Running to Médoc Part 1: Endurance, Friendship and Wine

The winter of 1999 was the coldest, rainiest, most miserable of winters. Or, it could be that it was the first winter I spent so much time outdoors. There was no cheating. Bonnie was on a mission. I began to call her Coach. Every Tuesday and Thursday night the phone would ring. “Did you run?” she would ask. We would then compare notes about how cold we were, how deep the puddles, how many layers of clothing the rain was able to penetrate.

Our training program was the walk-run method. You begin with walking four and a half minutes, running half a minute and repeat the process for twenty-five minutes. That time eventually progressed to a one hour rotation of running ten minutes and walking one minute.

We managed to convince a couple of other friends that running was actually a fun thing to do. The reward was muffins and coffee at my place, or breakfast at the local pancake house.

By the time April 25th rolled around we had grown to the Group of Five. Excited and giddy, we arrived at the corner of Georgia and Burrard rubbing elbows with 40,000 Vancouver Sun Runners.

Colorful arches of balloons dictated where your group would start according to your entry time. Ours were the green balloons. We took turns propping each other up to grab a brief glimpse of the colorful sea of bobbing heads. Exuberant young Fitness World trainers conducted our warm-up exercises shouting commands through large speakers. We stretched, lunged, and lifted our knees high. Then came the question “Are You Ready?”

“Yes” answered forty thousand voices and the starting gun went off. I was hooked.

Ten K was a civil, doable distance to run without killing yourself. But Bonnie wasn’t stopping there. Oh no. More friends joined us and we expanded to the Group of Eight making critical decisions on where we would run the following Saturday, and how far we would run, or how long we would run. Who would bring the muffins? Would we eat breakfast out? It required several e-mails and, most importantly, commitment.

Bonnie decided it was time to move on to a half-marathon. For those of us who required convincing, she dangled the big carrot. Las Vegas. If we were going to do something as monumental as a half-marathon, it was going to be somewhere special. I’m not sure if we actually ever ran twenty-one kilometers before we boarded that plane for Vegas in February of 2002, but we felt ready.

At six a.m. the organizers bussed us out from Sin City to somewhere in the desert. From there we would run back to the city. It was still dark. The temperature was below freezing. Off in the distance, way, way off, we could see the reflection of the Vegas city lights. Then the reality of twenty-one kilometers hit home.

We started out hand in hand, in layered clothing that we had purchased at thrift stores. As the sun rose, we peeled clothes off, piece by piece, dropping them by the roadside where members of the Salvation Army rescued them for the needy. At the water stations runners would take a quick drink and toss the remainder onto the ground. The water froze to the pavement so we had to be very careful where we planted our running shoes.

Jack Frost worked hard until the sun rose to a level he could no longer fight and he melted away, exhausted. We were still running.

Two hours and thirty minutes later we were all wrapped in the silver blankets they throw over your shoulders at the finish line. Everyone glitters in Vegas. Proudly we displayed our medals. Everyone who completes is rewarded. Then off we strolled past the dancing waters into the Bellagio Hotel to celebrate our “Everest” with a multi-calorie, cholesterol infested brunch. We were drunk with enthusiasm, happiness, and pomp. Stupidly we committed to more half-marathons.

We continued with our running and muffins for the next few years. In between monthly five to 10k runs and an annual half-marathon, Christina had a baby girl, Judy fought two battles with breast cancer, Bonnie became engaged to George, and there were operations and our children’s graduations. Sharing laughs and tears, our Saturday runs held us together mentally, physically and emotionally.

Then it happened. The word Marathon popped into the conversation. The real marathon. The 42 kilometer marathon. It was inevitable that someone would say the word. We had tried desperately to ignore it, to pretend there was no such thing. We needed a carrot.

Karen found it. It was wine. It was not just any wine. It was French wine.

Next installment: From Surrey to Medoc, wine entices Cathie Marson and her friends to do a Marathon from vineyard to vineyard, sampling the best wines of France on the way. The marathon was also a “costume event.” Coming tomorrow to the Vancouver Observer.

Catherine Marson is the proud mother of two grown sons, Michael and Leo. She works in finance, but aspires to be a struggling writer someday. She began running when she was just forty-eight years old.
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