This may sound weird to you, but the other day I was thinking about what two items I would like to be buried with when I die.—It’s definitely a morbid thought; however, if you really give it some consideration, you might be surprised how difficult it is to make this decision. The two things I would chose are my wedding ring and my first Boston Marathon Medal. The wedding ring was really a “no-brainer” because I think my greatest accomplishment has been my 27 years with my wife Mary-Anne. We’ve ridden a lot of of ups and downs and raised one incredible son, of whom we are incredibly honoured and proud. When I was going through a particularly difficult period in my life this past summer, Mary-Anne wrote an anniversary card to me in which she said: “Who knew when we said for better or worse, that it would be the worse that made us better.” Now you might understand why my wedding ring is so valuable to me.
The other constant in my life has been my running, so the thought of spending eternity with my first Boston Medal around my neck just seems fitting. Over the years, I've learned a lot about myself through running, and I thought I would share some of my “runner’s wisdom” with you now.
1. What you did yesterday impacts what happens today.
Having run 75 marathons and a few ultra marathons, I can’t tell you how many self-induced painful long runs I have had over the years because I opted for a second helping of dessert the night before, or because I decided to stay up later than I should have. Training for a marathon is like a game of chess—If you’re not thinking two steps ahead, be prepared to pay the price.
2. I have an intimate relationship with all of the raccoons, sex trade workers, tomcats, and newspaper delivery drivers in Toronto.
I’m up and out of the house for my run every day by 4:30am. I know that sounds “insane” to most of you, but it’s the most beautiful time of the day. Heading out the door early allows me to have the streets pretty much to myself, so even on snowy, icy days, I can charge down the street where the traction is better. As an added bonus, I take in the sunrise most mornings—When I’m lying on my death bed, I’d much rather have all those sunrises in my memory than the hours of extra sleep I’m missing.
3. It’s always a good idea to protect the bits.
I’ve seen too many people crossing the finish line of races with blood-stained shirts because they neglected to take preventative action. I never leave the house for a run, of any distance, without putting bandaids over my nipples. Speaking of “protecting the bits”—As a male runner training in -35 degree conditions, I’ve learned that you can never protect “the boys” enough. In the winter, I wear running briefs with a windbreak panel in the front, but I also shove a plastic bag down between my briefs and my tights. I love those bags that they use to wrap our newspaper in—works like a charm!
4. Pay it forward and say thanks.
I’m honoured to live in an area with so many races to choose from, so for each of the past 5 years, I’ve run 9 or 10 marathons a year. I make sure I “give back” to the running community by doing at least one of those races every year as a “Pace Bunny”. I love running with a big group and keeping them motivated and entertained along the race route. I also make sure to thank all the police officers along the course directing traffic and keeping us safe, but best of all, I try to high-five the kids cheering us on along the sidewalk.
5. Sometimes it’s not bad to get lost.
Wherever we travel, I make sure to head out for my morning run. I think it’s the best way to connect to a new environment and discover the “real” sense of place. That being said, over the years I’ve been stopped in my tracks by a majestic buck, chased by a guard waving an M16, stalked by a rabid coyote, had my head attacked by a threatened bird, and my all time favourite—had an electrocuted squirrel fall off a wire and hit me in the head. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that my training runs are not a race—I always have time to stop to admire a gorgeous sunrise, be amazed by crashing waves on a beach, stare back at cows in a field, check out a potential restaurant for dinner in Manhattan, or simply be proud of myself for getting my ass out the door for another day!