It Takes A Village

I wasn’t a runner.  I never played sports in high school, never had a gym membership, yoga was not for people who looked like me, and people who went hiking for fun on a Saturday confused me.    

That didn’t stop me from signing up for my first 10k in 2011.  I gave myself exactly 6 weeks to prepare.  I googled and downloaded the first training plan I came across and set out for my first run in beat up old sneakers. I knew I was short on time so instead of 3 runs/week I would just do six and take 1 rest day a week.  Smart, right?

I somehow managed to get to the start line, set off, but completely fell apart around the 7k mark.  All around me, people were cheering in their silly costumes and I was cursing every single step, just wishing I could close my eyes and be finished.  From behind me, someone yelled out my name and up runs Kat.  She’d done a few races before and was one of those smiley happy people.  We had met a few months prior and quickly became friends.  She was not the type of friend (yet) that I wanted to show how much I was struggling.  I didn’t need to tell her though, she knew.  She stuck with me for the next little bit chatting on to keep me distracted.  It worked!  In the final stretch, she pulled ahead and finished her race and then ran back, found me, and we crossed together.  Even though it felt good to set out and achieve that goal, I wasn’t ready to do it again and still didn’t consider myself a runner.

Jump forward to 2013.  A baby, a messy separation, and a major move back to my home province (due to the aforementioned baby and messy separation).  I started running again after my daughter was born mostly because I needed an outlet to help me process all of the changes my life had gone through.  I was grieving my former life in Vancouver and while I was loving every minute of being a mom, I had no idea who I was anymore.  Every time I laced up my running shoes, I would delve into these dark places in my mind to try and make sense of this identity crisis.  Eventually, I joined a 5k group, followed by a 10k group.  I’ve run some races at both distances.  Always off in the future was this idea of completing a ½ marathon.  

A lot of people told me I was too busy to train for a half and that I was crazy.  Not Kat though, she was always in my corner telling me I could do it.  I wanted to prove all of those people wrong.  But mostly, I needed to prove it to myself.  

The distance eluded me for 3 years.  Twice I signed up for a half marathon and both times circumstances (excuses?) caused me to jam out at the last minute.  After an injury that had me sidelined for the better part of four months, a co-worker invited me to run with her.  She was just completing a 10k group and was looking for a buddy to keep her company on the longer Sunday runs.  I showed up for that first Sunday morning run and it was the most brutal run I’ve ever had.  I was stupid to think that I could do a 10k distance after months of being sedentary but I’ve always been a slow learner I guess.  Did I mention that it was like -40?  Right, so smart.  

By the end of the run, I had frostbite on my stomach and all of my muscles ached.  But on that day and on that run, I found that grit that I thought I had lost.  And that co-worker has since become my running partner in crime.  We’ve logged many kilometers together, a few races, hours, soreness, chats about kids, her husband, and my messy romantic life.  She knows when I need to be pushed or when I need a hand up, and when to just stop talking and leave me alone because everything sucks and I’m grumpy (usually around 11-13km).

I kept coming back to this 21.1 distance, constantly buzzing in my ear. One night, I casually mentioned it to a friend in Vancouver who had taken up running shorter distances.  She said, “If you do it, I’ll do it with you!” and that settled it. She and I have been sharing our training, setting out for runs together in our vastly different cities, chatting about our aches, pains, and anxieties. These last four months we have been working hard to achieve that distance.  I have trained through a very cold winter where most of my long runs occurred in temperatures colder than -20.  

It is now the night before my race and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  My goal is simply to finish and whatever time I cross the finish line will be a new personal record!  

What I do know is that after 7 years of running, I now see myself as a runner. 

Every training run when I conquered a new long distance, I would feel so kick ass.  I know my daughter has a role model who demonstrates tenacity and grit.  I also know that it takes a village to get this girl to run a ½ marathon and I have surrounded myself with this amazing group of people who encourage me, babysit for me, give me high fives, and indulge my incessant posting on Instagram about my running.  

To my 3 running buddies who stick by my side, know that you are bad ass and I am in awe of your awesomeness.  Now, LET’S DO THIS!!!

Epilogue:

I DID IT!

I crossed the finish line of my first ½.  Whenever I started to hurt, I would just think about my village and why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Two of my run buddies completed their first ½ on the same day and Kat was out playing in the woods training for her first Ultra.  

I have been formally training for this for 4 months, informally for 3 years but I think the seed was planted way back in 2011 when I proved to myself that I could do something even though I had so many doubts. 

So my only question is…what comes next?