I used to hate running. Passionately. I figured runners were crazy people who enjoyed pain and in return collected injuries. They had to be wired differently, I mean, seriously, why spend hours doing something so boring and meaningless?
I was not an athletic kid. Reading, drawing and dreaming (I grew up to be a professional illustrator, graphic designer and animator – check My Art section for samples of my work) were favored over getting a ball thrown full force at my face or chasing a stupid puck across the ice. Anything to do with running was horrific – I finished last and nobody wanted me on their team. Gym class meant humiliation, so sports sucked. Period. Even in my early twenties, when I discovered through rowing that I could actually seriously enjoy physical activity, the coach would send me hiding anytime there was mention of a training run… You would NEVER catch me running, it was simply not for me.
Hiking was a different story. I was in awe at how my legs could take me to faraway places one could only dream of. I donned my hiking boots and walked my “backyard” trails of the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, the Adirondacks of New York and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I trekked the high mountains of the Himalayas, the African savannah and the Alaskan tundra. I climbed big peaks of the Canadian Rockies and the summit of the Americas. Little did I know, all this would later become the foundation of my mental and endurance base for the sport I loathed. Wild spaces being good for my mind and with me being hungry for change – I packed my bags and moved out west to the mountain community of Banff. Ski, climb, hike, bike, fish… anything but run.
Until that lunch hour break that changed everything…
Though at first glance one might think I’m a happy and social individual, like most, I have darker sides. I’m quite introverted, often uneasy in crowds and throughout my life I have struggled with anxiety and at times depression. I have this crazy little devil in my head (I will refer to in this Blog as ThinksTooMuch), that likes to spin his wheel and disrupt my thoughts and send me down the path of low self-esteem, doubt and fear. Nature has been my salvation. Nothing like the song of birds to calm the mind or the thrill of an exposed ridge to bring you to the present moment. I found fishing to be something I enjoy immensely, whether waist deep in a river or rocking gently in a boat… still, sometimes the Great Wild isn’t enough.
About five years ago, I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life and hit an all-time low. I was lost and in complete turmoil. I could no longer see light and I was drowning in an ocean of negativity… And then the final straw came and I just about lost it – I was going to blow. I stepped outside for air. And I’m not sure why but I suddenly started running. I ran and ran and ran in total fury. When my body finally gave up and I was forced to stop, I was crying, out of breath and as I came to my senses I realized I felt… good. I felt really good. Running had freed me. It had taken the rage out, the pain. I still had a long way to go before I could heal my soul but that day I had found a new tool to help me do so. I loaded a Couch to 5k app on my iPhone and eight weeks later I was able to run 30 minutes without stopping. And the best part was that I was loving it. Yes, loving running, me, the person who swore she’d never run.
Later that summer, a friend suggested I signed up for a local five miler. At the time it seemed like such an impossible distance – how could I run more than 5k? Crossing under the finish line arch, with the timer, bells, whistles and cheering crowd, I felt like an Olympian (though I was far from the front!). I was no longer the kid that could not do sports. I actually enjoyed pushing myself and finding my limits. By fall, I ran my first half and the following year I had a marathon under my feet. Racing brought me challenge and satisfaction, while running offered sheer joy, freedom and some calm to my restless mind. My years hiking on the trails had provided me with a solid fitness base on which I was quickly building and extending mileage to cover greater distances and enjoy new adventures. On roads or trails, my feet are light, my heart feels full and my head is free. Running changed my life for the better: not only am I healthier physically and mentally, I have met some exceptional people within that community. It makes me happy, and happy is good.
And so it is. Like a fish lured by the perfect fly, I’m hooked and not about to be reeled in. Time to let ‘er run…