This is the final installment in a series of four posts written by Nancy Constantine, on her experience of training for – and successfully completing – the Niverville half-marathon. In this series, Nancy has offered up some insights about what her running teaches her about herself, her faith, and her God.
aturday was going to be our last day of summer according to forecasters – fall was scheduled to arrive the next day. We were travelling South on Highway 59 towards Niverville to what the running community was calling ‘one of the best organized runs being offered’. Hazel and Linda were set to run the 10 k, I was doing the ½ marathon, and as we got closer to the Ball Field Parking Lot, I wondered if anyone would care or know if I just ran 10 k with my friends.
WHAT WAS I THINKING other than experiencing pre-run jitters? I had trained for this since June 21st (the Manitoba Marathon) when I pledged to keep the momentum going following my first ½ marathon. I trained consistently and hardly missed a run to facilitate this goal. I made a couple trips to Garbage Hill for endurance training, and that is always intense. I even ran around Shediac Bay in New Brunswick on my holidays several times. The heat and humidity of the past couple weeks didn’t stop me either. I was focused, determined and prepared in body and spirit – the mind just had to catch up! The fireworks and ceremonial gun-shot took place about 10 after 9. We were off.
The participants varied from many I recognized from the city, runners, walkers, mothers pushing strollers, people of all ages on bicycles, Hutterite women in full dress and Hutterite men in jeans and suspenders. This was a plethora of activity I was witnessing and participating in. We had come together to ‘run’ for a cause too huge to ignore – mental health awareness and suicide prevention. The event is a non-competitive ½ marathon fundraiser organized in loving memory of Joey Stott by his mom, Mona. Since 2007, her efforts have raised thousands of dollars in support of Mood Disorders Association. Throughout the run, there were signs – Suicide is Not the Answer – You Are Never Alone.
The second half of the run led us out of the town along a straight route that was lined with inspirational posters and names of victims that lost their life battle to suicide. The climax of the race – at about mile 9.5 – was the definition of a hero – where we were invited to look into a huge mirror to see the ‘true heros’ before turning around and running the remaining 3.5 miles. I am a runner, not a hero but for the balance of the run, I was even more motivated to be a part of something much bigger than just the personal achievement of a goal. As I absorbed all that I had read, and ran through the final sub-division, I was profoundly aware that I am not on this road of life alone. I am not even on this race alone. I voiced to my Constant Companion the names that were before me on the route back – in honor of their legacies, their memories, their mark on lives left behind. There was reference along the way to compassion and having a strong social network – neither to be taken for granted. Running for a cause that increases awareness and saves one more life made it easy to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I was back in town in the final mile and a half. The weather was beautiful – we were bathed in warm sunlight with a soft, gentle prairie breeze as bands played, people cheered, sponges, water and Gatorade were offered. To think I had contemplated running only 10 k and missing out on the powerful experience of this full run! What was I thinking? At mile 12, it hit me, as I took my last sip of water. How lucky am I to have parents and sisters (partners), nieces and nephews, friends and co-workers who truly care about me, value my participation in their lives and comprise my network of support! How fortunate am I to have a vocation that enables me to try to make a positive difference and impact in those lives entrusted in my care! How about that wonderful, supportive, fun community I live in amongst fellow runners, dog-walkers, neighbours and friends that represent my ‘family of choice’! What about that house that gives me unspeakable joy in restoring, decorating, entertaining and nesting? As my feet continue to carry my body towards the finish-line, I am struggling to take deep breaths as I am overcome with emotion. My friend, Barb came out to greet me along with Linda and Hazel armed with cameras and hugs – the tangible reminders of the blessings in my life.
I am always brought back to that triune of health which running has emphasized – Body, Mind and Spirit. I am so grateful for turning 50 and taking on these challenges of two ½ marathons. Having the capacity in body, the motivation in mind, and the overwhelming joy of spirit that putting on a pair of runners and setting out on a course renders – that is why I run. And yes, God does wear Nikes.