Dare I say it? I do. I’m doing it. I’m going to call myself an aspiring endurance athlete. I’m declaring so for two reasons, really: 1) I’m a goal oriented/action oriented person; I can’t just run or work out, I need to train for something, aspire for something and 2) I hope to inspire/motivate/encourage you out there who have always thought about signing up for something, whether it be a 5k community run or the Canadian Death Race; I hope that after reading this you are inspired to sign up.
So why endurance, you might ask? I don’t know, really. It just attracts and inspires me. I like running (most of the time, though not so much these days). I really do. I was never super fit as a kid, not un-athletic, just average. I didn’t make any teams in junior high school. In Grade 10, I tried out for volleyball and didn’t make the team but was offered the manager position which allowed me to practice with the team then travel to the games to assist, which I was totally down with. I tried every sport under the sun, literally. Swim team, soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, rhythmic gymnastics, ringette, synchronized swimming, figure skating….you get the picture. I had incredibly supportive parents who would let me sign up for/try whatever sport I wanted, encourage me to finish what I had started but never pushed me beyond what I wanted. Sometimes I wondered if they had ever pushed me to pursue one sport, instead of try the pot-pourri that was my childhood athletic experience, if I would have ever really gotten ‘good’ at something, but then I think of all the incredible experiences I had and how they have shaped me to be the person I am today, and am I grateful for the way they chose to raise me.
So back to endurance running. I was fortunate to attend Rothesay Netherwood School for Grade 11 and 12 (my final years of high school). Every year, after spring break, the entire student body participated in ‘Spring Trots’. Sounds like an unfortuage GI event to me now, but it’s actually a school running series where the elementary, junior and senior school students (and teachers!) run daily after classes working up to a set distance. I had never really run any significant distance before this and as a senior school student we worked up to a 10k run. There were lunchtime awards for most improved runner, which I was awarded at one step along the way, and although I was by no means the fastest, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. And after that, I always ran. I rowed competitively during my undergraduate studies and ran to keep fit in the off season. Then, when I moved to Japan after my undergrad and experienced intense culture shock, running helped me stay grounded. So, for some reason that escapes me today, I signed up for my first 1/2 marathon in Japan. I suspect it was for the same reason that I’m now hoping to move into endurance distances: to motivate myself, to challenge myself and to stay fit. I made myself a training schedule and manage to follow it pretty religiously, and ran my first 1/2 marathon in Kashiwazaki, Japan. I was one of three non-Japanese people who entered and probably the first person who had never previously run any distance close to that. It wasn’t a huge race, maybe a few hundred people. It was tough: hot, lots of uphill and only one water station at the half way point. I think I was the third last person to finish (literally a few 80 something year old Japanese runners behind me). But you know what? I didn’t care. I DIDN’T CARE. Because I was running for me. I ran through the finish with tons of people cheering ‘Ganbari’ which translates to ‘tenacity, endurance’ and I shouted back ‘Ganbarimasu’ which translates to ‘I will do my best’. And I did.
After that, I was hooked. Despite literally being one of the last people to finish the race, I felt so good. I was so proud of myself to finish. Maybe I was lucky to do my first 1/2 marathon in Japan, so I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone but myself, and I think that was the point where I fell in love with running. I did a handful of other races that year, and actually got on the ‘podium’ for one race, coming third place in a ‘mountain’ race which literally had us running straight uphill for 5km then downhill 5km. So when I returned to Canada after my year abroad, I kept running. I signed up for local community runs like the Bluenose 10k and 1/2 marathon, Ottawa 1/2 Marathon, ‘races’ like that for fun and to give me something to motivate myself to get our there and train. I’m also fortunate to have done a lot of traveling and have run road races not only in Japan but also in Tanzania and The Netherlands. I eventually got into triathalon and joined the Halifax Triathlon Club and started doing group training sessions. During my first year of medical school I trained with the cross country club at Dal which was an incredible (albeit humbling) experience which hugely improved my running. Since then I’ve done a bunch of 5k and 10k road races, a few marathon’s and a handful of 1/2 marathons.
And then I got into trail running. At first, just casually and for fun/training to mix it up. And belive it or the the first and only significant endurance distance run I have ever done was ‘for fun’. My ex-boyfriend/training partner and I decided one Saturday for fun we would run Cape Chignecto in Nova Scotia..it’s somewhere around 50km. We started out late (I think we decided, or rather I decided, it was imperative that we go to the farmers market for Mary’s Cinnamon Buns before we headed out of town). But I loved it! We had a ton of fun, seriously. Except for the fact that we ran the last 10+ km in the dark….bad planning on our part.
Then I moved to B.C. for residency (and ended up staying…another story!) and found myself getting more and more into trail running. Then I meet this super cute resident in the same year as me who is also into trail running who tells me about some awesome trail runs in Victoria (spoiler alert: WE’RE NOW MARRIED WITH THREE ADORABLE BABIES!) So I started getting more and more into trail running and fell in love, with trail running and also with said resident. I’ve done a few little trail races here and there. But now that we have three beautiful boys and our family is complete I’m excited to start training for some longer distance trail races.
I’m fortunate to have a very enabling husband when it comes to fitness so I’ve already gotten the okay and even encouragement to sign up for some races this summer. I’m starting easy with a MEC 5km run at the end of march at Thetis Lake (start slow and build!) and then gradually building up with longer distances doing an 11km trail race at Royal Roads in April and a 7km trail race in Duncan in May. I’ll hopefully do a few more races throughout the summer and my hope is to finish the season off with the Finlayson Arm 28km race in September. I feel like that’s a reasonable distance to aspire to over the coming months. Then maybe next year I’ll tackle the 50km!
Diving back into running after three babies, and only a bit of running in between pregnancies has been challenging. I decided to make it easy on myself by following a training plan. For one thing, it forces me to take things gradually so I don’t go all in too quickly and end up injuring myself. The other thing it does is make me accountable. I’m following this beginner 10km training plan from Running Shoes Guru. Right now I’m on Week 4 of the plan and it’s going well. It’s easy to follow and gradual enough that it’s not overwhelming but definitely starting to challenge me. I’m trying to work on strength on off days through boot camp etc.
So race one is just over two weeks away and I’m excited. I know I won’t be fast, and even though it’s only 5km it will likely hurt. But it will feel so good to get back out there into that community. I love community races. You see people of all shapes and sizes and level of fitness ability. Everyone is so positive and supportive. I’m excited to get back into this world, and also to show it to my children. To show them how important it is to be fit and active and to challenge yourself. Wish me luck!!!