10 years ago I was preparing for my 10K first race in Ottawa Race weekend. I ran the 10K at 6pm on Saturday that race weekend with my husband, and then we got up early to arrive downtown for 6am to volunteer at a water station for the marathon. I’d never watched a marathon before, and it was fascinating. To watch the elite runners, their form so smooth despite their astonishing speed. It was also inspiring to see the recreational runners meet their goals after months of training, many of those in the harsh snow and ice of an Ottawa winter.
Running has taught me the following:
1. Strength comes in many sizes
I run with people who are tall, who are shorter or whose body types don’t fit the profile of a competitive runner. They all have one thing in common. Their bodies are strong and resilient. They run hard and recover well. Any body can be a runner’s body.
2. Running gives you strong legs, but it is just as good for your heart and your head.
Life has difficult periods. Relationships end. We deal with stressful work and home situations. Friends and family get sick. We grieve for those who die. Going for a run allows you to clear your head and talk the state of the world over with your running friends.
3. You’ll meet the best people.
I don’t know if it’s the running endorphins but a lot of runners are happy and friendly. Maybe they are just glad to have someone new to join your running group so they can share their stories. I have met so many amazing people while running and had so many fantastic conversations. As we get close to the end of our long runs, the topics of conversation invariably turn to food.
4. You can inspire others to change their life.
I’ve had a several people remark to me that I inspired them to become more active because they saw that I could train my body to run long distances. So many people that I have run with have inspired me to be a better runner and a better person. When I feel tired or sore, I think of those in my life who are unable to be active, and run for them.
5. You can run at any age.
The people in my running group range from people in their 20s to their 70s. My running friend in his 70s can really put on the burners and go. I want to be like him when I grow up. I saw one of my neighbours at a local race recently and he is in his 80s. My son ran a 1K race a couple of weekends ago and he is six. Running is a sport that can span your lifetime.
6. You can become stronger than you ever imagined.
My first time I ran a 5K training run I was astonished. I never thought I had that in me. Last year, I ran over 2000 km and 18 weekends with training runs or races over the half marathon distance. I never could have forseen, that I, the skinny kid with glasses who was the last to be picked for teams in gym classes as a kid would be able to run so far. Overcoming the mental barriers to see what I could accomplish physically also helped me in other areas of my life, such as my career.
7. You can run anywhere.
I travel for work a few times a year. It’s easy to carry all my running equipment on a plane. A bike or a canoe would be more difficult. Getting up early with your coworkers to run in a new location is a great way to get to know the city, as well as meet new people across the company.
8. You can run in all types of weather.
I’ve run in -40C weather and +40C weather. I’ve run in snowstorms, in freezing rain, cold and windy spring rains, and in sleet and hail. I ran very quickly home one day in a surprise thunderstorm. I will not melt, I will not freeze. Well, I did get bit of frostbite once. Anyways, wear layers and you’re usually good.
9. Running lets you eat a lot of cake and ice cream and not have to buy new pants.
I like ice cream. I don’t like shopping for new jeans that much. Caveat: Sometimes your calves get so strong and well-defined with muscle that skinny jeans don’t fit anymore.
10. You can run for a reason.
A lot of races have charities associated with them to raise money. The Terry Fox run is the earliest example of this approach, and there are many more since then.
A lot has changed since that 10K a decade ago. My first race was so exhilarating I signed up for a half marathon later that summer, and a marathon two years later. This spring I will stand at the start line for my 8th marathon. I’m running as part of the Run for a New Start with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization. This is an organization that I have been volunteering with for this year as a career mentor to help new Canadians find jobs in their fields. It is a cause that is really close to my heart. I find it so rewarding to be able to help people transition to their new lives in Canada and find fulfilling jobs in Ottawa.
If you are so inclined, here is the donation page for the team.
A big thank you to all the amazing people I’ve run with over the years, and to the Running Room for introducing me to so many of them. Also, to my parents and sister for babysitting our son so Mommy and Daddy can get out and run!