Love also lies in the details: Running the Emperor’s Challenge

Lynsey Kitching


After most big events in my life, I get this sensation that it was over so fast. All the buildup, the time thinking about it, worrying about, getting excited about it, and then just like that, it’s over, as if time is just this ambiguous thing we keep track of until something happens that means more than just time. It’s at this point when life happens for me.

The other day during an interview with a lady, she said to me, “The devil lies in the details”. Immediately upon hearing these words, I though wow, I can see how this little saying came to be. Especially now, after having run the Emperor’s Challenge as this taught me the joy in persevering through the details.

I have never been a runner. Sure, I ran a lot as a kid. Ran chasing a ball on the soccer field or tennis court, ran playing tag with my friends, but the act of running just to run, to me seemed a little silly. I needed something to chase to have the motivation to run not only fast, but with stamina.

I remember at the track meets, getting lined up on the blocks with the other kids and trying to get myself pumped up…it never worked and the gun would go off, and I would be like, “oh crap!” and immediately fall behind.

This obviously never led to any medals.

So, now, as an adult, when I learned about a half marathon here in Tumbler Ridge I thought…nah, I could never do that.

But, as the next year rolled around, something came over me and I thought, why not?

So we began to train and the goal of 20 km seemed so far away.

The first run I lasted about five km before I thought I was going to die. It’s the altitude I said…I just gotta get used to the altitude.

After a few days I went for another run. I have months to prepare, no need to rush into things right?

So often I have these ideas to do great things, and then for some reason the details take over the desire.

This continued, a run here and there adding a few more km each time, until a few days before the big event. ‘Oh man’ I thought to myself…I’ve only made it 11 km so far…that’s only half way!

So, the Tuesday before the big day came and I decided to run, even when I thought I couldn’t run anymore. All my joints were aching, my hips, my knees, my ankles…

When I got home and went on my computer to ‘map my run’ I discovered I had gone 15 km. Wow, I’ve never run that far before. Like a little fire was lit in my belly, I finally felt like I could do this.

Then it was Friday night, the night before the Emperor’s Challenge. Mikey (my boyfriend, who was also running the race) and I sat having our giant tomato pasta with broccoli and spinach for dinner and a thought popped into my mind, “what am I going to wear?”

I asked this out loud to Mikey and we both began to panic. Do we wear pants; do we wear shorts, what if it’s hot? What if it’s really cold on top of the mountain? Should I wear short sleeves? What about the bugs? What if it rains?

So we messaged Brandon Braam, him having done the race last year, would for sure know what the weather holds for tomorrow! However, even though he is no psychic, his calm words of, ‘I’m wearing a tee-shirt and shorts’ helped me calm down about this trivial detail.

Mikey was up all night. I remember yelling at him around three am, ‘Mikey! What are you doing!?’ As he wasn’t sleeping; he was apparently reading. Then at four, I was awoken by Mikey, who finally came to sleep, elbow dropping my nose in his sleep. “What the $&#@” I groaned. He apologized.

The morning came, and my stomach was in knots I was so nervous. We ate a piece of toast with peanut butter and jam, a banana and drank lots of water. We didn’t know those details of how to prepare for the race, what to eat, should you stretch? Should you drink coffee or tea? What if you can’t take a poop?

Then it was time to leave and get to the race, so off we went. It’s all happening so fast, I thought.

Everyone lined up and the countdown was on. For some reason this start seemed different than those gun starts at the track meet as a kid. This was a race against myself and what I was chasing was the finish line.

Then it started, some people took off, I started at the pace I normally ran at while I was training…as that was how I programmed myself I guess. I lost sight of Mikey pretty fast, but that didn’t bother me.

What did slightly bother me was being accosted by all of the bug spray people had sprayed on themselves and then seemed to have left at the start line for all of us to inhale as we ran past, but that is just a detail that in the end is nothing but funny.

I can’t remember too much from the run, other than when my stomach seized up and I had to take a duck into the bushes (ALWAYS bring toilet paper with you! That is a detail I will never forget again).

The first ten km’s were almost a straight-up mountain climb. When you hear people say it, the words don’t really sink in, until you are out there on the course and the details of every step taunt you to stop, but you keep on going and everyone is encouraging each other.

Then you reach the summit, and you are running along a mountain top. This was my favourite part, running along what seemed to be the highest point in the world and looking out at all of the mountains and clouds around you.

Then came the downhill push to the end. Man, I became obsessed with those km markers…three km left, two km left, then one. Those last three km seemed longer than the first 17.

Like little angels you can hear the people clapping and cheering you on. Having been a spectator before and this my first time as a participant, I have to say thank you to everyone who was there to support the participants. That energy really helps push people along, even if it’s one step at a time.

Then, I crossed the finish line and it felt like the world stopped for a moment and time was non-existent, because I did it. And just like that, time went back to its normal rhythm, but I am left with that flame in my belly, ready to run again.

There are so many more stories I could tell about the people I met, the wonderful personal challenges I saw people go through and conquer, the displays of kindness and friendship. Those details are the ones that show me how love also has a home in the details.