It was Monday morning. Spencer Lee was in a hot room in Suter Brook with no air conditioning, not sleeping.
After the day he’d had, Lee could’ve used a nap.
In the past 24 hours the Eagle Ridge Hospital nurse ran. He counted 310 laps at Heritage Woods Secondary – the equivalent of jogging the Sea-to-Sky from Vancouver to Whistler and then taking a few circuits of the parking lot.
“Twenty-four hours is something I’ve never done,” he says.
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The last few hours, from about 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. were the hardest, he reported.
Sleep deprivation was a factor, he said.
“Plus I think the heat hit me very hard in the afternoon,” he adds with a laugh. “I was like a zombie.”
Unable to sleep on Monday morning he dropped off the tent, the flags and headed to the Poirier library to grab a newspaper clipping of the run.
He called in sick on Tuesday.
“I just wanted a day to myself to recover,” he says.
At press time, Lee raised $4,185 for Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation.
That money is earmarked for “the greatest needs” of the hospital, explained Jacquelyn Dittrich. That could mean anything from medical imaging to community health programs, according to Dittrich.
The popularity of the long-distance runner
Lee expected to spend much of the 24-hour run by himself, in part, because of where he was running.
In general, seeing a trail runner doing laps on a perfectly level oval is akin to spotting a graffiti artist holding paint swatches up to a brick wall. But Lee’s run, despite where it was, what it was and how hot it was, turned into a social event.
“I was never alone,” Lee reflects.
There were doctors, nurses, and care aides who joined him on the track. There were people he’d never met – many of whom brought food.
“It’s like a buffet,” he says.
There was sushi and pasta and there was one family who brought a pot of soup.
“They said, ‘Eat, eat,’” he recalls. “So I ate.”
One runner, Ramona Toth, joined him once in the afternoon and then again in the evening, keeping pace with Lee and his friend Karl Shen until midnight.
Shen was planning to stick with Lee until midnight when he was scheduled to tag in another running buddy. The buddy, however, never showed up. (It later turned out he’d slept through the night).
Shen stuck by Lee from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m., rescheduling his appointments as he ran.
None of it was planned. That was the point, Lee explains.
“If you don’t have a plan then there’s no way of you failing. So I didn’t really have a plan,” he says.
Such as it was, his plan came down to six words: “toe the line and get going.”