You are not alone

You are not alone.

Trigger Warning – I am opening this blog with the serious topic of suicide. 

The rest of my blog will discuss my Calgary Marathon. You can click here if you prefer to skip this first section. But I believe the message needs to be told and heard. 

Another suicide was in the news this week. This time it was a golfer. This makes my message so important.

Grayson Murry this week took his own life after withdrawing from a PGA tournament.

According to Global News, he was open about his struggles with mental health and alcoholism. I’m so sorry for Grayson, and his family and friends. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

According to Movember, globally, on average, 1 man dies by suicide every minute of every day. The rate of male suicide is alarmingly high: in Canada, 3 out of 4 suicides are by men. We can’t sit back and accept this.

My struggles on the road of the Calgary Marathon, by myself, are eerily similar to those that face mental health issues alone.

Wow! But that hits home big time! Although, I have rarely if ever had thoughts about suicide, I often wonder how low I could have gotten if I hadn’t changed my life in December 2020.

On Sunday, in the marathon, I could have let a fellow runner, James, pass me by without speaking my truth. I bet a lot of the time, when someone asks you if you are okay, you misstate the truth or minimize it.

I could have easily said ‘No, I’m good, run your race.’ Or I could have stayed silent, making sure that I didn’t inconvenience another runner with my pain.

Instead, I tearily said ‘No, I’m not okay.’ That’s all it took to open up a conversation with someone who was also struggling.

Together, we faced the Calgary Marathon together. We carried each other over the line. We pulled each other through the physical and mental pain that we were in for more than 3 hours.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If you need help:

  1. The next time you talk to someone you think might be in need, reach out and offer help. James had the courage to look over and ask me ‘You okay?’
  2. The next time someone talks to you, share your truth and ask for help. I told James ‘No, I’m not okay.’
  3. Don’t wait. You don’t know when the next person is going to come along offering help. You don’t know if you are the last person offering help. What would have happened if I let James pass by and if I had not revealed my struggle. There is a good chance we would have both quit.

I felt low enough, beaten down, cold, alone, afraid and hurting inside and outside. I was feeling defeated and I was criticizing myself for thinking about quitting.

‘Give up!’ – I said to myself. I was ready to quit.  Sometimes it feels like there is no other choice.

Lucky for me, it was “only” a marathon and not the game of life. But I was possibly only weeks or months of reaching that point myself, before I got sober in 2020 and at 48, restarted my life.

Take a minute to think about someone you know that might need a friend. I encourage you to reach out to them. Do it today.

Help Lines

If you are an Albertan struggling with thoughts of suicide, call 9-8-8 (Suicide Crisis Helpline) or 9-1-1 (Emergencies) or 1-877-303-2642 (Alberta Mental Health Line) to talk to someone today.

Now, read on to learn more about my marathon weekend!

Marathon Finish Photos

As you can see above, my finish photos could not tell a different story.

The picture on the left, is a pic of James and I, in the finish line exit, after we received our medals. You can see the relief. We are proud of each other and truly happy. We finished!

The picture on the right is literally minutes later. It’s a quick shot from my on the scene video I took.

I exited the finish queue into a big field and suddenly I was alone again. My wife was still on course walking the 5KM. I couldn’t find my friends Dale and Tammy yet.

I called them immediately, realizing my vulnerability and my need for a hug and love.

It is hard to explain the physical and mental impact of an endurance test like a marathon. I believe, for your average runner, a marathon is an immense physical and mental test.

It will take weeks to process the ups and downs of finishing this marathon.

I will have moments being the guy on the right that thinks about almost quitting and wonders if I should have quit. I will think about if running long distances is for me or not.

On the other hand, I’ll have hours and weeks of time being the guy on the left. A guy who realizes that I just did something amazing and I have a lot to be proud about. And I’ll remember ‘You are not alone.’

When it comes down to it, that’s why we do this. We know that we’ll experience the physical and emotional trauma that comes with an endurance test. But those pale in comparison to the joy and the learning lessons that you take with you for the rest of your life!

#ThatsWhyWeDoThis

Saturday Check-in

I really enjoyed Saturday check-in for the Calgary Marathon.

For the first time, it was more than just picking up my race bib and t-shirt and then moving on.

I planned to meet up with friends Sarah and Austin. Sarah was a pacer for the half marathon. And Austin was running the 60KM ultra-marathon backwards. Yes, backwards!

