Apparently, We Need Another Hero

The text message came out of nowhere.

Hey! Want to run on an S3 as a team?

  • S3 Race = three of the seven legs of Sinister 7 but run in the fall; a new race this year since Sinister 7 wasn’t able to happen due to COVID-19. AKA, an epic mountain race in Crowsnest Pass.


My summer had consisted of nearly 3,000 km of cycling and over 600 km of hiking, so somehow I thought all of that activity would translate in dying while running the first leg of the race.

Leg 1 is classified as ‘easy’ –> 18.3 km and 535 meters of elevation gain … possibly in the snow?

Sure. I am in! Where do we sign up?

I tend to sign up for adventures, whether or not I am sure if I can complete them.

After all, it is half the fun – avoiding death while accomplishing something epic. Yes, I realize that this says something about my psyche, but I am pretending that it makes me adorable and fun rather than crazy.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for me and the helicopter rescue crew, the race was cancelled on Thursday, just 40 hours before the starting gun was set to go off. Spending a weekend trying not to fall off a mountain while racing in thigh-deep snow with temperatures of -15 Celsius or colder doesn’t sound like that much fun, nor is it a good idea if you are even half as klutzy as I am.

Some races are ridiculous; I know I have had my share of them.

I will never forget the second running race of my life – the Clocksback Race put on by the River Valley Runners.

The linoleum of the community league had seen better days, yellowing and curling around the edges. Despite the wear and tear, the community room remained functional enough for the River Valley Runners to meet weekly to do high knees, crossovers, and plyometrics prior to running all over the Edmonton River Valley. It was also small enough to make me dizzy while circling behind the other runners in their fancy running gear during the warm-up.

  • It was always hilarious when we had to “CHANGE DIRECTION!”

I had been in the Riverdale Community League Hall many times before, stretching and warming up with seasoned runners from the River Valley Runners, but never had there been such a buzz or so many people. Tables, maps and friends of the svelte River Valley Runners clogged up the main hall, and no plyometrics were done with Tina Turner belting her heart out in the background. Not this evening, the evening of the Clocksback Race.

I started running diligently just a few months before this race and had 70 extra, unnecessary pounds of me to lug around that I was trying to get rid of. I felt conspicuously large standing next to the twig sized women wearing running tights. The idea of running tights made me laugh. Everything I wore was tight, even my watch. This particular evening even my throat was tight. It was the second race of my life, I was by far the fluffiest person in the room, and the only person NOT wearing tights.

The Clocksback Race brought in runners from all over the city due to the premise of the race. It isn’t about the fastest time; rather, it was about how close you are to your estimated time.

The rules were simple enough:

  1. Choose to do 6K or 9K.
  2. Look at the route on the giant, yet hard to read map on the wall.
  3. Estimate your time and submit it.
  4. Hand over all watches, heart rate monitors, GPS, and cell phones.
  5. Run!
  6. The people closest to their estimated time win awesome prizes.

Simple, yet I was sweating, and we hadn’t even started to run.

Surviving was my goal, and I had no idea how long survival would take. Hills, bridges and footpaths crisscrossed the 6K route, and I wondered how I would find them while lumbering along.

I opted to put down 39 minutes and 17 seconds. It seemed reasonable.

Small, personal maps were not given out. They neglected to tell me a photographic memory is required to run the Clocksback. Reciting the key landmarks was my only hope – pagoda, footbridge, giant tree on the path, playground, Cloverdale Hill, traffic circle, colourful houses, footpath, pyramids, footbridge, home.

  • Somewhere between Cloverdale Hill and the traffic circle, I got lost.

Being the slowest and fluffiest River Valley Runner meant I was alone on my sojourn.

Standing on the street corner, praying for another runner to come along was a fruitless endeavour. Turning two full circles on a busy street corner in my extra-large turquoise coat made of technical fabric didn’t help. The only technical thing about me at that moment was that I was lost.

I couldn’t even call for help; my surrendered cell phone mocked me from the Riverdale Community League.

Going back the way I came was always an option, but that option wasn’t covered in the rules, and I felt I had been running for at least 35 minutes. I wasn’t even close to being back to the hall in 4 minutes and 17 seconds.

Winning the weird race was well outside of my grasp.

What I wanted to be in grasp at that moment was my husband’s neck for thinking it was a good idea for me to run this race.

Flagging down a car and getting a ride back to the hall also wasn’t listed as an option in the rules.

Don’t ask me why following the rules remained important to me. Apparently, I thought I might still somehow win.

I love winning.

After choking back the panic and realizing the sun was quickly setting, I bailed on the route and ran in what I hoped was the right direction, the way back to the community league.

What one thinks is right isn’t always right.

At least my misdirected running led me to the river valley ridge so I could see where I wanted to go.

After an extra 3 kilometres and an additional 33 minutes to my estimated time, I rolled through the doors of the Riverdale Community League with salt tracks down my cheeks and immense relief. I desperately hoped the hardcore, skinny runners would assume the salt tracks were from sweat, not tears.

Everyone was rehydrating and comparing times. The winner was 48 seconds off her estimated time. Apparently, she had the river valley paths memorized, was blessed with an internal GPS, and knew her cadence down to the literal second.

Lost in the city, summiting hills galore, and just starting on my health journey made this one of the most intense and epic runs of my life.

I guess Tina Turner wasn’t right – I did need another hero.

Unfortunately for me, the only person that showed up in the mirror the next day was the woman who got lost running the Clocksback race.

Being a hero meant going back to the group on Thursday, running warm-up circles on the aged linoleum, and being lapped several times as we ran sprints up Connor’s Hill. And then going back week after week, after week.

  • The stories we tell ourselves are always interesting.

Every week I decided I was a failure when the speedsters literally ran circles around me and I arrived back from the run halfway through the cool down. Now I understand that my decision to embrace failure was foundational in helping me become a woman who signs to run ridiculous mountain races without really batting an eyelash, cycle the distance from Edmonton to El Paso in the summer, and do hilarious things like compete in a bodybuilding competition.

Donloree Cape Foulwind

I prefer to just run … races usually aren’t my thing … mostly because I am terrible at running and rather competitive. I am glad to be able to move and be fit. My response to the question, “What are you training for?” usually is “to be 90 one day.”

The fluffy version of me from 15 years ago truly is my hero.

Today, my job is to choose to do my best, whatever that looks like moment to moment so that I can be a hero for the Donloree 15 years from now.

All the small decisions and our daily actions add up to something. Tomorrow’s result is directly proportional to what you choose to do or not do today.

Choose something great. Choose to be lapped time and time again by super-fast people while giving it everything, and it appears pathetic to others. Their idea of pathetic may simply be the start of your greatness.

  • You should always do you.

And the question still remains, “Does power hiking uphill still count as sprinting?”