I was rooting through my phone this afternoon for sports news, and came upon this headline: Levins Breaks Canadian Marathon Record. In Toronto today, Cam Levins ran the 42 kilometres (or 26 miles) in two hours, nine minutes and twenty-five seconds. Good for you, Mr. Cam.
I thought back to my own history in the marathon, grieving my natural aging and the decline in my athletic performance. This summer’s early exit from the Tour du Canada bicycle ride still hurts.
How has it come to pass that a potpourri of body parts ache? My left hip, left ankle, right knee, right thumb and central self-esteem – they all hurt! But as soon as I type this litany of loss, I start smiling. What a wacky life we lead. Everything is changing, virtually every day. New marathons of experience beckon.
I ran in five marathons, all previewed by many miles of training in the coulees of Southern Alberta. In four of those marathons, I hit the mythical “wall”. Somewhere around the 20 mile mark, the legs feel dead, with its many muscles demanding I stop. Four times I did. I especially remember the Calgary Marathon. Vices planted themselves on every square inch of leg flesh. On the count of three, they all squeezed. Not only could I not run, I couldn’t walk.
1985 was special. I finished the Vancouver Marathon, in a time of four hours and fourteen minutes. The thrill was all mixed up with intense pain, and this time it wasn’t the legs. My heart hurt. I thought a little cool down walk might help. I had three hours to kill before my bus would be leaving for Lethbridge, Alberta. Hmm … bad choice of words. I dragged myself through some downtown streets, and the pain worsened. Oh my God, was this a heart attack? Was this the end?
My steps became staggers and I fell onto a bench by the sidewalk. I think I curled up into a ball. “I’m dying.” I waited for the closing to come. No long replay of my life. Just agony.
A gentleman who I later found out was a cab driver came over. “Are you all right?” > “No. Please call an ambulance.” He helped me into his car and we sped off to St. Paul’s Hospital. I stayed put for two weeks. “Mr. Kerr, you have pericarditis, an inflammation of the walls of the heart. You will recover.” Judging by my current typing, I did.
I’ve dreamt of being an elite athlete, but it won’t be happening in this lifetime. That’s okay. There are other horizons to move towards. I sense that mine will be in the realm of consciousness. Slow and steady will get me there, certainly in a much longer time than 4:14.