Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ted's Run For Literacy : What's Not To Smile About?

It has been a while since I have written a post specifically orientated towards one event or topic, but in my mind Ted's Run For Literacy deserves whatever notoriety that I can deliver. When I first heard that my friend (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him that) Mike from See Mike Run was organizing this run, I decided it was my obligation and honour to help in whatever way I could to make it a success. Not only was the run for a great cause, Start2Finish, but it was in memory of a great man, Ted Swain. Although I did not have the pleasure of ever meeting Ted, unfortunately I did not take up running until after his much to soon passing. The majority of new runners within the city of Winnipeg that have ever taken a running clinic at The Running Room prior to his passing had him for a running coach. This also includes wife, Nicole who expressed her enjoyment of his classes because of his being supportive and helpful and an abundance of fun loving nature complete with  his never give up attitude and endless and infectious smiles. I have heard many stories about the man who wore shorts it seemed all year long, and I really do wish I did have the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for his display of passion for two of his favorite things, teaching and running. RIP Ted, let it be known that you are not forgotten and you will remain in our heart's forever.

The following blurb I took from The Ted's Run For Literacy website, I think it says it all:

Ted Swain was a passionate English teacher and runner. His enthusiasm for both influenced thousands of students and hundreds of runners over the years. Tragically, Ted passed away May 3, 2009. In Ted's memory we have established Ted's Run for Literacy. Proceeds generate will be donated to Start2Finish (formerly KidsFest), a charitable organization that promotes reading and physical activity right here in Winnipeg schools: a perfect tribute to Ted's passions and a fitting legacy.

In Memory of Ted Swain 

Now I must begin this with a big congratulations to the organization committee including Mike Bennett, Sherri Grandmont, Aldo Furlan and the multitudes of others who took time out of their daily lives and busy schedules to help put together this fantastic event. It is not easy putting on an event of this magnitude, especially the inaugural event, where numerous details have to be arranged, etc. Let me say you all did a fantastic job, and I see nothing but this event getting bigger and bigger each and every year. I can also see Ted looking from where ever he is with a great big smile on his face.
Now of course the run did not go as smooth as everybody would of wanted with a couple of hiccups that happened during the event. But I am a firm believer that the only way to get better is if mistakes (or hiccups) happen, which they usually do, take them as an opportunity to learn from them and get better from it. That is exactly what I expect will happen and I know that everybody involved will do just that. With that I am going to list the couple of items that I noticed that could of been done differently to enhance the experience:
  • First of all the race kit should of included a race route map. This could of given the runner's the opportunity to review the route prior to running it and not having to rely as heavily on the volunteers to ensure they were on the correct route. Note the kit did include a map of the park but really that was not much help unless you had never been to the park before.
  • The walk to the start line, at least the one that I completed where I was following the volunteers took us the long way around (approx a km) when there was a shorter route through the parking lot. Normally I would not worry about stuff like this, but it was a cooler morning being Oct 23 and all. I was walking with bare feet through wet grass and puddles, not good for keeping your feet warm.
  • The biggest hiccup did not affect me, but it did affect some of the lead runners who ended up getting misdirected on the route to take, thus ended up not running the complete 10 km. Now a side note to this was that Mike and his team did a fantastic job of dealing with this and bringing the hiccup to light and explaining the situation to all those involved as well as taking complete responsibility. A class act move and a sign of a good race director.
Now on to the run review:

As noted above, the temperature was a little bit on the cooler side around 4 degrees Celsius at the scheduled 10 am start time, but you could not ask for better conditions. It was partly cloudy and little to no breeze, absolutely great running conditions. Nicole, myself and the kids pulled into the park at about 9:35 am, and quickly got things together, I started removing my warm up pants and jacket and got out my wool socks to cover my bare feet until closer to race time (got to keep the tootsies toasty). Nicole was running the 3km with the kids which started 15 minutes after my start with the 10km run. So as we started over to the ceremonies, I was getting some really interesting looks from other runners as they noticed my wool socks. I just smiled and continued on my way, thinking to myself, 'just wait you haven't seen anything yet'.

