I was excited for our races on Canada Day this year, despite not having trained as regularly or feeling as confident to run as I would have liked. This year we were running the Pitt Meadows Charity 8k, a race we’d seen as spectators a year before. But this year was different. This year we felt more like Pitt Meadows residents. This year, we felt more like runners.Beyond that, we were bringing our kids out to participate in the 1k Fun Run that preceded ours and they were incredibly excited to get to race, to cross the finish line, and to earn the second ever racing medals. Joy ran alongside our daughter (4); I ran with our son (2). Despite both kids slowing down from time to time, neither one stopped running, neither one quit, and neither one dropped the smiles from their faces. The crowd was especially kind and receptive as my son finished his 1k run. He was quite possibly the youngest racer to participate and I think his enthusiasm and energy was evident to the group of on-lookers around the green start/finish archway.
Their race had started at 8:30AM, ours began at 9:00AM. By 9:00AM temperatures were approaching 30 degrees Celcius (85 Fahrenheit) and it was clear intermittent training wasn’t going to be my only challenge in completing an 8k run that morning.
I always concentrate on keeping a reasonable, steady pace in my first kilometer, trying not to allow adrenalin to overtake me and push me too fast too soon. The first kilometer took us south along Harris Road, east along Hammond Road to Blakely Road. Unfortunately, my MapMyRun settings were such that my split pace was only called out at one-kilometer intervals, so I was stuck using my own judgment to keep myself in check in the early going. That and I was pacing myself against a very disciplined racer I had chosen to run alongside, my wife Joy.I had hoped to keep a 5:30 pace for the entire race. Kilometer one was 5:38, so I knew I had to pick it up a little. Kilometer two offered that opportunity, as we wove south on Blakely and east on 116B Avenue past Pitt Meadows Secondary to Bonson Road: a straight shot downhill south toward the Fraser River. As we wound our way through kilometer three through Osprey village, past a water station and a sprinkler that was set up to cool us down in the morning heat, I had improved my split pace to 5:19, still running next to Joy the entire way.
The fourth kilometer felt like my best. By this point, we were running west on the trail along the river, shaded by the canopy of trees and able to enjoy a bit more natural scenery. The path narrowed here, so we were running single file and at this point I started to separate a little from Joy out of necessity, although not by much. My split time of 5:14 in kilometer four was my best of the day.
I found a new runner ahead of me to follow through kilometers five through seven. As we doubled back on the gravel Trans Canada Trail, she seemed to have found a tire tread parallel to the gravel road that offered smoother terrain and less slippage and I followed her lead. We turned back north up Harris Road and past the municipal fire station, where a hose on a fire truck was again set up to shower runners and keep us cool.
Kilometer eight was the killer, uphill north on Harris road toward Spirit Square and the start/finish line. I knew that two of our friends, Dylan and Sarah, were volunteering along the race track to cheer runners on and keep them on course. And as I huffed up the hill trying to maintain any semblance of pace, there they were to root us on. “You couldn’t set up at kilometer one, could you?!”, I yelled as I trudged past.
Once back to Hammond Road, it was just about trying to finish strong. I crossed the finish line at 44:12, 7th in my category and met my 5:30 average pace expectation.
We watched this race from the sidelines last year, having only moved into our Pitt Meadows house 30 days earlier. This year, we ran the race as members of this community, along streets and trails we know well, and back to a town center we’ve come to enjoy. There’s no question this was a small race. Pitt Meadows is, after all, a small town. But crossing the finish line here feels like something we should do as a family every year, as we embrace the community we call now home.
As I put my son to sleep that night, it was clear he was still reveling in the excitement of his second ever running race. “Why were the people cheering for me, Daddy?”, he asked. “They thought you did something really great today, and they were proud of you”, I said. “So was I.”