The call of the Antelope

So after long and much awaited anticipation, it has finally arrived. Yes, runners and runnerettes across the province, this is Didier’s blogs. For most of you, I’m probably just a name that keeps appearing on this website. Some people give the name its due respect, while others have soiled it with cheeky remarks about a past life of mediocrity in triathlons, an inability to beat my coaches PB’s, and certain wardrobe selections during easy runs. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the hype surrounding my name, I think it is due time I let my own voice resound and showed you all what all the hype is about.

You see, the story all began when Ryan Noel Hodge, close friend and fellow runner, suggested I join the Concordia Stingers running team at the end of last summer. How could I say not to such a tall and lanky man? He seemed to know what he was talking about, and after all he worked at the running room. And so, I began training with the team and gradually became part of the community. The times were difficult during cross-country, and although the heart was there, the legs just did not follow. After many difficult and bordering unpleasant races, I was faced with the choice of continuing to run with the group, or giving up the dream and returning to the books. I embarked on a deep reflection about the last month or so of my life, and realized that my experience with Ryan, John, Sofiane, Kelley, Brenna, James etc. had turned into much more than an experience about running. These very special people had turned into more than friends. In fact, they had turned into running partners. People I could lose myself with once a day with and let go of all the other burdens in life. How could I leave them? How could I not show up at 4:30 p.m. at the gym, wave to the receptionist, get changed in the locker room, put on my tights and long sleeve and walk out into the cooling autumn air as the rest of Montreal bundled up and got ready for the winter to come? I couldn’t. I chose to stick on. And this is why I’m writing to you right now. Because I have a community – a community that started with a 100.00$ pair of shoes at the running room and that has turned into a network across a city, province, country and eventually internationally. Some of us joke that we see each other more often than our families or respectable others, but this is in fact true. In the wise words of Sister Sledge “We Are Family”.

But enough about my sappy story, more about the slightly more interesting story of what I’m doing right now. I’ve managed to wrap up my first indoor-track season in a satisfactory way. People kept predicting that I would enjoy the speed of the track over the grueling sensations of the countryside and they were right. The goals were primarily to determine if I could do it, and everything that came along with it (PB’s, medals, interviews, accessories, respects…just to name a few) has been added bonus. But with the shedding of the indoor skin has come a beautiful reawakening into spring. This is my first spring as a ‘runner’ and I’ve quickly understood that shedding the leggings for shorts too quickly is a novice mistake. Better safe than sorry. But as I progressively learn, I’ve also come to appreciate warmer weather and the prospect of soon being able to ‘courir en chest’. Although I do live in the urban jungle, there’s no better feeling than running fast (or moderately fast) without a shirt on. Time to make public display of the lankiness and paleness acquired throughout the winter.

This weekend was the LaSalle 10 km (wind tunnel) race. It gave me a chance to evaluate the fitness and see if the winter work had done anything to improve the outdoor long distance times. And we had success. As difficult as it was to fight the wind and cold, I managed to set in with a good group of veterans and run a respectable time (a PB after all). The beauty of the speed I’m at right now on the longer distances seems to be that there are quite a few seasoned veterans who run around the same time, making for a good group to run a race with and learn some valuable lessons. This weekend I learned the rough way to anticipate the turn into the wind because everyone is looking to collapse behind one runner to break it. I took the lead on 3 out of the 4 wind stretches. I like to think of it as a right of passage. On the final wind stretch I opted for a sit, and then finally a two-part kick to the finish line. Two-part kick because I started too early, got tired, and then got energized again. Just another rookie mistake on the road to wisdom.

Now it’s back to the grind. Wake up – run. Go to school – run. Go to bed – dream about running some more. The mileage is starting to kill, but I just have to keep reminding myself that the more the volume the better. I have that moment in mind when I’m 1000 meters into a 1500 and my legs feel like Pronghorn Antelope appendages and I prance to a strong finish. I’ll keep you posted on the metamorphosis into a hoofed creature. Until then, keep running…