Lori Q. McGavin
A few years ago, a friend -- I will call her Gwen -- and I started to throw the idea around of running a five-kilometre “Resolution Run” on New Year’s Day.
The thought of running a five-kilometre run on New Year’s Day with Gwen was quite absurd to me, given the past habits of our friendship. We both spent recent years in the gym having quite a difficult on-again off-again relationship with flabbiness and fitness; but what made it absurd to me was that as teenagers Gwen and I usually convinced each other to participate in mischievous activities -- that’s putting it mildly -- and definitely not anything as healthy as running!
As we became adults, we also had our share of ringing in the New Year with drinks, noisemakers, and whooping and hollering at midnight! Thus, my New Year’s Days were usually spent recuperating with lots of water, rest, and maybe an Advil or two.
When we began to take running that 5k seriously, little sabotaging thoughts would occasionally cross my mind: I am going to miss all the fun of ringing in the New Year with drinks and friends! I can’t even stay up past midnight because I have to get enough rest for this dumb 5k! I have a lot more weight to heave along five kilometres and across that finish line than most! I jiggle when I run! What am I thinking? Maybe this isn’t for me!
Well, New Year’s Day arrived and the world didn’t stop because I chose not to make it out to welcome the year with whooping and hollering. My friends still had fun even though I didn’t show up to participate in the festivities with them! The nerve!
I clearly remember how I felt early that morning getting ready to run my first 5k. I felt well-rested, excited, and nervous but prepared. It was -35 C, perhaps a little colder with the wind chill.
We completed our race in good time and as I crossed the finish line I felt extremely proud of myself.
At that time, I didn’t realize that completing that 5k race would propel me towards the difficult but rewarding journey of committing to improving myself, my health, and my future race times and distances.
After that day, I actually started to believe I could complete more races. I actually started to believe in myself.
I never considered myself to be a great athlete of any sort. I always carried extra weight on my body no matter how fit I was. But, I began with walking: walking a block and being grateful for that. I would walk more each time I went outside or got on a treadmill. Eventually, I began to run 30 seconds here and there; each week I added on 30 seconds to my running time.
There had been times that I allowed my insecurities to keep me from running. What might I look like to all those fit runners on the trails? I don’t look like what one might imagine a runner to look like.
Running allowed me to process my thoughts, to enjoy nature, and it helped drop some of the extra weight I carried. It even gave me time to realize how great my life was.
During the past few years, I have gone from running to walking, back to running again along with other activities to keep my body moving. I have been sidelined with some injuries but have always been determined to build back up again from a new starting point. I have ran many 5ks, 10ks, and I have walked/ran two half marathons (thanks to the encouragement of another dear friend!). This year, I will be walking more 5 and 10k events and one half marathon. By next spring, I anticipate that I will be able to resume my training again to run.
As the years have passed, I have begun to appreciate what my body is capable of with a plan, desire, determination, and dedication. I have silently repeated those words to myself thousands of times on my many runs; desire, determination, dedication.
My life has changed since I decided to run:
• Now, I recover from running races, not hangovers.
• I drink lots of water to prevent dehydration from exercising and not celebrating the night before.
• I have a deep appreciation for my body and what I am capable of. I apply what I have learned on the pavement to dealing with the pressures of life.
• I still sometimes take Advil but only when my feet hurt from kicking so much butt!
Sometimes, my goals include: Reaching a personal best time, going farther, going faster, or losing more weight. But, no matter what, I have two constant goals: To show up and to keep moving because I can.
There have been times during difficult runs when negative thoughts have filled my mind. Why do I do this to myself! This is the hardest thing I have ever done! I don’t think I can make it.
Those thoughts are then replaced with better ones. I can do this! The body achieves what the mind believes!
And those positive thoughts have always been enough to push me past the finish line to achieve that one feeling that I have been chasing ever since my first race. That sense of incredible accomplishment and pride in myself and what I can do. I am usually overcome with emotion after I cross the finish line because it’s overwhelming to think that there was a time that I came close to not being able to walk and I will never let myself take this life for granted. I am not going to watch life pass me by; I am going to run alongside it instead!
Not everybody likes running but the body loves movement and it is great to find an enjoyable way to get the body moving.
There are so many race events with different distances for participants of all sizes, shapes, ages, and capabilities. Some race events encourage wheelchair participants and parents with children in strollers. And the great thing about most race events is that they raise money for charities.
If you aren’t ready to sign up for a run or walk event, I would recommend volunteering for a race or pulling up a chair along a race course to watch the participants. It is quite inspiring. It is also great to witness strangers encouraging each other to finish a race!
“Movement is the essence of life.”
Lori Q. McGavin is a Saskatoon freelance writer. Her column appears every fourth Friday in rotation with Jessica Iron Joseph, Sharon Thomas and Kevin Joseph. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org