The first time I visited Niagara Falls was two years ago, also in late October, as part of a complimentary Grayline Bus tour with two colleagues back in my hotel concierge days. That was a monsoon-like and frigidly windy day, and we walked (in full blue poncho glory after the Maid of the Mist ride) along the side of the gorge and falls for only a brief period between the fully-guided stops. But we did make it to Table Rock Centre, and that day (a Sunday) we saw the last runners of a marathon staggering in silver capes around the sopping field. No one was remotely dry.

At the time, it didn’t look like fun to me!

Two years on exactly, and I was back for my second time — as one of the runners. Definitely not the marathon, but (for me) a milestone.

Yesterday, Mike and I ran a full 5K from start to finish — no stops, no walking breaks, just straight-through running.

I never would have believed that I could do this, if anyone had asked me a year ago or even six months ago! I never would have thought it would be fun, running, not so long ago — proving to me that trying new things, especially potentially daunting or even scary things, is so worthwhile. Speaking of which, I have now driven the 401 and the QEW highways and it wasn’t so scary after all… 🙂

If we wish to get technical, I was very slightly over the personal best (PB) that had been plotted out for me several weeks ago: at 35.39.01, I missed the 30-35 minute goal range by seconds. But this is small potatoes — I also know that I am able to sustain a decently-paced run for over 35 minutes, and I know I can do more than this.

Everything is a learning experience — travelling to another city, staying in an unfamiliar hotel room, and having resultingly less sleep is a factor. I had a strange allergic reaction to a topical cream which came as a free sample in my race goody bag (bad idea: trying something for the sake of trying something the night before), and woke up in the middle of the night with a burning, hot sensation in my right leg and I was scared that I wouldn’t make it to the start line! Luckily, this went away…

Also, underestimating ability and starting too far back and to the side resulted in having to pass slower runners, walkers, run-walkers (who stop suddenly and infuriatingly) and other mobile human hazards. If we had started further up or at least more centrally, I know we would have shaved a minute or two.

Finally, that was some headwind during the last leg of the run.

Again, small potatoes and all part of the experience.

Everyone who finished got a medal (and free food and gatorade), so I have the first medal I have ever earned (I don’t really count the participaction ribbons for trying which they handed out for school field day events).

The course started at the finish line, which was directly at the spot where the Horseshoe Falls begin their descent. The run curved around the top of the falls, passing over stone bridges and into intensely red and orange foliage within the parklands. I would love to hike in this area more on another visit.

There is more to say about Niagara Falls the city, but I’ll save the travelogue for another post.

Meanwhile, after I rest this week … I have already begun to look up 5Ks in the near future, and there is one here in Toronto on December 6th which I might just be nuts enough to try… 😛