It’s been a long time coming. Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn, I’ll line up with a couple thousand jittery runners along the starting line of the Ottawa Marathon. As I finish my preparation for this long-awaited day, allow me to go back to what it took to get me on my feet one day, about two years ago, and never look back.
In the summer of 2009, I was four years into a mostly happy wedding, getting prepared to renovate my house from the foundation up. My few running days were way behind me and, at 36 and about 170 pounds, I was much quicker at opening a bottle of something than at taking an opportunity to go out and play.
When my wife sat down with me on a late Sunday night to tell me she wasn’t interested in the house project or in spending her life with me anymore, and was gone the next morning, I was mostly surprised. But quickly, I also started to feel a wave of regret, something I don’t experience very often, taking over me. I had spent the last couple years trying to build a relationship while overlooking the fact that I, as a person, had let myself change in ways I didn’t like. I had lost some defining factors about myself along the way, and I wasn’t happy about it.
So I made a deal with myself. No matter what happened for the rest of my life, I would never forget again to enjoy and celebrate the things that define me. Traveling, researching the many things that feed my natural curiosity, favouring human contact over material considerations, riding motorcycles, enjoying the great outdoors and, of course, running.
Avid to get back into good physical shape and wanting an injury-free practice of my favourite sport, I started researching alternate running methods and stumbled on barefoot running. I explored it as I was ramping up my training, which allowed me to develop a strong running base while transforming my form, from an injury-prone heel striker to a lighter, nimbler and faster forefoot striker. I felt like flying.
A couple months later, I was introduced to meditation and yoga. After having started taking care of my body, I decided to focus on my mind, too. As weeks turned into months, I developed a strong yoga practice that is now integrated into my daily life.
The cleansing of my body and mind had an unexpected effect on my life, too. I begun to crave healthier foods and started to research nutrition and its numerous effects. Before I knew it, I had developed a completely different approach to food and assimilated it as an integral part of who I am.
When I experienced injuries, they were caused by my own exaggerations. They led me to understand my body better and to realize that I alone was responsible for my physical and mental well-being, making me leave behind a passive attitude and taking on a much more hands-on approach on my personal happiness.
Along the way, I found some answers to long-pondered questions. The uselessness of my work found a counterbalance with Étudiants dans la Course (Students In The Run), a project that helps young adolescents tackle the challenges of life through running. Over the course of a year, I get the privilege to witness them go from disoriented couch potatoes to full-fledge marathon athletes, a transformation too profound to try and describe with simple words.
The question of my value as a life partner and my ability to love and sustain a relationship found an unexpected answer with a wonderful young woman who parachuted gracefully into my life and took a rightful place by my side, like she’d found the home she’d been looking for.
On Sunday, I will not be closing some proverbial chapter of my life. I will simply keep on opening to what life brings me, and enjoy it to the fullest.
As the hours take me ever closer to a long-awaited achievement, I feel thankful for all the decisions, events and people that have paved my way to the marathon. More specifically :
- The pioneers of barefoot running (Michael Sandler, Daniel Lieberman, Chris McDougall, Caballo Blanco, the Raramuri) who brought me to a technique and philosophy that started it all;
- My little brother, for reminding me everyday to never let anyone tell me what to do and to pursue my dreams, no matter what. For being such an adamant example of this philosophy himself, too;
- Daniel Roy, for being my own personal shining beacon of self-determination, courage and humanity;
- Louise Lessard, my Belle, for being a beautiful person, for seeing all these qualities in me, for celebrating who we are and for being such an indefectible support;
- Étudiants dans la Course, for bringing a purpose into my life and for putting me in the presence of such amazing people;
- To young EDLC runners who’ve shown more courage and determination than most adults I have crossed in my life. Even more specifically, to Samuel Champion, Juan Pablo Robitaille, Jonathan Banduenga, Achaymaa Benabdeljalil, Carl-Alex, Carlos, Akim, Keven, Francis, Hadi, Jimmy, Pascal and all the gang. You are my inspiration.
- To EDLC mentors, who give and receive and never count. To Benoît Sicotte, Yves Daigneault, Geneviève Dupont, Éric Leclerc, Lolo, LP, Nico-Alex, Bruno, Thierry, Jocelyn, Max, Redj, Pierre, Chantal, Danick, and everyone else, close and far. You are family to me.
- Calico Hills, Red Rock Canyon, the cactus fields of Tlayacapan, the rocky hills of Margarita, the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks and all the wonderful running places that imprinted in my memory;
- Thank you, Kelly McGrath, for having softly brought me to yoga and for teaching me way beyond physical poses and meditation;
- To Kaya Verville, who pushed my sorry carcass all the way to Kelly’s studio;
- For Karen O’Reilly, for ostheopathy, door opening and overall magic;
- To Anne-Marie Lacroix, for frogs, butterflies, fireflyes and coincidences.
Each of the steps I will take on Sunday are, in part, thanks to you and done for you, in my own personal way.
I’ll see you at the finish line.