It was great having some other friends running. I have always celebrated with my wife and friends Dale and Tammy. But slowly, my running support team is getting larger. My DMs were full of encouraging messages from all of my running support team. I love it.

Saturday check-in was so different for me. I think it is twofold.

  1. It was my second marathon. I wasn’t  a wide-eyed newb this time. I was able to sit back a little and soak in the experience.
  2. This was my first marathon after the publication of Run For Your Life and before Dennis on the Run is published.


I put so much stock into this marathon.

  • Put the run back into Dennis on the Run.
  • I’m publishing books about running, I better be a runner.
  • If I’m an endurance runner, I better be training for or running a marathon.
  • Do what I do, not what I say. If I’m an advocate for living a healthy life, I better be living it myself.
 
Expectations

My finish was never going to meet my expectations. My marathon became a story of will power, determination and perseverance. 

Maybe getting sick was a saving grace. Maybe God had a plan to make this marathon into a learning experience for me and something I could share with you.

Regardless, my wife was a trooper and took pictures at every turn. I took every photo op that I could.

We took some video as well. Coming soon…!

Networking

How soon is too soon to start talking with potential sponsors and partners?

I have no idea. But I went out on a limb this weekend to start. I talked to a few vendors in hopes of making more contacts.

NOTE: These brands are not associated with me. This is not a sponsorship alert. I just put myself out there and did some networking. For the most part, these are the type of people and brands that I can see myself partnering with in the future.

I was really impressed with their products though. So here’s some free advertising!

Let the networking begin!

One For the Road Brewing

I approached the One For The Road Brewing Co booth cautiously. Ironically, I sat at a table behind their booth to meet up with Austin. I “assumed” that it was a vendor selling regular beer, so I stayed away.

Eventually, I decided to walk up there to talk with the owner. I asked him if he had any alcohol free options, and he said ‘They all are!’

That led to a great discussion and I took his information. I’m definitely looking to partner with alcohol free companies. I’m passionate about sobriety and sober options for people.

Graham was a great guy and has six different options of beer with just 0.5% alcohol. When I expressed my desire for 0% options, Graham mentioned that even eating a banana could have that much alcohol.

Really clever statement from him since runners love bananas for their carbs and potassium.

A little bit of post race investigation shows that a ripe banana could be up to 0.4% alcohol. I‘m going to do some of my own research on this and make my own choice. I have flip-flopped a number of times on 0% versus 0.5%.

From their website “I still missed the social side of ‘going for a beer’. At the time, the non-alcoholic beer selection was lacking. I thought that there had to be better options, hence, One For The Road Brewing was born.”

I LOVE this new found mocktail and alcohol-free movement happening in Alberta.

I’m exploring partnerships and sponsorships in this market!!! I will be researching this more as I get closer to finishing my book and marketing plan.

7 Summits Snacks

7 Summits Snacks is a local company started right here in Edmonton, my home town!

I intentionally wore my Run For Your Life shirt in hopes that someone would recognize it and that it would trigger some great conversations. And I think this might have helped stir the conversation.

They are a sponsor of the Run For Your Life book. I jumped at the chance to talk to someone at their booth. So I mentioned that I was an author in the book and I appreciated their sponsorship of Run For Your Life.

Then I chatted to her about the snacks and I ended up buying a 3-pack of snacks.

In the rain and cold, I managed to munch down on a full pack of their Everest dark chocolate with goji berry snack. I loved it!

They are a great company who are passionate about providing healthier chocolate snacks for all!

From their website: “From indulgence to sport performance, we have superfood chocolate snacks to fit your needs at different times of the day.”

Wellwise

Trent from Wellwise had a booth on Saturday. 

I wanted to try out the CEP Run Compression Socks which were highly recommended by a running friend. And by chance, there was Wellwise with CEP compression socks!

Trent was great! They actually measure your calf to properly fit you for a sock. I never heard about that before.

He also warned me not to wear compression socks before a race if I don’t normally do it. But I wear compression socks on a daily basis. So I gave them a go!

I have no idea if my blister or calf cramps were caused by wearing new socks. But I suspect not.

The socks felt amazing. It was a tough day and I feel the wet weather and conditions caused my problems more than a pair of socks.

I’ll be purchasing more of these for my sock drawer in the future. They are exceptional socks!

