Kids often ask me, what’s the weirdest thing you ever saw while running a 100-mile race?
Easy one! The 75 mile turnaround at the Haliburton Forest Trail Race.
I got there around midnight, after 18 hours of running. 2 women volunteers were there. They were cooking lasagna and chicken noodle soup over a Coleman stove. They’d hung a disco ball from a tree branch, and a lantern was burning right above it, and the fractured lights from the disco ball swirled across the backdrop of trees. It was freaky and beautiful.
I was about to sit down in a camp chair, but one of the women said “DON’T DO THAT! BEWARE THE CHAIR!”
Beware the chair?
‘If you sit down after running 75 miles you’ll never get up again.”
So I kept standing. One of the women asked to see my feet. I took off my shoes and it was a horror show down there. Seriously, it was like I had trenchfoot or something. Trenchfoot times ten. The woman was totally cool about it though. She cut my blisters open and drained them, then squirted krazy glue into the skin flaps to seal them up. After that she wrapped duct tape around and around my feet, and put my shoes back on.
“Good as new!” she said.
I started running again. I only had 25 miles left to go. That’s nothing, right? Just the distance from Toronto to Hamilton. It was a hard grind. I was tired, freaked out, my feet were killing me, and I was having trouble keeping food down. It felt like that race was NEVER going to end!
And then, at 2 am, my phone rang. It was my neice Caelan, calling from Edmonton.
There she is. She knew I was running the race, and she’d asked her dad (my brother) to wake her up, so she could call me to cheer me on. I don’t remember much of what she said. But I do know that she told me a knock knock joke. A knock-knock joke that she’d made up herself. It went like this:
Knock knock / Who’s there?
Banana / Banana who?
Banana had to go to the hospital…
I knew where this was going. I’d say “Why did banana have to go to the hospital?” And Caelan would say “Because he wasn’t peeling well!”
So I did my bit. I said, “Why did banana have to go to the hospital? And Caelan surprised me. She said: “Because he had puke in his lung.”
Yeah, I didn’t really get the joke either. But it was such a weird punchline, it made me laugh. Believe me, when you’ve run 84 miles in 20 hours, and you’ve had your feet sliced open and krazy-glued back together, you’ll laugh at anything. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did in that moment. Caelan’s crazy joke got me to the finish line.
So as a thank-you present, I put Caelan in my novel. Except I changed the spelling of her name to “Kaylin.”
Here’s another character in my book:
Any guesses who she is?
Believe it or not, it’s Kara (the 40 year-old cop)!
The real-life Kara (above) is tough and fearless and deadly with a bubble gun. That’s how she came to inspire that tough-as-nails character.
I should mention that Kara is also my neice. And she’s not too shabby with the knock-knock jokes either.