Wednesday, December 29, 2010

May 30 Cabot Trail Relay - leg 11

Sunday May 30

It turns out the CTR was amazing for you. Your team rallied about you and gave you all the support you needed … both physical and emotional … and by the look of the van when it got home – a sufficient supply of Tim Horton’s 4X4.

The Tidal Boar Runners, Team 29, were responsible for a water stop. Each year the water stops are farmed out to the teams to man. Your team always takes a stop. This year was no exception.

There is a prize for the best water stop and so the competition is fierce to make your team’s water stop memorable. Generally there is a theme to the stop. The stops during the night legs are harder to make impressive then the daytime stops. This year the theme for the Tidal Boar Runners was Baseball.

A few months ago, you had an idea that you had worked on for your teammates. You bought them baseball shirts with the Tidal Boar Runner logo on the back and Team #29 on the right sleeve and the last name of the runner on the left arm. You handed these shirts out to the runners of the team and when the water stop was set up, everyone was wearing the shirts, throwing a baseball about and handing out water. Teammate, Jodie, worked out a system for you to hand out water to the runners. After a few practice ‘run-bye’s’, you and Jody had an efficient water distribution system.

The relay was ticking along well until it became apparent that there was no runner for leg 11. Leg 11 starts shortly before midnight and with no runner the team would get an incomplete on the race. The unexpected often happens in events like this. The CTR organizers have a loophole rule that allows a team not to default. The rule allows a team to place a runner in the leg and if the leg isn’t finished, the time given to the team is the time of the slowest team plus 5 minutes.

Martha kept the idea from you until close to the last minute, so that you would do it for the team. As expected, you did. You took leg 11 without hesitation. Just like other years when you would go that ‘extra mile’ for the team, this year was no exception. You didn’t just start the leg but you also walked a good couple of hundred metres. The teammates had a special finish-line for you to cross… which you did… of course!

Who would have thought a few months ago that this would have been possible. It hasn’t been lost on me that your team 29 needed you on the 29th and you came through. You inspired the team and all the people at the CTR.

After this leg, you smoked your last cigarette. You decided that this is your pivot point. In the highlands of your beloved Cape Breton Island, you made a conscious decision to take charge of your life and health and not smoke.

At the banquet in Baddeck, later today, your name was announced. The announcer talked about the health struggle that you had over the past several months and that you have not let it define you. You took part in every aspect of the race and even took a leg! There was a standing ovation by all the fellow runners. You were overwhelmed with emotion at the outpouring of support. The clapping seemed to last forever … it was probably just a minute or two. You wept uncontrollably. Tears of Joy. (I teared up too.)

Several runners who you respected and admired for a long time, came up to you with their own words of encouragement. Some with tears in their eyes too.

Rami, a very good runner who has done Boston a number of times and places near the top on his age bracket, came up to you after the banquet. He spoke about his weekend experience. He ran a difficult leg (leg 5) and he wanted to get first place. He did. A few legs later, a teammate was injured and so he ran that leg too (leg 10). Just as you would have. He said that during the run he was starting to feel it. So like most athletes of that calliper, he didn’t reach to his legs for strength, he reached to his mind. He thought of you. He thought your courage and determination to overcome what, at one point, was hopeless, and he pushed on. He placed second out of 70 teams!

By this time the three of us are feeling pretty emotional. For his big finish with you he said “I got a trophy this year at Boston for placing third in the division. It’s glass and sort of looks like an ashtray. I want to give it to you.” You wept.

After the emotional high of the CTR, there was a long drive home. Chris G and you drove home in the van and the children, Annie and I drove home in the fit. On the drive with Chris, the two of you relived the highlights of the weekend.

Chris made a very good point to you. The standing ovation represents a small number of the people who are standing on the sidelines, cheering you on. People from every aspect of your life. Your childhood friends in Ottawa, your family, the families at the church, at the school, baseball friends, runners and everyone who has crossed life paths with you. They all want to see you make the best recovery you can. They want a happy ending. Only you can make this happen.

The ending of your Marathon is yours to finish. We are only your cheerleaders.

Chris G’s peptalk seemed to hit a note with you. I think that you are starting to realise that many people are standing for you. They are invested in your recovery. You are an inspiration ... in the making. You have to keep the recovery going to continue to be the inspiration.

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