Contact Me

Overall, I put myself out there as Dennis on the Run. Opportunities await! 

I have a Contact Me page coming soon. If you are interested in opportunities with me, you can email me at dennis@denniskreba.com.

Let’s chat!

Run Calgary

For the most part, Run Calgary does a really great job with organizing this massive event. It is easy to nitpick about all of the things that could be improved.

Improvements

Here are a couple of things that can be improved on:

  • Bathrooms are always an issue. There were lineups to the bathrooms everywhere on site and on course. I didn’t find a free bathroom until half-way and I nearly missed the start of the race.
  • Less overlap in the chutes and the finish. This might not be viable with the size of the race, but I was elbow to elbow with 10KM and half participants until 16KM. And then I was surrounded by 5KM participants at the end of a very long marathon.

These are petty complaints though, to an event that is well managed every year!!!

The Wall

Is this new to the Calgary Marathon? I don’t recall seeing this in previous years.

What a great idea! There is nothing that shows “You are not alone” better than this wall. There were thousands of participants. Even if we all ran our own race, we were together. We were not alone.

It was inspiring to see all of the positive messages and signatures on the event wall at the exit.

I found a small spot, just big enough for my tag line – Dennis on the Run!

The Volunteers

The volunteers are amazing.

I saw pace runners all over the course on Sunday, braving the elements with the rest of us. And they literally had to run with a kite attached to their back. I can’t imagine what it was like to run with those banner backpacks.

I saw several pace groups with a lot of people, and a couple of pace groups with very few. Either way, the pacers stuck to their pace. And the groups cheered each other onwards!

The volunteers at every water station were super friendly. Many shouted out my name in the last half of the race. You have no idea how much your encouragement means to us!

As James said several times ‘You are a legend!’

The Sponsors and Crowd

The crowd was amazing. There was huge support for the race. Several people with houses on the race path, sat outside for the whole race. A couple put up speakers and pounded music.

Elvis was there…again. Love that guy!! There was a guy on Memorial Dr or Bowness Rd that sang with a guitar the whole race. I saw a full choir singing on course and a couple of bands. It’s amazing how the community rallies around this event.

It really means a lot to the runners. Thank you!

I saw many signs, most of them were funny and appreciated. Kudos to the people with a classic “Worst Parade Ever!” and “Seems like a lot of effort for a free banana!” signs, that made me laugh.

Sponsorship

I also tried to get in touch with someone from Run Calgary to discuss using my upcoming book in their reading club. I got a name from the volunteer at their booth but sadly my weekend backpack is a mess. Her name was Kirsten so I’ll be in touch!

Race Day

I have already shared some of my story via Facebook and LinkedIn as teasers to this blog. I have added more content here so read on for more details!

Really tough and rough marathon. I’ll need a week to recover. 

The Calgary Marathon was this weekend (May 26, 2024).

I didn’t necessarily set myself up for success at the start. I had to use the restroom before the race started. By the time I made it back to the start line, I was in a panic. I could not find an entrance and followed some other runners jumping the fence. I found myself pretty far away from the pace group I had hoped to join. It took me 30 minutes of running above my pace to finally catch them. And by that time, I was feeling so good, I ran right past them. I need to make sure that I’m in the chute earlier and with the pace group to give myself my best chance.

My half-marathon pace was fast. I believe I had a 2 hour 10 minute pace through half the race. That is way too fast and might have been my downfall. I should have been closer to 2 hours 20 minutes or slower.

Weather

But by then the bad weather was pounding us!

We watched weather reports all weekend. The weather reports didn’t look too bad. Ha! They were so wrong…at least for thousands of runners expecting a decent day. I made some poor decisions on Sunday morning before we left the house. I had packed gloves, a rain poncho and a cycling rain jacket just in case and had it on the table on Sunday morning. But the weather report was good enough in the morning that I left them all at home.
 

Only God knows if my race would have been different had I packed for rain, cold and wind instead of a decent day.

I saw a lot of people suffering on course. The weather was cruel and unprejudiced! 

The weather was brutal! I heard some participants say this was the worst weather in the last 10 years.

🥶 It was cold.  🌪️🌫️ It was windy.  🌧️ And it was raining.

I was soaked head to toe. My shoes felt 5lbs heavier. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I shoved my hands into my long sleeve shirt to keep them one degree warmer and hidden from the elements as best as I could.