After the opening ceremonies which included the national anthem sang by the niece of a friend and some inspirational words, the call was announced for everybody to move towards the start line. I pulled off my socks and handed them to Nicole, to some gasps and the usual comments. Along the way I met up with a fellow running partner from the WH3 who occasionally runs barefoot, Snow Goose or Peter was currently wearing shoes, so I felt it was my obligation to convince him that he should shed the foot coffins and take this race on the way I knew he really wanted too (now I really did not expect him to do it, but he did). His words to me were"I hope I can keep up with you", this still makes me laugh, as Goose is tall and lanky and one of his legs are longer than both of mine put together. A perfect comparison is Goose runs like a gazelle while I run more like a turtle (thanks TJ for that analogy as it fits me to a tee). Goose proceeded to take off his shoes and socks and put them up against a stop sign along the road, to the shock and dismay of a number of runners as they realized what he was doing. Cool, so there was going to be two of us running this race barefoot, odd looks are best served with company. This got me smiling because all of a sudden he was getting bombarded with questions that would normally be directed at me, this was definitely a interesting perspective. I just sat back and watched him handle all the questions and comments like a pro, I helped out a little bit where I could but for the first time in over a year, I let someone else field the barefoot questions.

When we reached the starting area, Mike got everybody's attention, thanked everybody for coming out and supporting the cause and wished everybody luck prior to setting the runners loose. After a quick hi-five with Goose and Mike's Ready, Set, Go, we were off. As expected Goose was off like a shot (will be lucky to keep up with me now, eh!) and was up with the pack behind the lead runners. I as per normal started out slowly to allow my leg muscles and feet to get warmed up prior to picking up the pace. During this time, I had a conversation with another runner who was experimenting with barefoot running (I later found out this was a gentleman who also coached running clinics at the Running Room, hi Jeff, thanks for the great conversation.) He asked some great questions about blisters, etc. and I hope I provided some helpful feedback. With a quick good luck on the run, I said my goodbyes and started picking up the pace. I could see Goose galloping along ahead of me, stretching out the distance more and more, I just started to smile and shake my head. We headed around the perimeter of the park and I continued to pass runners as I was slowly ramping up my cadence which in tune increased my pace to about a 8:30 minute mile. Not supersonic but a comfortable pace to have some fun along the way. That was my intention, as I saw a number of runners and volunteers that I knew, including GP who I ran up and gave a big hug when I saw her cheering on the corner (I am sure a lot of the other runners thought I was nuts beyond the fact that I was barefoot). As we headed down by the eventual finish line where all the 3 km runners and walkers were still gathered, I started hooting and hollering and high-fiving as many of the school kids as I could. Showing them that you could have a lot of fun while you run, I think I did a pretty good job of firing up the crowd. Because is that not why we were out here to celebrate the memory of a great person, have a little fun and encourage the kids to have some fun as well. Of course I was happy to see my wife and my two boys right in the mix smiling and yelling as well, that made the smile on my face grow till it could grow no more.

As we headed out of the park and onto the roads zig-zagging towards Scotia Street, there were volunteers at every corner making sure there was no confusion on which way the runners were to go. I had to laugh it seemed like I knew every volunteer out there, and I sure some of the other runners that I was passing felt the same way, because I was calling everybody by name. I swear the majority of the WH3 were out either volunteering or running the race, because I saw a Hasher at every turn I made. The other great thing was even though this was a Running Room sponsored event, Erick, Cheryll and Alice from City Park Runners were out volunteering and Khristjan was out running and would eventually win the event. The Winnipeg running community helps each other out, that is the name of the game, it is definitely a bit of a family attitude and everybody supports each other no matter what. I was having a blast talking to runners and volunteers alike, just enjoying the day and the run. Questions were asked, and I answered as best I could at the time, I thanked everybody for coming out and taking time out of their day to help make the run a success as I went by. I spooked a few locals as I floated along the roads, , made sure I high-fived all the kids along the way and thanked the two City of Winnipeg Police Officers for helping keep the runners safe. I did get some weird looks from them both, but I assume they are not used to dealing with runners without shoes unless they are putting them into the back of their cars for one reason or another (not today I say).

