No Marathon Gene

(Mis)adventures in Running, Part III

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2Tim.4:7).

According to a study from Loughborough University scientists, 20% of the world’s population does not have a ‘marathon gene.’ What that means is that they will never be able to run a marathon in good time despite having sufficient training.

When I read this statistic it made me both happy and sad. Happy that being slow was not my fault. I am part of the 20%. Sad, that being slow sucks. I hate being part of the 20%.

In spite of the genetic malfunction I took on two marathons. At first I began to tell people I ran two marathons but when they told me that to run is to “move at a faster speed than a walk,” I had to modify my boast to “I completed two marathons.” 

Let me tell you about the first marathon. It was the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon held on October 18, 2015. I had completed a 5k and a couple of 10k runs and did the Nutrience Oakville half-marathon in 2 hours 9 minutes and the Mississauga half at 2 hours 3 minutes, so I felt good to go for the big boy. I felt even better knowing that I was able to persuade my daughter to run with me. Tip: The line “you are doing this for daddy’s health” will never fail.

We trained with a schedule we downloaded from the internet and stuck to the regimen. Two weeks before the marathon we did a test run of close to 37 km and came home without pain or strain. We were good to go.

Race day arrived. Streamers from buildings at the start line danced in a light wind that came off the lake. It was a bit on the cooler side and to stay warm many were running up and down the nearby sidewalks. There were 3,757 runners. A blind woman with her guides stood beside us at the starting line and a few rows back was a man in a cast and crutches. I checked two off people I was going to beat that day.

With a gunshot and upbeat music blaring from a sound system the race began. Father and daughter began in tandem and kept pace nicely to the 10k mark. We were under an hour and we were both feeling good when my daughter let out a scream and grabbed her calf. She pulled up badly and was in a lot of pain. “I can’t go anymore, dad. You run along and I will meet you at the finish line.” I told her I started this with her months before and we would either finish together or not at all. She was crying, from a mixture of pain and disappointment. We had trained hard and she felt bad for me. I massaged her calf and she limped and hobbled, stopped and started, popping Tylenols in between, all the way to the end.

The hours passed slowly and agonizingly and when we finally made it to within a kilometer to the finish line the man in the cast passed us. I looked back and there was no one is sight. Three were DQ’d and we placed 3,691, me nosing ahead of my daughter by 1 second to finish at 6.02. I reckoned we had beaten the visually impaired woman, only to find her celebrating with her friends at the finish line. Save for the girl who stayed to give us our medals everyone it seemed were already home in their warm beds. At least the winner was.

Ishmael Chemtan finished with a time of 2.09. I smiled. I was in good company. It was the exact time I took to complete my Oakville half.

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