This is it.
It was time to put on my superhero costume and represent something much bigger than myself. Much bigger than diabetes. Much bigger than all twenty-five of us put together.
It was time to transform ourselves into living, breathing, running examples of hope and of perseverance.
I took one look at the weather forecast and thanked the gods I had the sense to pack for all weathers. On came the running pants, long sleeve shirt, singlet and gloves. I grabbed my apple and granola bar, I double checked my bag of supplies, I tied on my running belt and we headed down to the lobby - the sun still hours away from rising.
We checked in with Mary-Jo to confirm that we were indeed awake and were indeed ready to run and then we climbed onto the bus for the ride to Minneapolis. The race is called the Twin Cities 10-miler because we start in Minneapolis and run to St. Paul. Down the dark streets we drove. I stared straight ahead, I stared out the window, I choked down my apple and I gripped Doug's hand.
Can I live up to the expectations that my superhero costume put on me? Can I run the race and run it well? Can I be that person in the video that I watched over and over again - full of life and energy and hope?
We got off the bus and headed in to the Minnesota Vikings stadium to await the start of the race. Nine thousand runners were about to run the 10-miler. Several thousand more were gearing up for the marathon. And yet we found almost all of the Global Heroes in that stadium. We definitely stood out in our bright shirts.
We found Troy and Kobi - the Aussies who knew how to dress for cold weather
We found Matthew - grinning from ear to ear and ready to run.
We found Patrick and his wife - who went through multiple wardrobe malfunctions but finally figured out how to dress for the cold weather.
And I had my Doug, my running buddy, to keep me warm, help keep me on pace and help keep my emotions in check.
Fifteen minutes before race time, we headed out into the dark. The race start was at 7:09am so the sun was still well below the horizon. It was freezing cold and dark as thousands of runners filled the street. We huddled, we listened to the Star Spangled Banner, we waited for the gun to go.
Once the gun went off, we shuffled our way to the start and, before we knew it, we were off and running. We trotted along for a few minutes and enjoyed the feeling of our bodies warming up. Soon enough we could feel our fingers and our toes again.
We were told before the race that there would be a video camera at mile three and at the finish line. We were told that the first camera would be just past the Medtronic water station. We were told that there would be a spotter on the bridge near mile three who would keep an eye out for Global Heroes.
We were not told that the spotters would get all excited when they saw us. We were not told that they would scream "Go Céline!!!" when we ran by. And we were certainly not told that, as we passed the Medtronic water station, there would be an announcer on a loudspeaker screaming "here comes Céline, Global Hero!!".
As we ran along, I had complete strangers come up to me and say hi. Some congratulated me. Some just gave me a high five. One was excited just to have found one of the heroes en route.
Doug was a wonderful running buddy. He slowed his pace to match mine and we ran well together. Every once in a while he would dart up ahead and take running pictures for me. Then he would rejoin me and settle in half a step behind me so I could set the pace.
I stopped around mile four to check my blood sugar and all was fine. Then, around mile six we caught up to Matthew and his running buddy. Matthew was darting behind a tree for a 'wee' break.
We waved and ran on. Not long afterwards, Matthew sped by with no sign of his running buddy. He told me after the race that he resumed his run with the goal to catch "the Canada lady" and left his running buddy in the dust. I lost sight of Matthew and never caught him again. Fifteen years old with cerebral palsy and he kicked my running butt. What a hero!
Only a few miles to go. I ran and Doug pointed out beautiful homes and lovely architecture. The route had been a hilly one and I was getting tired. Funny thing though - when you're wearing a hero costume, you can't really stop running. Because you have a job to do.
So I did it. I kept running and, soon enough, the capital building loomed in the distance. We had made it. The fabled finish line, with the fabled cheering section was almost here.
I waved to the spotter and they waved back before mumbling into their walkie-talkie. Céline Parent, global hero, was coming in to the finish.
They announced my name. They announced my hero status. Doug and I joined hands and waved them in the air. I was too busy smiling to even think of shedding a tear.
Soaking wet, freezing cold, tired and hungry - and complete elated.
We made our way through the crowd and to the Medtronic tent where hot drinks and lots of snacks (sweet and salty) awaited us. So did grinning heroes and other friends.
Ellie and her running buddy and husband Ryan after the 10-mile race
Mary-Jo and Rich - extraordinary event organizers
Torbjørn - marathon runner and fellow T1
Gabriela - T1 marathon runner and her husband
Doing my post-race interview.
The race, and the weekend, was everything I expected it would be. In fact, there were almost no surprises from start to finish.
And yet, the weekend was overwhelming and emotional in ways that I could not have imagined. We met on Thursday - strangers from across the globe, joined because we were selected by a panel of people who had read our stories. Joined because we all had something 'wrong' with our bodies. Joined because we had found ways to overcome.
We parted on Monday as friends. As kindred spirits. As superheroes.