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Monday, February 27, 2012

Solo Racing, Peterborough Half marathon

Time stands still, however illusionary that truly is, for my last breath of comprehension... just before they finish that countdown.  Chaos and crowds and eyes everywhere.  Music too loud, and obstacles everywhere... I keep waiting for that voice to my left to say, heres the mat... step up...

There is none...

There is nothing...

Nothing but chaos and crowds... and eyes everywhere. 

Breathing deep, too deep to stop my feet.  No garmin, no bunnies, no stopping my panic.  No knowing, no trusting and no room for error.  No voice on my left.  No external encouragement.

Nothing but chaos and crowds .... and eyes everywhere.

I'm longing to close mine.  Block out the sun. Cancel the plans.  Return the ship to shore.  Move away from this challenge with my shortest of tails between my legs.  No one to talk you down. No one to spin the distraction away.  The crowd hasn't thinned.  That worries me.  I expected to run alone.  Turtle pace. Happy solo run.  It's not to be.

Nothing but chaos and crowds... and eyes everywhere.

Moving moving forward... for three brief seconds the sun hides behind a tree.  I wonder, as I find the road for the first time in 3km... Is this what solo racing is like for sighted athletes?  Alas no, because even though the sun hid revealing the road... I still only saw it with 8% vision.  I still only captured my location for 3 fleeting seconds. 

I have plugged in now.  ipod on... blocking out the chaos and the crowds.  Nothing can stop those eyes though.  When you put yourself out in the open... expect onlookers.  No one notices you in the shadows, hoping for the world to change.  Not even the world will notice. 

Somewhere around 3km there is a bunny passing... and a friend I knew that was aiming an easy 15-25 mins faster than me.  I cannot contain my laughter.  I am trying to keep up with the wrong crowd it seems.  And not for the last time this race I remind myself ... I'm not running their race.

This inner battle is raging.  Who's race am I running?  Not mine surely?  Creating awareness requires a shift is consciousness that comes from being uncomfortable.  So am I running their race? No... but still.

People on the course are helpful, if not curious.  I asked one kind racer to tap a pylon to let me know how far out I had before on coming traffic would be my doom.  I asked another to read a km marker sign.  Touched the following from there to count.  Some other racer warned the on course traffic cop was letting some cars through and I should stop.  Then asked how blind blind was.... 8% I answered with a smile.  "Does it affect your quality of life?" he enquired.  I quick self reminder... I'm not running their race.  The war raged on in my head.  Or was I?  Awareness my goal... surely I've done that?  "No" I answered.... (in a language that made sense for it's target) "I have a job, three wonderful children" ... He seemed lost in thought... I left him at 6km.  My own hill to climb.

A local member of our Achilles Track club passed me on that hill.  Wished me luck.  I returned.  Awareness.  She knew.  Silent words between us.  She's guided me in a race before.

"WATER?!" I heard them calling.... "water?" I asked... both hands up... "yep here" I was given this small clue.... Judging from that sound... Four feet away.  I waited... No more hints.  "keep talking?" I asked hands still raised... Then there was a cup... Grateful sips... Bright sun.. if I throw this will someone get wet? Another clue.  Thunk... there's a can here.... small steps... Thunk.  Found it.

Plug back in.  Breezed down that hill. Felt fantastic.  Running my race. Wait, now it's my race?  Journey in my ears.... So many eyes on me... I start singing.  Outloud.  Not caring.  Let them think.  Let them wonder.  Let them smile.  Dancing at 7km. This is not awareness for disability.  This is awareness of personal needs.  Dam it... I pull it together a bit more.  You can't represent unseen faces, even if you are one, no matter what you do.  Someone's needs will need fighting for.

My pylons have disappeared.  Replaced by ankle high invisible markers. I'm following the shadow of the hydro wire on the road for guidance.  Go for a drive and watch them.  They bellow and move... up and down on a curve... As did my running.  So bright. Longing to close my eyes. Block out that sun.

8km I hear my name.... I turn the music up... I'm not running their race.  I'm not running my race.  But I am running.  Turn around point I manage to send a text to Rick... to someone? to whomever was last on my list... 11 was what I hoped it said.  I'm still alive is what it meant.  Don't save me is what I meant.  Let me fight this is what I meant.

I can't fight it with the direction change.  I close my eyes.  I comprise by blinking every ten or fifteen seconds.  Open grimace, no barriers next ten feet... close them. Laugh how the hell would I know if there was something 8 feet from me?  And no barriers?  Ha!  This whole thing is my biggest barrier ever.  Ever.  Keep running.  There is a hill coming.  I'm not running my race.  Awareness won't come from me dying.  Keep running.

My feet shift in angle.  Here is my hill.  Only I know, climb the hill, turn the corner climb another.  Ran up the first, walked the second.  "WATER?" I hear that clue... here we go again...  Marco? I'm not running their race...

Down the hill.  Turn the music up.  I send another text.  16 it said I hoped.  I'm alive it meant.  Don't save me I meant.  Let me fight this war it meant. 

17km.. 18km... Turn the corner... dragged my feet over three sets of traintracks times two... Memorized their place in my race.  My race?  no... not my race...19km... and it hits me...

I've done this. And I'm gasping for air.  Crying without reserve.  Like a fool.  Now this is not awareness... Or is it?  And for whom?  Them? me? .... me....

20km theres a truck driving towards me on course.  No crowds.  No marshals.  No help.  Just me and this truck.  Still crying... Still thinking don't die.  Awareness does not come from death.  Not today.  I played the longest game of chicken I've ever dared with that truck.  Crying.  Waiting.  Praying.  no text now... what would it say? 20?

21k... I see that noise ahead.  I know that I'm done.  No crowds. No garmin.  No voice on my left to tell me heres the mat step up... Crying... Giving up... Awareness... Waiting to stop looking.. Longing to close my eyes.  Make it dark.   Make it stop.  Make awareness someone else's job now.

.. Hands found me.. Some I knew, others I didn't.  Some I let hold me... Others I shook.  They said accomplishment.  Crying... Not my race.  But so very much.....

 my race.....


Paula Kiger said...

I am pretty blown away by this post, both in its description of your day in particular, but in the language you used that could apply to various times when we feel we have to act or be or run a certain way, when in reality we are doing it for ourselves. This post is a gift, and congratulations on finishing.

KJ Perry said...

Simply...WOW! Amazing! You are immensely brave and inspiring. Thank you for sharing this. A person could run a thousand miles in one race and I still think a blind person who chooses to run 1 is stronger and braver than anyone. Simply amazing! Congratulations!