Lonely madness of the long distance runner

This is the mid-run musings of a marathon I ran in probably 2007, maybe 2008. My friend Jonathan’s family hadn’t decamped to Montreal yet because they’re mentioned at 21k. Back then Daily XY hadn’t been purchased by Pursuit.ca and was probably still named XYYZ.com. So who knows which publication to credit. It’s funny how times have loosened us up. Note the preponderance of “friggin'” and “screw” when we know what I mean. Take it away, old Steve …

Bochenek’s Mid-Marathon Report

Our writer Steven Bochenek is a regular if embarrassingly slow marathoner. This is his 15th full marathon, 11 of which he ran here in Toronto. None were fast. As thoughts occurred during the race, he left them on voicemail to type up later. Don’t worry; we only relate the interesting ones. (He wasn’t exactly lucid when the copy arrived last night.) Read about this annual celebration of masochism and be thankful you weren’t there.

Mel Lastman Square – Ground Zero
My 15th marathon and still surreal giddiness moves through me and my wobbly bowels on race day. I want to barf and simultaneously scream with glee. Thousands of nervous and cold runners with morning breath cluster about awaiting the gun. Most are over-hydrated and desperate to pass fluids. I wonder why hundreds are lined up for Johnny-on-the-spots with the acres of nearby bushes. And who wouldn’t want to piss all over a place named after Mel?

Sheppard & Yonge – 1km
This phone’s an encumbrance and getting on my nerves. Not a great sign this early into the race.

Sheppard Bridge over Earl Bales Park – 4k

It’s funny how on race day you feel all those aches and pains you never noticed the other 280 run days of the year. I see Toronto’s farcical 100 ft drop ski hill from the bridge. I wish I was skiing.

Downsview Subway Station – 5k
Oh great, “The End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys just started playing in my head. I know I could get on the subway here and be home in less than a half hour.

Ross G. Lord Park – 9k

It’s too early in the morning for the local crack dealers to grace this ravine park. Too bad; I could use the energy.

Steeles & Bathurst – 12k
I smirk at those unfortunate saps who don’t: a) read the papers b) surf the net c) listen the radio or d) watch TV. Consequently, they didn’t know about this annual event. They stew in their cars, honk horns and swear at the police and runners. I pick up an oversized orange pylon and use it for a megaphone. “Thank you for your support. We appreciate the carbon monoxide.” An old lady gives me the finger.

Steeles & Yonge – 15k

A major psychological milestone. We’re now heading into town. The middle-aged American (Stella? Pearl?) whom I’ve decided will be in a conversation with me does her best to speed away as I bore on about the longest street in the world.

Mel Lastman Square – 18k
Back here again? As usual Mel just doesn’t know when he’s outlasted his welcome. A cameraman is finding a great shot for the cover of one of those subway rags you get for free. I flash my tits for him. People whoop and clap.

Yonge at Don Valley Golf Course 29k

Descending into Hogg’s Hollow. Nearly halfway there and I’m feeling good.

Yonge just past York Mills – 20k
Ascending Hogg’s Hollow. Still almost halfway there and I feel awful. $##@! Hills! Cars stuck waiting to cross angrily honk. I break off the course and circle a couple, pointing at them and laughing. “May as well run. It’s faster.”

Yonge and Bedford Park – 21k

North Toronto. Folks here wish you well, provided you’re not blocking their way to Starbucks. Designer children whose strollers cost more than my bike hold signs. Way to go Mom! Love, Cody & Tyler! Dad looks miserable.

Yonge and Lawrence – 21.5k
I see a very good friend and his daughters. They’re as close as family and we spend holidays together but, for the first time ever, the girls don’t want to hug me.

Yonge and Roehampton – 23k

My hands feel icky. I’m irritable. Why the hell do they offer the water first at the rest stations, then the Gatorade after? Any bonehead can see you’d want the water second, to rinse the stickiness off your hands. I smell like a diaper pale in July while obsessing over messy hands. Weird. This sort of rumination aren’t healthy but are typical.

Yonge & Davisville – 25k

We turn off here. The half marathoners never circled back to Mel Lastman Square and get to continue south down Yonge from here while we detour well into Forest Hill. Lucky bastards. Mind you, I even envy the lucky stiffs laid out at the Mount Pleasant cemetery 100 metres down the road. I see my wife in the crowd. She’s laughing at me.

Spadina in Forest Hill Village – 28k

The rest station people are handing out banana pieces. Now my hands are sticker than ever. Wiping them on my soaked singlet does nothing to alleviate my agitation. I start kicking garbage forward and chasing it for distraction.

Forest Hill Village – 28.5k

Like the nights in university when you drank and smoked yourself sober after 30 hours, I’m losing my mind. It’s kind of fun and want to share the feeling. I run to the side of a bank and throw my fist against it, asking a nervous woman in Lululemon pants and big bright nails, “What’s this?” Pause. “I don’t know?” she uptalks. “I hit the wall! Ha, ha.” Nobody laughs. Screw em.

Casa Loma – 30k

A man’s cell phone rings. I take out my phone and act like it was me who called him. Again, nobody laughs. Tough crowd.

Davenport and Bedford – 31k

I’m having a conversation with a runner from Germany. I ask if he heard about the German tourists who were murdered at the Delta Chelsea last month. He begins inching away. That’s okay. I’ve learned that the German for run is lauf. It becomes my next distraction. I holler lauf at people.

Belmont & Yonge – 32k
I decide I’m sick of these well meaning liars on the sidelines telling us we look good. I grab a pylon and use it for a megaphone: “Attention, audience members. You’re not fooling anyone. We runners do not look good. We look and feel awful.” Finally, some people laugh. Unfortunately, one of them’s my wife who agrees I look awful.

Rosedale Valley Road – 33k

Mind’s wandering and wondering: Why am I so in need of distraction? It may be that I didn’t train properly for this race and don’t have a specific goal beyond finishing the race. What if I were to quit and finish now? Then would I have reached my goal? “Lauf!” I start to shout and kick garbage ahead of me.

Lakeshore beneath the Gardiner – 37k

It’s cold and dark within this concrete cave. The drivers resent us. I’m thinking I might vote for whichever mayoral candidate wants to tear it down.

York and Front – 39k
Home stretch. Every year I notice how flat Toronto isn’t, rising gently from Lake Ontario. “Lauf!”

University and Dundas – 40k
I want to punch the people who keep saying you’re almost there. Yes, almost, but NOT there.

Queen’s Park South End – 41k
Who’s the sadist who decided we have to circle friggin’ Queen’s Park to finish the race? I pour it on to finish with panache but barely move faster.

Finish – 42k
Queen’s Park. The end. Hello Dalton. I never realized I love you. My time was 4:41 and change, an hour slower than my personal best but considering the annual death rate in Toronto marathons, I’ll gladly take it. Where’s my wife? I wanna go for wings and beer.