I hated running my whole life. I never understood why people did it. I used to see people running in the rain, the winter, in the middle of nowhere and think, ‘gosh, that is so hard, why would anybody do it?’
I started running about 15 years ago, but it was strictly for me. I had started teaching Physical Education at a University, and realized that I had to be able to walk the talk. While I was active in other fitness pursuits, running had never been something that I’d been interested in, but now I had a good reason to get familiar with the feel of the road under a good pair of kicks. I soon discovered the thrill of being able to beat a class of 19 – 24-year-olds up a hill, pregnant, during classes. I saw the wide eyes of some of students I was training, and saw the inspiration it gave them. While I knew it was empowering them to see someone in my condition running with ease, it was also empowering me. I won’t lie and tell you that I loved it – many times, it was a friend and co-worker or my husband who dragged me through my runs, and sometimes my poor husband had to listen to me whine my way through a workout on a very cold day, or early in the morning. To all those who listened to me whine, held themselves back so that I’d have a running partner on my training runs, and encouraged me along the way, I have so much appreciation, because it was getting through the hard runs that led to my own empowerment.
Despite my initial success, it was still another five years, I think, before I started to aim for loftier running goals – our cousin was killed in Afghanistan, and I decided to run the Army Run half-marathon in his memory. I’d never run that far before, and even in training, the furthest I went before the race was about twenty kilometers. I wanted to save the full distance for the race itself. That year, I discovered the thrill of organized races. That was the first year I started to register for races and challenge myself against other runners, and myself.
Who knew I’d fall in love with it?
As training continued that year, I discovered the amazing empowerment that came from doing something that didn’t come easily to me. To be at the start line, heart pounding, tunes blasting from loudspeakers, the chaos of pre-race bag checks, the excitement as I reached the halfway point of my races, and the incredible rush of taking a hill and owning it. The morning of the race was a cold one, and I was definitely nervous, but I ran into a fellow coach and friend at the start line. We ran most of the race together, and I finished with a time that I was well pleased with. It was the hardest physical challenge I’d ever met. Afterwards, as I took stock of the race, I realized that not only had I reached and exceeded my goal time, but I had managed to pace myself well, stay hydrated, and finished for the most important medal I’ve ever earned.
Admittedly, I became something of a running junkie, and started teaching at a local Running Room, something I had never dreamed I would do. While I was a personal trainer with a great deal of experience in training others, I had to educate myself thoroughly on all things running. I knew the incredible responsibility I had teaching my runners, and with the help of friends who were far more well-versed in the world of running and racing, I watched my program flesh out into one that empowered everyone. What I didn’t expect was that this journey would empower me.
I’ll never forget the phone call I had with a friend of mine that was an avid and very successful runner. We were talking about our pursuits, and she said, ‘you bike, you swim; why don’t you run, and start doing triathlons?’ That conversation became a turning point in my life, and marked the beginning of a much more serious approach to running. I took her advice, and joined a triathlon club, started cycling with friends who rode in the Gatineau mountains on Sundays, and started running with friends. The long slow distance runs, the hill days, track days and the race pace days all became more and more rewarding, and I was loving aspects of every part of my training. I was surprised to find that I wasn’t too bad at it. While I ran a lot of races, and my medal collection grew, I knew that I was chasing that incredible feeling of accomplishment that came from completing every training day successfully. I began to look for more. I began to run with Team in Training, a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraising group that organizes fundraising races all over the world. My own father had died of cancer, and I wanted to do something to remember him, to honor him. The first race I ran with Team in Training, the Disney Princess, was just incredible. Now it wasn’t just the race against my own abilities, but I had also managed to turn running into a way of supporting a charitable organization. I came away from that race with a personal best, and the knowledge that I had done something to help others at the same time. I went on to run three more races with their organization, and each time it was a thrill.
I had become a personal trainer in order to empower others, and started running for others. It was the sport I loved to hate, and hated to love. I ran so I could teach others. I ran to remember others. I ran to raise money for others. In all these ways, I was running to empower others. Now, I run to empower myself, because I deserve to feel empowered too.