I ran 10k - something I didn't know I could do - and I did it fast enough to draw a little praise. And man, did I ever feel alive. Also, dead. The race was on Saturday and my legs did not stop hurting until Thursday. Next year: training first!

The day could hardly have been more perfect: clear skies, chilly but not arctic, not too much wind. There might have been some black ice on the roads we ran on, but I never encountered it. A crisp day. A local school served as the staging point, wherein we all got our digital time trackers (!) and numbers to pin on our chests. Elementary schools look and feel a lot different when you aren't three feet tall. It reminded me a little bit of a school I barely attended as a kid, but that's about it. We arrived pretty early, but we weren't the first ones there. We got our numbers, and waited. And waited. And lined up to use the washrooms. And grabbed free snacks.

Finally, it was time to race. I kept pace with my sister for about 6k, walked 1/3 to 1/2 a km, and then took up a somewhat slower pace for the remainder. It was tough going in a couple of places, but every so often I would break through a "wall", and the endorphins would power me onward. I sprinted (or, well, whatever you call "running with all you've got after 9 3/4km") the very last bit while my sis yelled encouragement (or whatever you call "my grandma can go faster than you!"). It was awesome. Then I felt alternatively great and abysmal for the next couple of hours. The sense of accomplishment was, of course, worth it.

It occurred to me as I was writing this that maybe I felt alive because I was thinking about death. Thinking about how much I should want to live and live well because of how truly fragile that is. I don't know if that's what drove me to run 10k. I don't know if that's why I felt so alive when I did it. My cousin, well, she lived life to the fullest - without hyperbole - so any time we remember her, there's a message: "get out, and live your life. Be a little more like she was.". That might have had something to do with it. All I know is that I beat my own expectations, which is something I haven't done in a very, VERY long time. It felt good. It felt like actually being alive, and not just going through the motions. It felt like something I should do more often.


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