I remembered the track at Winston Churchill. Its 800 metre perimeter at points gravel, at points concrete, and at points dirt. Its entire length is narrow in bredth. Affording just enough room to accommodate 2 people shoulder-to-shoulder.
Yet despite all of this, Winston Churchill is home to a myriad of running groups, fitness clubs, pedestrians, dog walkers and a sundry of local denizens.
It has been my home for speed workouts these past few months. A place to hone my skills. In searing heat. In unforgiving rainy deluges. Week in and week out.
It is where I train with friends who cheer for and inspire me. Friendships that have formed out of a fusion of mutual support, respect, and something akin to Stockholm Syndrome as a result of the tumults of track workouts.
And it was these friends on that track at Winston Churchill which flashed through my mind in my final kilometre of the Eaton Downtown Dash 5k this morning.
At 800 metres from the finish I could hear our group leader counting us down to start another sprint repeat. Her dedication to us verging on the maternal.
At 600 metres from the finish I could see a grove of pine tree in my mind’s eye. The trees that stand 200 metres into our laps at Winston Churchill. And I could also feel my friends around me as we each willed each other through yet another exhausting lap and yet another rewarding finish.
At 400 metres from the finish I imagined the tennis courts we would pass halfway through our training laps. When concrete yields to dirt. When the final push for home hits. And when quietly but meaningfully we, my friends and I, would mutter encouragements. As much for each other as for our own selves.
At 200 metres from the finish I could hear my friends cheering for me. Those speedy ones already done, whom we all aspire to match. If only once. I could hear them exhorting me. Clapping for me. I could feel each of their spirits as I rounded the final turn this morning and made the slight but bitter climb to the finish.
And when I set a new PB, when I collected second place in my division, when I faced the cameras at the awards ceremony, I thought of these friends; I thought of my time at Winston Churchill; and I smiled.
I couldn’t have done it without them.