Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The race...before the race

Last Sunday, Tyler and I planned to run 19 kilometers in downtown Ottawa as our final "dress rehearsal" before race day. We hired our sitter for 4 hours and Tyler charted our path to be a little over 19 km. I wasn't too sure how I would do, since I had been at a birth the night before and had only gotten about 5 hours of sleep. So as we approached downtown, I started to get really nervous about my ability to run 19 km.

Downtown was beautiful and packed as we were in the midst of the Tulip Festival. We parked at our favourite spot, the World Exchange Plaza, and walked to our starting point, the park across the Lord Elgin Hotel.

We started our run slowly (in between sloth-pace and turtle-pace) as we made our way to Queen Elizabeth drive and shuffled through crowds of people enjoying the beautiful day in Ottawa. Our route followed Queen Elizabeth all the way to Dow's Lake, through the arboretum, across the Canal to Colonel By drive, back to downtown, through Chateau Laurier and Confederation Park (I think) across the bridge to Quebec around the civilization museum, back to the Portage Bridge, down the banks of the  river and back up the locks and our starting line. I won't give you a detailed account of all that went through my head during our run, but when my body started to ache and my legs felt like lead, I definitely had to shift and focus on my mental strategies to keep going.

The parallel between running and birth are so true and real in so many ways. I'm accustomed to teaching prenatal classes and telling participants that the parallels between running a marathon and working through labour and birth are powerful, but now I can really attest to how true this is. Only in reverse. While in class I motivate people by bringing marathon strategies into their birth experience, during my run, I was using strategies I had practiced in birth to help me run farther. I remember feeling very tired at one point and telling myself: "This is like transition, this is the hardest but the shortest and I can do it." It totally worked! I felt like giving up many times when I hit the rough spots (as in labour) but each time I dug deep within myself and chose to focus on just one step at a time (or one contraction at a time) to get to the finish.

When we finally stopped running and I looked at my ipod to see the distance and the time, I was stunned, followed by ecstatic and triumphant (as in birth). We had run 23.5 kilometer in 2:42:42 mn. Four more kilometers than we had planned, 2 more kilometers as would be required for the half-marathon, and I HAD DONE IT! The physical pain and discomfort I felt immediately after I stopped running didn't matter because I had just accomplished one of the most incredible, ambitious, and what I thought not-too-long ago to be an impossible feat!  I felt just as I had felt after I birthed 2 babies of my own physical and mental powers.

Here's what I know for sure now: nothing is impossible. Nothing at all. And I look forward to proving this to myself over and over again.

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