I woke up early this morning, finding myself in a bit of a funk. Father’s Day is a little tricky for me. I’ve been used to pretty much ignoring it for twenty years, and if I thought of it at all, it’s usually just a fleeting bit of “feeling sorry for myself” which usually soon passed. On top of this was about 4 years of “feeling sorry for myself” when we found out that biologically I wouldn’t be a father either. Tacked on to this is the last couple of years of actually being a father and all the privileges and responsibilities that this day now offers me. So it can be a complicated day, emotionally, for me.
It also always happens to be the Manitoba Marathon. Even though I was up early, my wife and daughter were up even earlier. They were playing in the other room, letting me have a sleep in. I was actually woken up by the sounds of the marathon itself. A new route this year takes the runners virtually by our front window.
It didn’t take much to get our daughter Audrey in her stroller and across the street to line the marathon route. I stood next to another guy who was wearing a “Jets” shirt. He got lots of smiles and positive comments from the runners as they went by. “You’re an inspiration!” I told him, but he seemed kind of embarrassed by the attention.
We were standing about a block “down-race” from a refreshment station. Not the best place in the world to stand, actually. Runners tend to throw their paper cups to the side so that they don’t trip up the other runners. A cup sailed past my head and I relocated a little further down the route.
I was amazed at the sheer number of people participating. The paper said 13,000+, but until you see all of them pass by in front of you, it doesn’t really sink in. I concentrated on the expressions of the runners. I would estimate 80% of the expressions were some form of pain. In fact, in the first few minutes, I mistook grimaces for smiles. Another 19% were showing stoic indifference, as if they were merely in a car, waiting for the light to change. Only about 1% looked like they were enjoying themselves in any way. We were standing at about the 6 mile mark. This seems to be a good point in the race. Most people are still in it, but you’re enough of a way in that people are starting to space themselves out. Not enough for one woman who kept yelling “STOP CROWDING ME!” to everyone around her. Another man didn’t so much run by as glide by, with no sign of sweat at all. “What was his secret?” I wondered.
I saw Chris, my friend at the front of the U2 GA line, and his girlfriend go by on the far side, and didn’t have nearly enough time to geek out over the dramatic setlist change from last night’s Anaheim show. (5 songs from Achtung Baby including “The Fly” to start things off? Insane!) Then I heard “Trevor! Audrey!” It was Dave from church who spotted us on the sidewalk. I didn’t really have time to say anything, so I just gave him the thumbs up. It’s literally the least I could do. Much later, another friend of ours, Rudy, spotted us. This time I had enough sense to clap.
Some of the runners were asking us the time, I guess to help estimate their pace. I was actually helping out! I got into it and began to shout the time at every runner I made eye contact with, until it got a little weird and I stopped.
I even aided and abetted a cheater! A woman with a numbered bib came up to me and asked for a shortcut to Jubilee. I told her the way and she said thanks, winked at me and furtively took off down the lane. I checked later and if she was running the full marathon, this would shave about 15 miles off of the course!
Another guy asked directions to Pembina. “Just follow all those runners and you can’t miss it!” I told him.
One bystander kept yelling into a cell phone. ” WE MISSED HIM AGAIN! WE MISSED HIM AGAIN! I DON’T KNOW WHERE HE IS!” Luckily she kept walking.
I was having fun. Seeing people of all shapes, sizes, ages, creeds and races out there participating was raising my spirits. I don’t think Audrey was having as good a time as me. She kept asking for her Mommy, and was more interested in spotting the dogs and babies along the route. I found one last granola bar in my fleece (the last of the U2 stash from three weeks before) and that kept her busy for a while. I thought most of the runners were smiling at me, and I did my part to smile and wave back. I did this until I realized Audrey was getting into it and was waving at people too.
There were a few inevitable frustrated motorists trapped in the web of street closures. “But I have to get to work!” one young woman pleaded with race officials. Less sympathetic to me were a couple of guys who were angry that they couldn’t get into the Wildwood Club to make their tee-time. Just park your damn SUV and walk a block, okay?
After about an hour or so, the racers thinned to a trickle. Audrey was ready to go home. I saw two people running with matching t-shirts. One said “Dad” and the other “Daughter”. Maybe 15-20 years from now that’ll be Audrey and me. She’d be in her late teens, and I’d be in my early 50’s. Not likely, but not impossible either. Fatherhood isn’t a sprint, is it? It’s more like a marathon.