They’ve battled rain and snow and blistering heat. They’ve battled snakes and dogs and moose and animals in between. They’ve battled naysayers who told them they shouldn’t or couldn’t. They’ve battled self-doubt and injury and exhaustion.
But on May 28, three Prince Charles Secondary School students toed the starting line at the 48th annual Calgary Half Marathon with over 5,000 other long-distance runners. As they waited patiently for the race to begin, they all knew, in their hyper-excited state, that the past nine months of training was all worth it. It had all come down to this.
Back in September, as the school year began, Ada Browne (aged 14), Rylee Christenson (aged 16) and Ernst Kass (aged 16) never imagined they could run a half-marathon. At the time, running five or six kilometers for the high school cross-country team seemed arduous. And yet, little by little, they began to run further and feel stronger than ever before. They learned that with a little perseverance and with a lot of hard work a seemingly impossible goal was actually attainable. They learned that sometimes if we devote ourselves to an ideal we become something else entirely.
Ada, Rylee and Ernst became, over the course of a school year, amazing long-distance runners and, without realizing it, students of life. They learned about loneliness and battling the self. They learned about determination and goal setting. They learned how to calm the body and mind into meditative state.
And so, after a restless sleep and a quick breakfast, nine months of training came to an epic conclusion. And as the chilly morning threatened to rain, the starting gun suddenly fired. All the hill work and speed work and countless bowls of pasta — all the sore legs, blistered toes and salt-crusted skin — came down to this very moment.
The 21.1-kilometre course wove along the river, up and under bridges, through downtown, around quiet neighbourhoods, past cheering crowds and finally returned to the stampede grounds where all three runners crossed the glorious finish line. All three runners beat their estimated time and then, when the official chip times were posted, it was discovered that Rylee had won a bronze medal in her category, women under the age of 20.
It has been my absolute pleasure to coach and run with Ada (2:14:48), Rylee (1:41:55) and Ernst (1:43:45). I hope they are as proud of themselves as I am of them. I know their friends and family certainly are. And I know they will continue to push themselves and continue to do great things both in long-distance running and in life.
— BY CHRIS BRAUER