The entertainment was, well, entertaining. Especially the bar flies who stumbled into the event at around 3 am, crowded around the stage while a young, talented rock band pounded out their tunes. A few of them drunkenly made their way to the other side of the track and were heard to ask walkers in a vaguely panicked way, "Is there a way out of here?!"
At the start of the evening Polson Park had the feel of the ultimate tailgate party. The larger teams had barbeques set up, themed decorations and costumes. A game of pick-up football ranged around the infield, a volleyball net was set up beside the massage college tent, Team Silver Star hauled in a large flat screen TV and posted updated scores for the Canucks game.
At 9:30 pm or so, the luminaries set around the entire perimeter of the track were lit. The evening was imbued with quiet grace. People slowed their pace, lingering to read the messages inscribed on the glowing bags.
At 4 am the atmosphere was much more subdued as the party-hardy crowd snoozed in reclining lawn chairs huddled under comforters. The stalwarts kept walking and walking.
One fellow, pushing a 'running' stroller with one sleeping child inside, talked while we walked side by side. His wife and second small child, with him up to this point, were in their tent, trying to get small child back to sleep. He said he had a running injury (can't remember exactly what anymore) that was making the evening a bit achy by that point. They'd been on the track continuously since the children fell asleep at 7pm.
"But I can't complain too much," he said, "because my mother's been out here with us the whole time and she's only got one lung."
Team Grandpa Wink, we were a small but steady group.
Grand Poobah Stacy broke her little toe at work Saturday morning - she's an RN and ironically was taking a patient to the casting room when she stubbed and broke the little digit. A compassionate co-worker splinted it; once in her running shoe and sustained with regular doses of Ibuprofen she was good for the duration.
A few of Stacy's friends started out the evening with us. Her parents were the set-up crew for our little tent headquarters on the infield. Her in-laws made laps for an hour or so. A best friend showed up after midnight until around 2 am.
She, husband Mike and I took turns making the laps in the wee small hours towards dawn - the only 'rule' of the relay is that one team member must be on the track at all times.
Alan (Grandpa Wink's son, Stacy's dad) showed up at 5 am with black Timmy's coffee and fresh encouragement.
A few remarkable people were on the track the ENTIRE time! Two stood out because their outfits were noticable: a cop wearing a red top, a young man in bright yellow running shoes. I was behind the yellow shoes kid when another walker asked how many laps he'd done. "Oh, I don't know. I quit counting after 150," he replied. Each lap is just under 400m (it's apparently not an 'official' length track, an issue for competitions). So let's say it's 350m - that's still 52 km!!!
I figure I walked around 14 or 15 km and felt OK, all things considered. No sore legs or stiff joints. Just slightly bruised front soles - as the dirt packed down, thousands of small rocks littered the surface. I was a little punch drunk on Sunday, trying to catch up on sleep and reset my body clock after being awake most of 26 hours (15 minute cat-naps don't count). Thank goodness I had Monday to get my weekend chores done!
Thank you to everyone who sponsored me in the Relay for Life. Thanks to your generosity I raised over $1,000. There are still funds coming through the mail (Canada Post, bless your little strike-ridden hearts) so the final tally isn't in yet. Stacy set the team's goal at $300. To date our tally is over $1800. That's remarkable considering how last-minute our whole campaign was!
Thank you. Thank you. Friends and family in Canada, in the US, overseas - I'm proud to call you my own.