Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keeping Up

I've been busy the last few weeks trying to keep up with Simon Whitfield, the Canadian triathlete who won the sport's first gold medal in Sydney in 2000. He lives and trains in Victoria, and I've been researching a profile of him for explore magazine. I've been hanging out and watching him train for the world championships in Vancouver next month and ultimately the Summer Games in Beijing in August.

Last Saturday morning, I joined Simon, coach Joel Filliol (who took the photo) and the rest of Team BAMF (Google it to discover the essence of this very un-Canadian acronym) near Beacon Hill Park for a running session. I felt proud of myself as I kept up with the group on their 2K warm-up loop through the park.

Ha! Then, after Simon tutored me in "dynamic stretching" techniques—basically, showing me how to kick my own ass before he kicked mine—we all dashed off for a set of "interval" runs around the same grassy loop. Or rather, they all dashed off and I chugged behind in the fading distance, eventually getting lost in the scrub around the petting zoo, and arriving back to the start line so late and so ragged that Simon and the fastest runners had already set off again for interval #2 after a two and a half minute rest. Simon did four more intervals at the same relentless pace. I was near cardiac arrest after my one.

I'd heard a lot about The Kick—the impressive sprinting power that Simon used to win gold in the most dramatic fashion at the Sydney Games. But to witness it in person, up close (however briefly), is another thing entirely. To watch Simon Whitfield run is to realize the sheer animal potential that lies dormant, largely vestigial in most of our ObusFormed, cubicle-farmed bodies—the essence of our savanna heritage that still hums deep within our genes.

We were made to run. And a few of us still can.

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