My First 5k Run

(Mis)adventures in Running, Part 1

“I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccles.9:11.

Most people seem to agree that running is good for our bodies. It improves bone density, aids in cardiovascular health, reduces cholesterol, lowers high blood pressure, boosts sex drive, and may even stave off Mr. Alzheimer. According to the experts, running releases endorphins that make us happy. All good things indeed!

The problem is how to get started with this thing called running so we can enjoy these benefits. Most people cannot run a mile without several stops and few can make it a couple of blocks without keeling over as if they are about to die from a gunshot to the stomach. I was one of those people. But as you no doubt will expect, I had an excuse. In fact I had two.

The first is that I was not built for running. I have what the old people used to refer to as “knock knees.” This is the opposite of bowed legs. The latter is when the legs curve outwards, with the knees further apart than the rest of the legs. The former is when the knees are so close together that they ‘knock’ when walking or running. As you can guess, when it came to Sports Day at school I was never able to qualify for any race. I never even made it past the first heat.

The second excuse is that I had bad knees, sustained from a tumble when I tried to dive for a ball during a volleyball game in my teens. The pain was excruciating and it followed me for the next twenty years. At times I could barely climb the stairs in my home. I even contemplated the idea of having a bone scan when someone suggested that there might be bone fragments lodged in my knees from the fall. But then came running.

June 15, 2009. The Mississauga Marathon was coming up and my son and his colleagues from their accounting firm decided to run the 5k and encouraged me to participate. I did not know how to refuse my son’s request and before I knew it I signed up for the race. Then the trouble began.

I started training by running a block, walking a block, and hobbling a block, all the way around my neighbourhood, a distance of two and a half kilometres. I huffed and puffed and by the time I got to the three-quarters point my bad knee began to hurt so terribly that I had to limp and drag my way home. This was not going to work I thought. I might as well kiss my registration fee goodbye. At least I tried.

But I expected a backlash from quitting and like a gunslinger I had my two excuses holstered and ready to fire at anyone who questioned my decision to withdraw from the event. I had knock-knees and one of them was busted. The problem is that the backlash did not come from my teammates. The one who questioned me and made me feel like a loser was me, that guy on the inside, and how do you fight this invisible foe and win?

And so I hobbled back on to the pavement, when darkness fell, so that my neighbours would not see me decked out in Nike running gear and walking. Day after day, I ran, walked, and limped home. But I noticed something encouraging. The pain was becoming less and I was covering a greater distance before discomfort would set in. Three weeks later I ran the 5k and finished in a not-so-respectable 32 minutes. But what else do you expect from a guy with knock-knees?

(My son Steve on the left, me on the right).

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