On April 5th, 2013 my grandfather passed away. William “Poppa” De Laat was in his 95th year. For the last decade of his life his eye sight had failed to the point that he was essentially blind. As his health failed further he spent the last 2 weeks of his life in the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital. The treatment and care that he received was second to none and it was because of their care and compassion that I decided to run a half marathon.
I’m not much of a runner. Personally I find it boring and there are about a dozen other things I would rather be doing (like folding laundry). In the years preceding 2013 I had invested a little bit more time in running. I had several 10k races under my belt and although I wasn’t breaking any records, I was crossing finish lines.
Shortly after Poppa’s death I learned that there was a charity run that would take place for the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital in October. With several months to train I thought that this would be an amazing way to honour my grandfather and give a little something back to the hospital.
I paid my $100.00 and before I knew it the race was a few weeks away. I was totally unprepared and I had this dreadful feeling that I had make a mistake.
I went into that summer with the best of intentions. I was going to run. I was going to run a lot. I would carefully and methodically prepare for this race and be in the best ‘running’ shape of my life. Well life happened to get in the way my plan fell apart.
With only a few short weeks to prepare I became a little desperate. It wasn’t as though I was completely sedentary over the summer; quite the opposite actually. I had spent much of the summer mountain biking and running shorter, faster distances in preparation for a couple of adventure races that I had in September (for more fun facts on adventure racing click HERE).
I started getting a few longer runs under my belt; 12, 13, 15km etc. Four days before the race I completed my longest run, 18km. If I’m being completely honest it didn’t feel great. I completed it which was motivating and I was pretty sure that I could grind out the last 3k on race day, but boy did I drag ass for the last few kilometers.
On race day I was joined by my good friends Pete Koller and Stephanie Gendron. Both were accomplished runners and both had completed several half marathons in the past. I was nervous but what else is new; I always had race day jitters.
Starting at Fisher Field on 6th street, runners headed back into town and made their way down the main street of Collingwood. The first few kilometers of the race was actually a lot of fun as runners are cheered on by scores local supporters.
I felt great for these first few kilometers. Pete, Steph and I ran together and we had a lot of fun. By the 7km mark I could feel my pace starting to slow. Both Pete and Steph pulled ahead as we turned onto Poplar Side Road and started making our way towards the Escarpment. This 9km stretch was particularly grueling for me. With the Niagara Escarpment as a backdrop, it seemed to be so far away and it never seemed to get any closer. This section offered the only major elevation change on the route as well (total elevation gain on the course was 138m).
By the 17km mark I was hurting. I wanted to stop and I wanted to walk but I knew that if I did, the likelihood of me finishing was small. This particular race featured ‘pace bunnies’; runners who run the race at a certain specified pace so that racers know their own pace. I was passed by the 1hour 30min pace bunny. Then the 1h 45min bunny. Finally when the 2hour bunny passed me I knew I needed to dig deep and push myself. I kept that particular pace bunny in sight, but they continued to widen the gap.
At the 18.5km mark the most amazing thing happened. As I was struggling to gut out the rest of the race, a runner passed me on my left. As I looked over I was surprised to see that the gentlemen passing me was easily in his 70s. As he passed me with his stead, confident gait, I looked over and simply said “good for you”. His response was equally surprising as he returned the compliment and said “nah…good for you”.
My pace continued to slow and the pain settled in. Mentally I knew that I was only a short distance from the finish line, but my legs were quickly failing.
I turned the last corner and faced down the final 2kms. It was at this point that I knew I was going to finish the race. I hadn’t stop yet and I wasn’t about to this close to the finish. I was in uncharted waters as this was the furthest that I had ever run.
As I approached the last kilometer of the race you could see and hear the activity at the finish line. People were cheering and with the finish line clearly in sight my lungs burned a little less, my legs seemed less heavy and my pace quickened.
I crossed the finish line in 2hours and 7minutes. It’s almost an embarrassing time but I’m proud to have completed the race. I’m even more proud to have done it in honour of William De Laat.
Garmin Race Details Below:
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