My hands were also wet and kept sticking to my pockets in my running gear. I was having a hard time grabbing my gels that I packed with me. Then, I had a hard time opening bags with gels for energy. It was hard to find the motivation to keep hydrated and keep munching on energy packs. I found myself waiting for the next water station because it was easier to just grab whatever they had at the time.

Half Way

‘You should quit’ – I started to think to myself. I was 17-18KM from the finish. I guess in other terms, that’s about 23KM into the race. That’s almost half the race left and I was depleted.

Honestly, I had every reason to quit and no one would have judged me. I have been sick since early April. My training was disrupted. I considered withdrawing before the race every began.

Then I met this awesome guy James at the 26km mark or so. James walked beside me and asked me if I was okay. I tearily looked over and replied “No, I’m not okay.” I’m pretty sure that James said something similar back.

And then he said “Let’s do this together…!”

That one moment of vulnerability and truth would bond two people together for the rest of the race.

Without him, I would’ve quit. We pulled each other thru the finish line with words of encouragement and a lot of walking.

At first, we tried walking 500M then jogging 500M. Rinse and repeat. But almost the entire last hour was walking. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. I shared my life mantra “next shot”; for us it was “next step”.

We spent almost 3 hours on course together, chatting about life, and encouraging each other. We were both in incredible pain. James was recovering from a thigh injury incurred during training.

How bad do you want it?

Everything in my body seemed to be cramping and in pain. Feet. Calves. Hams. Quads. Knees. Lower back. Then my arms and shoulders started to fail me. I could feel a blister forming on my right foot pad between my big toe and second toe. My FIRST running blister.

This is another story with the #tagline “How bad do you want it?”

It’s Monday, the day after, and I am still in a lot of pain. I have never felt this much pain from a run or bike ride over the last 4 years.

Determination

I’ll need time to acknowledge the sheer will and determination that it took to finish. I will need some time to fully grasp what has happened.

🥹 I will need time to forgive myself for wanting to quit.

🥹 I will need time to learn this lesson again: You are NOT alone. And it’s okay to need help when you are down.

🥹 I needed help on Sunday to finish the race. The Lord delivered this amazing human named James. Trust in the Lord!

I don’t know if we’ll be best friends forever. But for 3 hours on Sunday James and I  were the best of friends, carrying each other over the finish line.

Wow! My second marathon is finished and it might be more epic than the first. It’s going to be a pretty emotional week.

Wrap Up

Stay tuned for some video content coming your way. I’m slowly ramping up into a new initiative on YouTube called Dennis on the Mic. I plan to use some content from my podcast interview and some video from this race to get started.

As far as I can tell, I made some critical errors during the race. But I have no idea if those errors lead to my struggles or merely just contributed to them. 

  1. I left my rain gear at home rather than packing it. In hindsight, it looks silly, but every bit of packed equipment weighs on you during a 42.2KM run. You pack what you think you’ll need. I literally saw one runner out there with shoes, socks and shorts; barely enough clothing to get into a 7-11 these days!
  2. I arrived on site without enough time to hit the bathroom and get into the chute to find my pace group. Bathrooms are such a problem with a big race like this. Unfortunately, Calgary has multiple groups in the queue at the same time. That leads to fighting over bathrooms. Ideally, there would be less overlap with the 10KM, half and full marathon runners. At the end of the day, I didn’t give myself enough time in the morning.
  3. My pace was far too fast at the beginning of the race. I tried to slow myself down a number of times. My brain kept saying “This is what we trained for in March!” I should have realized that my pace needed to be much slower in the first half of the race.


I believe the core issue is that my training was disrupted by an illness but I decided to run anyway.

Finish Time

You will notice that I didn’t write about my finish time. This story is not about how long it took me to finish my second marathon.

I finished through adversity. I finished using all of my will power, determination, perseverance, and a loving soul. 

The universe once again spat on me (rain) and threw me another windy and cold day, yet I prevailed!

Each time that I face a windy day, and I survive, I grow stronger. And this is no different. I survived the worst of the day, and finished.

I grabbed my medal. Forever, I will be able to lean on my marathon experience as a testament to my character and will power.

The next time I feel like quitting, or having a drink, I can remember this day. And I will remember that the help of a new friend helped me through a tough time.

I am NOT alone. I am Dennis on the Run!!!

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