Improvising A Marathon


We all make mistakes, sometimes when we are the height of our game. An experience that immediately jumps to mind was in the Summer of 2011. I had trained for the Manitoba Half-Marathon for years, beginning with oversleeping on a test day during first year of University. Now the big day was hear and I was confident I would overcome the challenge ahead. I had successfully run the equivalent 26km distance several times in the weeks leading up to the big day, only without the added benefit of cheering onlookers and Gatorade that the marathon day promised.

I made one critical oversight however, I forgot to pick up my Bib. A point of clarification for those thinking I had spontaneously regressed to an infantile state, a Bib is the label you wear on race day that shows your number and contains an associated chip that records and verifies your time when you pass the start and finish lines. Arriving on race day, I learned to my horror that the Bib was not available for pickup and that I would not be able to run the race!

Not wishing to admit that I wasted my time and registration fee (the Manitoba Marathon costs over a $100 to register for), I made a beeline to the nearest information booth to broker a deal. Arriving at the booth I was informed by the attendant that unless I was wearing a number, I would not be allowed to run.

I received the news in stunned silence, the months of anticipation melting away under the sun of a bureaucratic slip-up. The female attendant, no older than myself and obviously uncomfortable with the news she had just delivered, looked around and scratched her arm uncomfortably.

After a few moments, a revelation struck my depressed mind like a truck. Looking the attendant straight in the eyes, I asked if she could give me a sheet of scrap paper, a permanent marker, and some clothes pins; all items that were clearly visible on the booth’s table. Her eyes widened as she quickly acknowledged where I was going with this, but complied and gave me the requested items.

As the buzzer for the start of the half-marathon blew in the background, I furiously scrawled my number on the blank sheet of paper while asking if I could run with this makeshift sheet. The attendant nodded and began to say something about my time being recorded, but her explanation disappeared in the rush of wind and the din of onlookers as I bolted from the information booth and towards the start line, shoving clothes pins into my shirt and skin as I did so.

The resulting half-marathon went much better than anticipated. I looked like a vagrant that had run out from an alleyway and entered the marathon, but the custom Bib made a great conversation starter. Throughout the race, I commented on my fellow runners’ obvious experience, having printed bibs as opposed to my home-made copy. The response got laughs, particularly from one runner that had elected to show off his athletic musculature by wearing a kilt as opposed to the more common shorts.

A small hiccup came at the end when crossing the finish line. Approaching the finish line, I was alone save for two runners about 30 seconds ahead of me. As they crossed the finish line, I heard an announcer shout out their names, obviously having been informed by their electronic bib. Having no such bib, I crossed the finish line and approached an attendant dispensing medals in relative silence. The attendant holding medals had a moment of hesitation, unsure of whether to award the vagrant runner before her with a medal. I must have worn an expression reflecting the trials and tribulations of the day, as her initial frown was quickly replaced with a smile and she handed me my medal.

Reflecting back, it is often when we are closest to are our goals that we have to fight hardest; it’s just important that we keep on fighting!


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