Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

June 5, 2011

It’s a long race #eqnz #chch

Her name was Margy. She was either Canadian or American. I was too wound up to ask. She lived near the university in Lincoln, and had googled information on how to tie a transponder chip into her shoelaces. She knew a lot more than I did about anything. I was running my first half marathon today – she was doing her first 10km. I followed her to the start line. I don’t know what I’d have done without her.

I’ve been running properly since January. It’s been a great outlet for me, kept me fit, decreased my stress. It’s one of the places where my energy comes from. I was training for the St Clair half marathon last month, but never managed to get there. I had planned on doing the SBS last year, right up until I had a big row a  couple of days before about access to it for wheelchair athletes. They were allowed in it this year, so I felt good about running it too.

I’m officially a “veteran woman”. There should be another category, as they have in childbirth where they call you an “elderly primagravida” if you dare to breed over the age of about 25. I’d like to suggest “ancient novice” for those of us (and we seemed to be legion) who were doing this for the first time, Margy being a great example. (I could name another in the 10km division but the red head might hurt me 🙂

John, on the other hand, knew what he was doing. I ran beside him for three kms or so before we exchanged names and stats. He was from Cambridge. Wasn’t feeling so good about this run. Had been feeling good when he ran the Huntly half a wee while back and came second in his age group. What was that, I enquired politely? “75,” he said. He was aiming for a 2.03 finish time. Mine was a little different. I was gunning for 2.30.

He set the pace for me for about 10km altogether, until the southerly headwind got the better of him and I found my legs. It was a lovely run after that – got a bit hard about 17km, but I had it back in place at 19 and I know now I can take another 10 minutes at least off my time without it hurting much more than it does tonight. My time was 2.07.10, it seems. Next year – look out. I’ll catch those green balloons!

It was lovely being a part of it today – 3700 people all traipsing around the back of Lincoln. The traffic was so big they delayed the start for 15 minutes.

Getting out at the end was a nightmare – I made it home at 12.45, just in time to get back in the shower so I could go to what I hope is our final CTV farewell.

We sent off Matty Beaumont today. The Silks Room at Addington Raceway was full to the gunwales. I thought I’d be used to them by now, that all tears would be gone. Famous last words. It was really hard today.

Matty’s Dad spoke about being the parent of an adopted child, about bonding with that child, the magic of falling in love with a baby. His Mum spoke about Matty’s love of the “born story” – how he loved hearing about where he came from. That was Greymouth – the place I was conceived. My adoption took place from a different hospital, a few years earlier.

Matty grew up in the neighbourhood I live in today, went to the kindy my kids went to, wanted to marry a teacher at the primary school they went to, and as well as my CTV colleagues there today I saw my neighbours from up and down the street. It’s been a long race for all of us.

If the world were fair, you’d have to assume that today’s was our last collective farewell. In the last hundred days, we’ve shed so many tears together. In one way that chronic grieving is incredibly hard. In another there is enormous understanding for the losses we’ve felt which extends across that broader community beyond our station and into our neighbourhoods. There is a huge depth of compassion, and also I think a great fatigue. We need a rest from it all, and at the conclusion of Matty’s beautiful memorial today, that rest (unofficially) began.

Tomorrow is a public holiday. I’m spending the afternoon with friends – the morning is for council papers. Annual plan documents are sitting in my bag, needing to be read ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. There are big decisions awaiting those of us who are elected to represent this city, the kind you know will never please everybody – but no decision ever does.

While it might be over for this year’s  SBS marathon, and funeral season may be over those of us at CTV – for the council, the hard yards of the budget and the city plan are just beginning. Still, as Bruce Hornsby said, it’s a long race – and if I try, I will surely finish.




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