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Friday, June 21, 2013

Unbreakable Father's 5K

We spent Father’s Day weekend with Helen’s parents in Port Credit, Mississauga. It is a charming small town that has a feel of summer resort, a popular get-away for Torontonians. Like Forerunners in Vancouver, Runner’s Mark is a local running store thriving due to its expertise, quality of service and commitment to the community of Port Credit. Working with high-schools and local charities for youth mental-health, the store organizes a 5K Father’s Day race attracting about 500 participants each year.
Helen’s dad and I registered and showed up on a very wet Sunday morning. Despite pouring rain, the enthusiasm, cheerfulness and enjoyment from runners, organizers and volunteers were contagious and uplifting. It was so nice to see many high-school students participating and having fun.
I could not help but enjoy the simplicity and authenticity of this event so different from big city marathons I have done recently: Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin, or even Ottawa with its 25,000 runners. Running the scenic course along the lake, I was thinking about my dad who passed away 13 years ago, about responsibilities and rewards of being a parent, about my son Robert who was doing so well living on his own in Montreal and just finished the first year of university, and about my little baby Jasper who was giving us so much joy and happiness.

Twenty two minutes later I crossed the finish line. It stopped raining. Sunshine was peeking through the clouds. It was time to change in the nearby Starbucks and walk a couple of blocks to the Royal Legion building where volunteers served breakfast.
Proudly wearing my finisher’s medal it occurred to me that I just received the biggest medal for the shortest and the smallest race I did so far.  This one is special. Unbreakable!

Run Strong!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Desire to Run

Can't coach desire. Coaches know it. It’s a different experience when coaching a player who is late for every practice and coaching a player who leaves the gym only when a custodian turns off the lights. Business leaders know it. Hire for attitude and provide necessary training later, is the recent HR policy. Positive outlook on life, good attitude, empathy towards customers are not easily trainable.  Parents know it. It’s a different type of frustration when routinely cajoling a child to practice piano and when persuading a child to get off the ice and come home for supper.

As a parent, I tried to encourage my older son to make his own decisions within parental boundaries. “Pick any sport you like (his choice), but you need to be active and stay fit (parental boundary)” was my philosophy. Robert played baseball, soccer, volleyball, basketball in elementary school, joined rowing and wrestling in high school. Only occasionally I heard about his running: “Dad, we did 2 km around VanDusen Garden today, I ended up second in my class”. This boy has talent, I thought, his class was stacked with boys who played on various teams often winning provincial championships. But I never pressed my son to join the cross-country running program in his school.

Running is awesome. Running can transform body and mind. Running is also hard. You need to have your own strong reasons to cope with pain and fatigue. You need to like being exhausted. You need to like the soreness that follows a long run. You need to like the solitude when it’s only you and the road. You need to be willing to make difficult trade-offs.  It’s a choice of a lifestyle that each of us has to make individually.

Having lunch with Robert in Montreal last May, I was nicely surprised to learn he wanted to start training for the Sun Run next year. Recently he text-ed me about his visit to Forerunners and a brand new pair of Brooks. He went for his first run. Has my son found his own desire to run? He’s on his way to discover. I can’t wait to join him for a run one day. Hope I will be able to keep up.

Run Strong!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Zbyszek, in memory of

My cousin text-ed me he was still searching for parking. He would park few blocks from Poznan’s Old Town and then walk to meet us. We hadn't seen each other for over 10 years. Waiting in anticipation I had time to recall some of many moments we spent growing up together:  birthdays, holidays, first communions, weddings, funerals, graduations, family celebrations, vacations. 

When I saw Zbyszek walking towards us smiling and waving his hand, somehow I knew. My heart sank. Always full, strong and dark, his hair was grey and falling. Sign of a dreadful chemo. Later in the restaurant, we learned he had been fighting stomach cancer for the last 6 months. He had to quit his job as a business consultant to dedicate all his energy to the treatment. His wife Kasia resumed full-time job as a pediatrician. His daughter had to change high-school to be close to home. Listening to my cousin I couldn't help but be inspired by his mental strength, faith, optimism and positive outlook on life. There was no bitterness in his voice. No complaining. No “wishing” things were different. He was at peace accepting this challenge. 

Back home I would email and text him every couple of weeks. In his last message he said the results were like a “draw” in a soccer game, no improvement, but also no deterioration. Soon after, he became too weak to type. He passed away in December last year. I was unable to attend his funeral. It was on a day Helen went to labor to give birth to our baby boy.

Running marathon in Ottawa last Sunday I was thinking about my late cousin. About pain he had to endure. About his family he left behind. About how much he is missed. Zbyszek Gorwa (1964-2012).

Run Strong!


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