Last year I participated in the 20K run. I didn't know anyone at the time. Looking back at photos from the day now, I realize just how many of the participants that were starting and running right around me I now call friends! This year the list of runners I knew that were participating was long. From the second I arrived in the beaches area, I saw people I knew. The day turned into a great opportunity for fun photos before, during and after the run... My highlighter outfit twin, Melly (totally unplanned). My Tiux sock twin Andrea (planned). A trio of subtle superheros. An amazingly inspiring kid taking on his first 10K. Friends from Ottawa and Orillia. The runfie creator himself, Andrew. Some amazing group shots by Inge. Race director Alan who taught us a fun handshake that he learned in Mexico... And of course, a photo finish I will always remember.
Many of my running friends decided this was going to be an easy run due to the heat and where they were at in their schedules. Considering I hadn't run longer than 15K in many months--I was game for this plan! Melly, Christa, Athena, Josie and I started out together. We quickly realized that Josie's slow speed was a lot faster than ours, so we told her to go ahead, leaving the four of us to chat our way along, passed and passing three superheros along the way. The pace and heat hit me hard, and I found myself having to walk way more than I wanted. The girls were incredibly supportive in taking walk breaks with me, and even though I felt guilty, I would have done the exact same to be able to keep the group together. At the Leslie Street Spit, I told them to go ahead, that I would skip that portion knowing how challenging it was the previous year. But that I would definitely be waiting for them on the return. I walked and ran for a kilometer and then stopped to chat with some of the Beaches running group volunteers as I waited for the girls. It was actually really fun to see everyone passing by and to cheer the runners on. As I stood there and recovered for a bit, I realized how glad I was to not have done the Spit portion. The girls emerged from the humid pack of runners. We regrouped and headed towards the finish, a little less than 3K away. As soon as we hit the boardwalk for the last kilometer, we positioned ourselves four across, and our pace quickened. People on the beach cheered us on as our feet pounded the boardwalk. When the finish line was in sight, we realized that many of our friends were just on the other side waiting and cheering for us. Clasping hands, we crossed the finish line together. I've never finished a race with anyone and this finish with four runners I admire so much and am happy to call friends was incredibly special for me.
You just never know what a run is going to bring. Each one can be special if you make it special.