At about the 4 km mark I was starting to get passed by the lead pack coming back the other way, first it was Kristjan who was ahead, then the pack and not to far behind them was Goose, galloping along almost effortlessly, he was still smiling, that was a good sign. With a high five and some words of encouragement, we headed in opposite directions looking strong and determined to finish this one off. As I headed along Scotia towards the last corner before the turnaround, I found yet another Hasher volunteer, Agent spots me coming from a distance away and she yells out On On, which I retort with an On On of my own, then she says it, the only thing that will bring a Hasher to their knees, 'Beer Near', all I could think and say was 'Mmmm foaming refreshment, must run faster.' So around the corner I go, almost in a full sprint now, and I see the turn around and the 'water stop', I hit the round about and take it effortlessly and head right to the table, thinking they wouldn't have beer here would they? The only thing i can say is, no they did not have beer, it was only water, the disappointment. Boy oh boy, to play on the heart strings of a hasher like that, Agent will pay for that with a very large down down the next time she is out. So with a quick shot of water, I was off again and heading back the way we had come, I was maintaining a good pace and was quickly catching up with another runner. I wasn't completely happy with my form as I felt I was being a little to noisy, this was confirmed when I caught up to the runner in front of me. As I pulled in line with her, she explains that she was trying to figure what was making the noise behind her. She had thought it was a loose race bib that was slapping against someone but she could not figure out why she could not hear the standard clomping noise of the shoes hitting the ground. I told her I was a little disappointed that she heard me at all, I should be in ninja silence mode right now, you should be able to hear a pin drop as I run along. She just laughed and we started talking about running both with shoes and without, pace, trail running and most of all having fun while you run. We ran together swapping stories and experiences until we reached the park, where I was slowly starting to pull away. So with a quick bit o:f encouragement for her to finish  strong, I headed out to bring it home. I picked up my pace to around a 8:10 min/mile and continued to pick it up a little bit more as I rounded the corner to where my friend GE was positioned at the 9km mark (or so they believed I had a little more than that but oh well better to be more than short). Gail yelled out encouragement to me with a 'One more km to go', I just looked at her, smiled and joked back 'I should of passed that a bit a go, but who's counting.' As I rounded the last corner to the finish line, where I would of normally started sprinting, I found I couldn't quite get it into the next gear, as I started ramping up a little to early so my reserve was a little more tapped than normal. That being said, I got passed twice, I could not believe it, two shod runners passing a barefoot runner right near the end, the nerve. Well it was kind of funny because prior to those two lone runners passing me, I thought I was going to get trampled by a stampede of elephants or something. The noise was crazy as they were stomping the ground with their shoes, it honestly looked painful to watch them run past me. I am ever glad that I do not run like that, it just sends shivers up and down my spine just thinking about it.

As I saw the finish line, I dug a little deeper and pushed towards the line, raised my arms and floated into the finish with a big silly grin. I stopped my Garmin just after I came out of the chute and it was sitting at 53:36, I had to do a double take because that was a little more than 4 minutes faster than my personal best. I knew I was having a great run, I usually do when I go out to have fun, but I was not expecting that. Especially since I ran 6.30 miles or 10.15 km instead of just 10 km. I got some congratulations from Laura and Debbie (another couple of Hasher volunteers, this keeps up and people might think we are a respectable running group or something) as they take my bib number for the final timing tally. Officially I finished with a 53:30 time which was 4th in my age category, I was very happy with that.

Overall it was a great experience, and a great run, kudos to the organizers for putting it together a fantastic job all around. They were able to raise a good chunk of change on behalf of Ted Swain for Start2Finish, and I am sure Ted is smiling wherever he is.

Some other notables:
  • My boys did end up leaving the shoes on for the run, but both ran strong and hard and I am very proud of both of them.
  • Goose ran the entire 10 km barefoot and finished in a very impressive 48:36 for his first barefoot race in not ideal barefoot conditions for a first timer. He ended up with a few blisters and one that popped mid run but was still smiling at the end. He also found his shoes where he left them so it was a good day.
  • Kristjan finished first overall in a time of 35:55. Way to go.
  • The runners who inadvertently shortcutted were given honoury mentions. A very classy act by the race director and his team.
  • There were 122 10km finishers plus numerous 3km runners and walkers out, pretty good for a first time event.
I have attached some random photos for your viewing pleasure below,
and the following words I have borrowed from Mike but they are most appropriate in my books,

It was definitely a great day for a run.

My oldest son heading towards the finish line, he had a great run and a lot of fun

My youngest son heading down towards the finish line.

The other bare foot runner!!

Me heading out of the finishing chute.

Goose's feet after the run, just a few blisters.
Have to work on that form at high speed.

After the run bare feet shot for prosperity.
Looking no worse for wear at least top side for Goose.


  1. What a great recap! It was a wonderful day for sure!!
    The couple miles I ran with you flew by, thanks again!
    p.s. you got a shout out in my blog too!

  2. Thanks Connie for the kind words, that was the one thing I forgot to do was ask you for your name. Glad to meet you and definitely thanks for the company, the miles sure did fly by. Hope to see you out there again some day.

  3. Bob, Thank you for your feedback. Our committee is meeting next week to review what was good and what needs improvement so your comments are timely. Yes, we hope Ted's Run will be around for many years and we hope you come back. Thanks again Bob for your positive report. And yes, 'friend' is entirely appropriate and reciprocated. Every day is a good day for a run, some are just better than others. I'll be running out of CPR in the morning. Perhaps I'll see you there? M

  4. Sorry I will miss you tomorrow Mike, I am heading up to Dauphin to run a trail half mary (unsactioned) with some friends. But I will definitely be there next week.