Last year, I started a tradition of running on my birthday. Last year was noteworthy though because I was training for my first marathon and I ran 30K on my 30th birthday. This year, I still took the day off with plans to do a long run in the morning, but a much less ambitious distance, and one with no real significance other than that’s what my training schedule told me to run. I woke up early, checked the weather forecast and got ready for my inaugural birthday run.
16K was on the agenda and the weather looked promising. Both Canada AM and my trusty weather app predicted clear skies and temperatures around 15C with no rain in sight till at least 5pm. Perfect. A fine day for a birthday run.
About 5K in, it started to rain. It was a light rain at first – nothing I couldn’t handle. In fact, I remember that it rained last year on my birthday run. Rain be damned, I thought. I’m not stopping. But then it started raining harder. I’m all for a rain run, but this was a bit more than I was willing to tolerate. I ducked under some trees to wait it out, while cursing the weatherman under my breath.
It cleared and the sun actually came out so I set off again. Great, I thought. Back on track. Just as I started my descent down Mount Pleasant, it started to pour. The kind of rain that is so aggressive it slows traffic. It was definitely not ideal. I cowered against a wall trying not to get completely soaked. It wouldn’t let up. I remembered there was an overpass about 500 metres back so I made a beeline for it and planned to wait it out.
It was relentless. I stood under the bridge with a scowl on my face. Damn rain ruining my birthday run. Suddenly, a car pulled up next to me, and held an umbrella out the open window. “Here, you look like you need this,” said the perfectly dry stranger driving the car. I looked in disbelief and said, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Pay it forward.”
I took the umbrella and he drove off. I couldn’t believe my luck. I decided I would walk to the next Starbucks and wait it out. I started walking back up Mount Pleasant with my new umbrella in hand. I suddenly realized that the nearest coffee shop was more than 2K in either direction. Damn. Alright, I thought. I’ll go to the next major intersection and get a cab. I’ll take it to the gym and finish this run on the treadmill. Not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. I was not about to give up on this run.
I hailed a cab. It drove by. I tried again. No luck. A third cab drove by. Still stranded. Dammit!
By this point, the rain had actually subsided and the sky looked slightly less apocalyptic so I figured I might as well start running again. I was starting to get cold and I was getting nowhere fast. So I started running back the way I came, umbrella in hand.
By the time I made it back to the Belt Line trail where I started, the rain had stopped altogether and the sun was shining again. My run was saved! But what the hell was I supposed to do with this umbrella?! This was not a teeny pocket umbrella. This was a large black IKEA umbrella. Great for keeping you dry. Bad for holding while running!
I decided I would drop the umbrella behind a tree and pick it up on my way back, since I would pass the same spot on my return. If someone took it, oh well. It wasn’t mine anyway.
I ran the next 7K in the glorious sunshine I was anticipating and managed to dry out a bit. When I got back, my new umbrella was still there! I ran up Avenue road with an umbrella in hand…. in the sunshine.
Surely anyone that saw me thought I was nuts. Who goes for a morning jog with a giant umbrella in hand?!
I made it back to my house, only to realize I only ran 15.2K. I stashed the umbrella on the front steps and ran around the block twice to make up the remaining 800 metres.
Finally. Success! Despite all odds, I completed 16K on my birthday. I almost gave up many times, but I persevered in what might have been one of the silliest runs of my whole life.
A big shout-out to the stranger who gave me his umbrella. My faith in humanity is now restored. Thank you for the much needed birthday gift!