Posted by: Karen | February 16, 2010

To Infinity, and Beyond!

Most runners I know dream of running “to infinity” in one way or another, whether that means accomplishing really long runs (eg. marathons & ultras),  endless streaks of consecutive runs (eg. daily, or a certain mileage/month), or even maintaining the ability to run well into their senior years.

This report should be called “To Fifty and Beyond”, but I like Buzz Lightyear’s mantra from Toy Story, and 10 years ago when I first began running, the goal I just reached would have seemed like aiming for infinity. On February 6th I ran my 50th CRR Grand Prix Cross Country race in a row. There are 10 of these races per year, which means I haven’t missed running a single one in 5 years. There are other Calgary Roadrunners with much longer records than mine; Derek W. is up to 109 now, and I think Les W’s count is 79 in a row.  There are several other “streakers” in this series – it’s hard to stay away once you’ve tried a few.

I ran my 50th consecutive series race at Nose Hill Park. The night before it I baked up some Pillsbury Bring on the Gold cookies to contribute to the dessert table. I know, I’m usually a “from scratch” baker, but these made me feel kind of Olympic in a way.

The morning of the race I hunted up an inspiring song on Youtube, “Believe It or Not” and played it several times.

Believe it or not,
I’m walking on air!
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me.

Around 10:30 am I showed up at the community hall to help set up tables and chairs for the 100 or so other racers to enjoy a post-race lunch of soup and sweets. I’d brought two pairs of shoes; one with my Yaktrax already affixed, and another pair for working in the hall, so it was easy to change quickly when it was time to walk up to the park.

We walked to the start in groups of friends, all giddy with pre-race vibes. We joked around and Davey the Scot sang a merry tune as we traipsed through the sub-street tunnel leading to the park. As always, the moments just before the start involve more kibitzing and last minute wardrobe adjustments.

We’d had some fog earlier in the day, but by the time we got up to the plateau high above the rest of Calgary, it was sunny and clear. We began at the bottom of a long, lung-busting hill. As I ran past Dawn H., who was recording her adventure with a new video camera, I let loose Buzz’s rallying cry “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!”

In the first movie, Buzz demonstrates what he calls “flying”, but later in the plot he realizes he has been just “falling with style”. A lot of times I think of my running that way – I enjoy the sensation of hurtling my body through space, but realize with every touch of the ground that I am merely “falling with style”.

I didn’t run far before I was puffing and walking the rest of the way up, but for a moment I’d felt like an invincible super space ranger. Once I got to the relatively flat top of the plateau, I found a rhythm and settled in for a good run. Les clowned around by running ahead and standing by a volunteer, cheering us on and pretending he wasn’t racing too. I worked to keep Liesbeth and Dawn R. in sight, but didn’t feel the need to catch them. Ken kept me company and our conversation kept my mind off wanting to walk.

At the end of the race, the beginning ascent which I always dread at the start transforms into one of my favourite downhill finishes. To use one more Buzz comparison, in the second Toy Story movie, a delusional Buzz Lightyear struggles to carry a bunch of toys while climbing up the wall of an elevator shaft. As the effort of the climb becomes too great to bear, he realizes that he has an anti-gravity belt he could be using instead. He announces to the toys hanging on a rope below him “I’M GOING TO LET GO OF THE WALL.” (Space Rangers talk like that a lot, I think.) In the story, his anti-gravity belt doesn’t work, but an elevator comes up under him just in time to make it feel like it did.

I held this image in my mind as I headed down the final hill that day. I “let go of the wall”. I bounded down and down, falling gloriously between steps, with the biggest grin on my face as a huge whoop of joy burst from my being.

I high-fived “to FIFTY!” and hugged my daughter and friends. Then we headed back to the hall.

Next weekend the race course is through the Weaselhead, where the paths undulate like a roller coaster through the woods by the reservoir. I can’t wait to go “beyond”.

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Responses

  1. Did you say 50th consecutive race? Fifty races? Egads. Nice job, Karen!

    Love the race imagery. 🙂

    Greatest American Hero. Terrible that show went off the air. They could really do alot with it today.

  2. CONGRATULATIONS on your amazing streak! I admire people who set goals and accomplish them! Wishing you many more years of running as you begin to go beyond!

  3. Puts me to shame!

  4. I forgot about the American Hero. You go Karen!!!!

  5. you penquins are crazy…! and this is my most favorite running post ever. American Hero and Buzz Lightyear all rolled into it…

    perfect.

    you go girl. Let go of the wall!!!

  6. cool, well written. love how you express how you feel. love “falling with style”


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