When I think back to my happiest winter memories, they aren’t all strictly winter ones, but many of them are. In fact, some of my happiest times ever were in the winter. When I was 18, I was having a lot of serious problems at home, at work, and at school. I was arguing with my dad all the time and I was in a pressure cooker of political crap working the night shift at Superstore, all while trying to finish up around 15 credits of my high school diploma. At that age I was conscious that people judged you based on who you associated with and would snub you if you didn’t fit into their groups. But I had a friend who was a very caring and interesting person and I didn’t care if others judged him on his appearance. We became good friends and he managed to get the skiing bug into me.
All he really did was one day hand me a newspaper clipping for Rabbit Hill saying that for $15 you could get a free lesson, an evening’s rental, and lift tickets. We went, and I was pretty awkward at first, but soon I was flying down the slopes and loving every minute of it. I also liked spending time with my friend riding the lifts up the hill and talking about life, school, our families, which girls we liked the most, and general teenage rants.
The idea of having so much fun just about turned me from an academic student into a jock. I suddenly realized how much I missed my younger days of playing football and soccer, basketball, and even badminton and volleyball. I ended up getting into the shape of my life. When high school was done with later that year due to an illness, I made a decision that I wanted to join the army. I didn’t decide this for the adventure or action or travel or one of the many reasons people sign up. I simply didn’t want the newly rediscovered athletic side of me to go away, and a friend who was in the military had shown me how fit you have to be to keep up while serving.
I often wish that things had gone differently. There were some very difficult times. I was turned down for the military due to a bad medical report, but I kept up with the running I was doing in hopes that the medical condition would change. My army friend had told me that to get into a special unit I was interested in, one of the things you had to do was run a six-minute mile. I never ended up doing this, but one time by going full steam ahead I managed to run a quarter mile in 1.5 minutes.
I often wish that things had gone differently. There were some very difficult times.
I moved out to Vancouver that November. It was about two months later, near the end of that year that I decided I was going to put myself to the ultimate test. I was going to run 26 miles – a full marathon. I started out downtown on Main and Terminal Streets, then ran all the way to Stanley Park, then around the park and added another ten miles by taking the long way home. It took a heck of a lot out of me, but I had done it, I had accomplished something that I never thought I could do, especially since I was a smoker at the time. From then on I really felt like I had nothing to prove. I scaled back playing sports and time went on.
Now, I still love to kick the soccer ball around when I can, or have a game of 21 on the basketball court. Eventually, my knees got the better of me though. Now I see my best competitions as events like “The Edmonton Story Slam” which I won twice last year. Some part of me still craves the feeling of pushing limits, being outside and traversing long distances, but I no longer run. I have started walking sometimes five or 10 miles a day. I never thought it possible, but often I walk downtown and back from McCauley to run errands, or even out to Superstore on Kingsway. Aside from those forms of exercise, I have found that the best one is to head over to Commonwealth Stadium to use the pool, sit in the hot tub and steam room, and for a brief moment pretend I’m back in Hawaii or that it isn’t really winter outside. Winter can be great, but fantasy can sometimes be better.
Leif lives in McCauley.