Monday, August 30, 2010

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

It's probably become pretty clear that I'm not doing this for fun. Sure, there have been elements of fun - lately we've taken to sitting in the kiddie pool at Eau Claire post-long run on hot days, protein smoothie in hand - but all this running nonsense has been for The Greater Good. L'Arche.

Up until a few months ago I'd been sticking to a degree of professional distance, trying to maintain that whole work-life balance thing. But at L'Arche those lines get blurred pretty easily. Lately, I've been wanting to connect more to these people in this Community that I feel lucky to be a part of. Hard not to when you are around the likes of Rosie, who greets me with a compliment every day and such a warm wave of welcome it's like a hug (and sometimes is). Or Basil, whose ongoing teasing about my high heels (he says I'm like a horse when I walk down the hall) makes me feel like I have a big brother. Or Dovie, whose unrelenting positivity and joie de vivre provide a swift kick in the pants just when you need it. Or Darryl, whose quiet, dignified passing in June has left a gaping hole in our L'Arche life.

L'Arche is home for all of these people. Safety. Comfort. Routine. Familiarity. Peace. Love. Laughter. Friendship. Belonging. Our homes are at the heart of L'Arche. These places where people with and without disabilities create friendships that transform each person and those around them. Though we are a registered charity, I believe there is nothing "charitable" about what we do. L'Arche isn't about 'providing service to' or 'doing for' people with developmental disabilities; L'Arche is about sharing life with them.

Think about what this means. It means an exchange among equals, each person giving and receiving, all having a place of the same importance. In the charitable world you often hear the phrase, "not a hand out but a hand up". To me a hand up implies one person above another. Not so in L'Arche. I often wonder what our society would be like if every "charity" looked at the work they did through the same lens as L'Arche. If we looked at those who were homeless, for example, and thought "I am sharing life with this person." How would it affect how we treated them? How we served them? How we walked through this world with them?

This whole endeavour is a fundraiser for L'Arche, my time spent a gift to them. Rogers Insurance Ltd., who I'm running with and whose idea this whole crazy thing is, has elected to have the funds they raise go to support the operations of our 5 homes here in Calgary. Though L'Arche does receive government funding we still need to raise $12,000 for each home each year to keep them safe and comfortable for our members with disabilities. These funds cover very basic costs like utilities and repairs and, this year, will subsidize some of our food costs as well. Rogers has raised close to $6000 to date and we would love for all of our efforts to reach $12,000 - to ensure one of L'Arche Calgary's homes is fully funded for the year.

If you still need to make sure that I finish, I respect that. I'm waiting to find out myself! (Though I gotta tell ya I feel pretty good about it) But I hope you will consider making a gift to L'Arche Calgary in support of this Madcap Medoc Marathon. All of your donations would go directly to a L'Arche home, none would come to me. I just ask for your positive vibes on September 11, when I'll be hitting the streets in French Wine Country.

To make a donation, you can go online at

You can also send a cheque to L'Arche Calgary, 307 57 Avenue SW T2H 2T6

As this race approaches (it's now a matter of days), I think I'm looking for reinforcement, for hands to hold and people to walk alongside me, for blessings from my fellow L'Archers. I certainly feel blessed to be part of this worldwide movement. I'm thrilled that I will get to meet its founder, Jean Vanier, as a result of this run. I'm happy that I now actually have some muscle definition in my thighs. I'm grateful for the one period in my life (outside of childhood) where I've been able to eat whatever I want. I may very well be the biggest beneficiary of all.

This isn't my last post. I'll try and do a couple from France and definitely let you know how I did. And I'll let you know when the two newspaper articles that are being done on us come out!

Thanks for sticking it out with me :-)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Is the Loneliest Number

Every man is an island in the running world. Yes, you train in groups and race with a cast of thousands but at the end of the day you're running with yourself.

I don't know how to feel about this. It makes a huge difference to run with other people. Running alone, quite frankly, sucks. When I do my long runs on Sundays (26km this past weekend!) I feel like can take on the world. I haven't felt the runner's high yet but I definitely get into a zone of some sort. There are 7-8 of us all running at the same pace and we get into a rhythm which makes it easier to push on.

But running on my own for my training runs during the week is ba-ru-tal. Maybe I am just that boring, I don't know. I have to set my own pace and make sure I keep to it. The minutes drag. I feel every ache. I think I sub-consciously make my knee or Achilles hurt just to give me something to think about. I can only think about Colin Farrell for so long.

A few weekends ago I was wracked with guilt. In with my running group was my new friend C. She's been running about as long as I have, training for a marathon in December. And she just wasn't having a good day. So she dropped back about 3/4 of the way into the run. And the rest of us kept on going. It didn't feel good to just leave her and for the rest of the run I kept having this debate, "Should I go back? No, I gotta stick to my own pace". It just felt wrong somehow.

It reminds me of a story I heard from Special Olympics. I'm paraphrasing so I hope I get it right. It was a track and field competition and several Special Olympians were lined up at the starting line for a foot race. The gun went off and the athletes took off down the track. Part way through the race, one of the athletes tripped and fell, ending any chance he had of winning. The other athletes obviously had an even better chance to win the race with this new development. Instead, they all turned around and went back to help.

This story makes me cry every time. Another life lesson to be learned from people with developmental disabilities. That winning isn't the most important thing. That success is measured in other ways. That life lived together is better than life lived solo. So what's my strategy for surviving the marathon, where its every man for himself?

I will be running with 8500 people but I will be alone. That stresses me out a bit. I've relied on lots of other people to date but during the race its all up to me. Will the finish be as sweet then?

Check out the race I'm running,
Check out who I'm fundraising for,
Check out how to donate to my run,