why we’re running seawheeze
posted: February 25, 2014
Ever wonder what drives someone to commit to a sweaty goal, especially when they have little to no history doing that sport? When International Blog Editor Alicia-Rae and I sat down to talk about why in heaven’s name we signed up for this year’s SeaWheeze half marathon, two very different stories emerged.
Kenya’s Kalenjin people number only about 5 million, yet they dominate the world’s long distance races; image via John Burnett/NPR
WHY I’M RUNNING SEAWHEEZE – KATE
In 2013, it seemed an extraordinary number of events spilled over the boundaries of running communities and pounded their way into mainstream media. From the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings to Oscar Pistorius’ notoriety, the world was unusually exposed to running, and the world of running to the rest of us.
But one story particularly stood out to me; that of Kenyan Wilson Kipsang. Not because last September Kipsang ran 2:03:23 to take the marathon world record by 15 seconds (which is insane but hey, many Kenyans are accomplished long distance runners), but because of the fascinating community that raised him.
Kipsang is of Kenya’s Kalenjin tribe. These people make up a mere 0.06% of the world’s population yet are overwhelmingly the fastest humans on earth.
“There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon,” David Epstein, Senior Editor at Sports Illustrated and author of the new book The Sports Gene told National Public Radio. “There were 32 Kalenjin who did it in October of 2011.”
Africa’s beautiful and unforgiving landscapes and its seemingly intractable problems (war, genocide, poverty, famine) have long fascinated me. It seems inconceivable that in 2014 there can be an entire continent functioning in considerable disarray while the rest of us carry on about our lives. Yet amidst the chaos, in a highland town called Iten above Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, the Kalenjin community begins most days by running.
At 9am sharp they emerge from modest dwellings and move uphill, their legs pumping them strongly and seemingly effortlessly past the mango vendors and fields of tea and passion fruit. Call me a romantic, but I love the idea that in this volatile continent something as pure and simple as running spells freedom for the Kalenjin people— not only in the moments when they are running, but in the potential to become prize-winning runners who are able aid in their families’ escape from poverty.
I am fortunate to live in a country that is neither corrupt nor war-torn. I am lucky that I have never faced poverty. I have no goals to be a prize-winning runner. But while I cannot in any way relate to the daily lives of the Kalenjin people, they inspire and captivate me in the unique way that Africa always has. And while it may seem a long way from Vancouver, that is what I was thinking about when I signed up for SeaWheeze.
Maybe when I lace up to train over the next six months I will glimpse some form of freedom. Maybe I’ll just get shin splints. Or maybe I’ll discover something entirely different along the way. Regardless, the fastest humans on earth inspired me to get out there.
Harrison Lake in British Columbia; image via Dakiri
WHY I’M RUNNING SEAWHEEZE – ALICIA-RAE
Those long distance runs they made you do in school? I always took the shortcut.
I’ve always loved the idea of being a runner, the ability to take off and explore wherever you are, and to be able to lace up anytime, leaving everything behind and clear your mind. But I’ve never liked running—the sharp pain it gives me in that spot between my shoulder and neck, the way my chest tightens up, or how it makes my knees ache.
So I’d never even run a mile before I signed up for Seawheeze last month.
I figured I could continue to blame my aversion to running on asthma or the cartilage damage in my knees, or I could set a goal and learn to practice a little self-discipline this year.
Extreme? Maybe. Doable? The jury’s still out. I’m told that with the right amount of training, it’s possible. Though I may have had a momentary lapse of better judgment when I signed up, with five whole months to train I’m committed to going for it.
My first run was on a mini-break to Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa, about an hour’s drive from Vancouver, last weekend. I headed out for a 30-minute run in 0ºC around Harrison Lake to convince myself that I actually was capable of the act of running. It turned out to be much more gratifying than expected; looking out across the lake at the snow-dusted mountains and small breaks on the windy beach I felt strong. (Knowing a post-run soak in hotel’s natural hot spring mineral pools awaited me upon my return definitely sweetened the deal.)
By the end of it, my nose was dripping uncontrollably; my toes were numb from the cold and my thighs felt as stiff as rocks. But, it was only 8am by the time I finished and it felt great to have a clear mind and full day ahead.
In all honesty, I realize now that I signed up for Seawheeze for selfish reasons—to start the journey towards being my best self, to set a fitness goal and actually achieve it.
No, I don’t have any lavish run goals, I simply to train to the best I can, and finish those 21.09km.