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November - Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021
Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 @ 5:03 pm
The Half Marathon
Standing in the corral at the start line. Jogging on the spot to keep warm. I glance behind me across the sea of nearly two thousand runners. The harbour glittering in morning sunshine, the Parliament buildings in all their colonialist glory. I am nervous as a racehorse, jumpy and nauseous. The countdown begins. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. The starting gun fires. BANG Followed by the quiet pitter-patter of running shoes on asphalt.
My period arrived the day prior, in a heaving wash of pain and dizziness. The day passed in a blur of emotional and physical discomfort. In the used book store, I had to lean against a shelf of fiction, waiting for the wave of cramping to pass, focusing only on my breath and staying conscious. In the park, I had to stop walking and rest on a bench. Overlooking the straight. Freighters en route to Seattle, sailboats out for the day from Oak Bay.
Being in Victoria was, at first, difficult. Flashes of my previous life. So much has changed since then; I have changed since then. The city is familiar but just slightly different - a road configuration revised here, a new building erected there. The old blue bridge swapped out for an elegant and white modern version.
I walked past our old apartment. I stood outside and looked up at where I used to live. That apartment was the location of our first argument, which was, in retrospect, the first time that he pushed me into a primal, emotional breakdown. I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know about gaslighting. I just believed what he said and accepted that there was something wrong with me.
Eventually, after walking though more of the old neighbourhood, I gave up on being out in the city. I retreated to the hotel and spent the remainder of the afternoon rotating between the hot tub, pool, and sauna.
At the one mile mark of the race, I look at my phone and realize that the pack is carrying me along at way too fast of a pace. I won’t be able to sustain this for 21 kilometers. And at the same time, I wonder if maybe I can.
So I keep running. I run through James Bay, along roads that I previously drove the horse-drawn carriages, the clip clop of hooves echoing on the quiet walks back to the trailer at Ogden Point. I run along the bluffs, where I walked nearly every day, rain or shine. I run and run and run and my pace is faster than I’d planned and I should be slowing down but it feels good and I don’t want to stop.
I reach the twenty kilometer mark and realize that I’m going to be sub two hours. I don’t let up.
Rounding the final bend, someone calls out my name, cheering me on. Is that Jody? Yes, it’s Jody, a coworker from home. What is she doing here? How did she recognize me?
I cross the finish line, somewhat casually, with a grin on my face.
The announcer calls out my name and comments that it looks like the race wasn’t hard enough for some folks. I look at the time. 1:49:33.
So there it is. At age 40, I ran my first half marathon. And not only that, my finish time was pretty darn decent.
That evening, we had turkey dinner over at a friend's home in Fairfield. There was bordeaux and tureens of gravy and bowls overflowing with stuffing. There was laughter and warmth and friendship. When we were leaving, a herd of deer was grazing on the front lawn. A young buck with a rack of antlers stared me down. The Queen’s Deer
By the time we were leaving the island on Monday evening, the emotions had softened. I proved something to myself, and I reclaimed this space for the person that I am today: strong, confident and loved.
Without my previous life in Victoria, I would not be where I am today. The arc of life, these experiences that shape who we are. The risks that we take. I love that I lived there. I do not love the things that he said or did to me or how I accepted so little for myself. These things can co-exist in a paradox.
I now understand why I signed up for the half marathon, despite not running for years. It was a way to process Victoria and the things that happened there, to understand who I was then compared with who I am now.
What will I remember most from this race, from this weekend? Russell standing there at the finish line and opening his arms towards me. A loving embrace and warm stillness, among the buzzing thrum of humanity.