This is a story of friendship:
Lakeshore Road in Burlington, Ontario. A cold Sunday morning in March, 10:05am.
A and M are two 30-something females who have been friends for a decade through Chiropractic College, weddings, babies, businesses, tears, and laughter. This is their first Half Marathon together in 9 years. With 1:23 and 1:20 Personal Bests under their belts in 2004, the two friends are aiming for a 1:45 today. However, their unspoken competitive natures are evident in their quiet demeanors and anxious pre-race preparations.
Starting Line (Brant/Caroline Streets)
A: Here we go!
A: So we’ll head out on this stretch for a 5km out-and-back, and then we run East all the way to the turnaround at Burloak. (Nervously) So we’ll be able to see a long ways ahead of us once we’re on that straightaway.
M: Okay, thanks for the heads-up. (Checks watch)
A and M talk about their day-to-day lives, family vacations, and what their kids eat for breakfast.
A: (Pulls out energy gel) Okay, so this is Walker’s Line. Then it’s Appleby Line, then Burloak. That’s the turnaround.
M: Okay. (Checks watch)
A: (Excitedly) I see a police car up ahead with its flashers on, that must be the turnaround already!
M: No, I think that’s just the leaders coming back onto the homestretch.
A: (Defeated) Oh. (A is starting to play mind games with herself, worrying that they’ve gone out too fast.)
A and M excitedly cheer on the leaders coming back West along Lakeshore Road.
KM 13 (Turnaround at Burloak Drive)
M: (Checks watch) Okay, now I don’t want to get you too excited, but if we keep up this pace, we’re going to break 1:40!
A: (Huge smile) I’m going to apologize for my bad mood now. Let’s do it!
(M tells various stories about other races and reminisces about her and A’s racing history. A is silent, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.)
A: M, please go on ahead. You look strong. I’ll meet you at the finish line. Go ahead. I don’t mind. Go kick some butt. I’m hurting.
M: You’re doing great! (Checks watch)
KM 18 (Church volunteers at water station.)
Volunteer: Oranges and bananas! Oranges and bananas!
(A finds that this phrase matches the cadence of her stride. She continues to repeat a silent mantra- oranges and bananas, oranges and bananas, oranges and bananas). M continues to stay beside her, half a stride ahead.
M: Let’s use this downhill (Accelerates).
M: Two kilometres to go. C’mon. (Checks watch)
A: Ten minutes. Less than ten minutes. I can do that.
M: Yep, less than a WOD at Crossfit. Let’s go.
KM 20 (Fans line the streets, holding signs and ringing cowbells. A and M can hear the music from the approaching Finish Line.)
M: (Checks watch) Okay, now it’s time to think of your sweet little Drew and Casey meeting you at the finish line. Picture their faces. Let’s chase 1:40!
A: (Holding back tears, overwhelmed with emotion and exhaustion.) Okay.
KM 21 (Heading North on Brant Street, the Finish Line is in sight.)
M: There they are! (Points to A and M’s husbands and children cheering and waving at them) Look at that clock! (M’s watch reads 1:38)
A: Almost there! Go!
KM 21.1 (Inside the finishing chute; A and M step across the timing mat and embrace. Tears of joy run down A’s face.)
A: Thank you so much for sticking with me and pulling me through when I was clearly dying. I could not have done that without you.
M: We were in it together, every step, because I wouldn’t have even made it to the Start Line without you. I’m so proud of us!