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Part 1: Not a regular Saturday morning

John Lofranco launches the first of his six-part fictional running serial about a female high school runner from Toronto. The story of Karina Jordan is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

On a regular Saturday morning, Karina Jordan woke up early. Unlike most teenagers, she didn’t dawdle in bed until noon, laze around the house in her PJs and go on Facebook. Ok, she did go on Facebook a bit, but on Saturday mornings, before she did anything else, she got up and went for a run. Karina loved to run. She left her parents’ home on Roncesvalles, bounced down to Howard Park, made a quick right, and rolled into High Park, in Toronto’s west end. She attacked the trails with such glee that it was no wonder no one had ever beat her in a cross-country race. People wondered why she was so fast, whether there was some dark secret she was running from, whether she was taking drugs or had an eating disorder. She heard it all, but she didn’t care. She just ran and she loved it.

She usually ran for an hour. Once, she went for almost three, and her parents were quite worried when she came home:
“I was just in the park,” she had replied, innocently. “I’m fine.”

The following Monday at practice, she hadn’t been able to complete even two of the five hill loops that Coach Terry had had planned. She couldn’t figure out why her legs just wouldn’t go.

“Did you run on the weekend?” asked Coach, who was also her grade 10 math teacher, and, according to rumour, had been a high school champion in the 1500m in the 70s. According to rumour because the Internet did not go back that far, so there was no real way to confirm.

“I ran three hours on Saturday,” Karina divulged.

“Ok, that’s probably it then,” Coach laughed. “Karina, you really like running, right?”

“Yes. I love it,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“And you want to run for a really long time. Not just three hours, but three decades, maybe more?”

“Forever. I’ll always run. It’s my thing.”

“Ok, so if you want to keep it up a long time, you have to pace yourself,” Coach continued. “We have practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and you run at home on Saturday. Keep the Saturday runs to an hour at most. I know you can do more, but think of it as savouring a nice dessert: it tastes better if you don’t gobble it, right?”

“Yeah, ok.”

Karina had never taken running for granted. She’d loved every second of it. She had been sincere when she had told Coach Terry that she would always run. But now she was worried that she might have been wrong. This Saturday, in late September, instead of putting on her grey tights, her honeysuckle running skirt, and her white Western Toronto Academy sweat shirt, then lacing up her white sneakers (size 7D, ‘cause her feet were a little wide) to tear up the street and tear down the trails, Karina was lying in a hospital bed at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, waiting for her parents to come back from what looked like a very nervous discussion with a doctor in the hallway.

To be continued…

Return each Friday for the next installment of John Lofranco’s six-part serial. Coming up next — Part 2: Building the Team.