Nancy Constantine’s journal on what she has learned as a runner continues…
t was shortly after 0800 on Sat. Sept. 19th that my feet hit the pavement of Henderson Highway to do my pre-race 13 mile run. As the heat and humidity of this late summer season was still high, my intention was to beat the heat and just get it done early in the day. By the time I reached the hills of Disraeli Freeway, my body was awake, alive and moving to the rhythm of a 10 minute mile. The sun was already warm but I was comforted by the frozen state of my water in my belt. There will be no ‘melt down’ of an overheated body today, as experienced on the Manitoba Marathon.
As I approached Main Street, I was anticipatory for what would line my run from Disraeli to Scotia Street – a strip inhabited by some transient folk – people I often see in my daily work as a downtown social worker. A lady about my age, with a half full water bottle, was going from door to door to find one that would open. There was the usual activity around Booth Centre and Thunderbird House – I would imagine fairly typical for a warm summer morning after a weekend night. I don’t think I blended in with my lime green Nike shirt and headband along with my ear buds that only allowed me to hear the beat of my feet on the earth that held me firm. The smells brought out from morning dew and humidity were variant as I went under the Higgins underpass. Approaching the Point Douglas Housing Unit, I came across an elderly woman who seemed comfortably sleeping along my path. She was dressed for chillier clims but her resistance to temperature would be influenced differently than mine as I tried to keep an even pace as the barometer increased. I voiced in my head a question to my quiet Companion ‘Why, God, is she here instead of in a safe, soft bed?’ The same answer came to me as it often does in my professional life. ‘We all have our own story; we all make choices; we all have access to services’. Whatever her barriers are to life beyond this spot on Main Street is a story worth hearing when she is ready to tell it. ‘Keep our ears open and our hearts warm to those who are in need, O God’.
Next, I came upon a well-dressed young couple waiting at a bus stop. He was smoking and she was clinging tightly to her LV bag. Neechi Foods were setting up tables for the sale of wild blueberries. In my effort to maintain a consistent breathing rate, I took in a deep breath and could imagine the musty smell and Autumn taste of those berries. Little did I know, I would be gifted with a box of wild blueberries by my neighbour and friend, Sybil, as I completed my run in about an hour and a half. A man limped along in front of me, beside me, behind me – who knows where his steps will take him today. The angle of the sun was playing a huge trick with my mind – I could see a second shadow beside me – or was that my Running Mate, my Constant Companion, my Athlete God in Nikes?
As I went by the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral north of Redwood, I could feel a breeze hit me that was as refreshing as a shower that invigorated me to pick up the pace. I meandered through the little park that led to Scotia Street, along St. John’s Cathedral cemetery by the river into residential restlessness and routine. There were dog walkers, other runners, and cyclists all eager to welcome the promise of a new day while celebrating the extension of summer. Continuing on my familiar route, a runner rounded the turn just north of Hartford and gave me that mutual smile of support and satisfaction, and I recognized her as working at the Regent Running Room. We often shared our aspirations and affirmations so this exchange was timely in giving me that extra push to keep moving forward – body, mind and spirit – in tune with the universe. ‘Thank you God for that embrace’. As I came to the end of Scotia at Marymound, a squirrel ran beside me along the fence with great haste, as if it was in trouble. Could some young girl behind the welcoming façade of this facility be planning an escape?
My one lap of Kildonan Park began with a quick scan of what could have been a day in July. Couples were walking hand in hand, families staking out their spot for a picnic, children on the play structures, frolicking and fun everywhere. Even in the early hours of the day, there was already circling of those sleek, clean cars with super sound systems. I always run against the recommended flow – that way I can meet other sojourners face to face, facilitate a sense of community, invite those non-verbal greetings as my journey of purpose continues. The fifteen minute stark steps from the Kildonan Park exit to the Chief Pequis bridge is always arduous – fear of flying golf balls and fast, heavy traffic. But always when I reach the top of the bridge, it is the climax to the run – as I approach the descent and the close proximity to my Henderson Highway, which will lead me home. John Prichard School students are starting their fall fundraising with a ‘car wash’. Their enthusiasm enables me to speed up – along with the music of Slumdog Millionaire that is often the catalyst of my run ‘from’ and run ‘to’ possibilities.
Keep moving – to the beat of the music, the beat of my heart, to the impeding emotion that will overwhelm me as I continue to travel south along that informed route. Essar……Hawthorne….the Number 11 Bus Driver often gives me the ‘thumbs up’…..McLeod……the Dairy Queen. People are actually eating ice-cream at 1030 in the morning! My body is longing for that breeze as I empty my water bottle and sprinkle the remaining drops on my neck. Leighton traffic lights…..Green….slowly I am steps away from the embrace of my Fraser’s Grove Home…..Linden…..Hazel Dell. I am at my street – hands in the air, crying with joy and fatigue, the running stops. As I walk down my street beginning the ‘cool down’ process, Sybil is waiting for a sweaty hug, a high five, a ‘you did it Nanc’. I carry my wild blueberries down a few more steps and thank my Companion for the beautiful memories of another run – for the ability and agility of my body; for the enthusiasm and stamina of my spirit and for the clear thinking and openness of my mind. I am ready for the Niverville half marathon in 7 days.