At the beginning of this journey, if you had told me that I would voluntarily sign up to run a Half Marathon, I would have looked at you and laughed because I thought there was no way I would ever be able to run that far. At the time, I couldn’t run at all!
Fast forward to 2018.
I have lost 60 lbs and am working on running 21.1 kms – non stop! I have registered for the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. This has been a journey I never would have foreseen!
Everyone starts somewhere and oh did I ever. Before I even began my running journey I had a lot of work to do and confidence to build in myself.
In 2012, I began a new, healthy chapter in my life. I was suffering from some chronic, metabolic conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Lyme Disease. I had gained weight and my mental health was also suffering. I decided to start taking yoga classes. I started slowly, once or twice per week. I also worked with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and over the course of about two years, I learned what foods gave me energy and what foods took my energy away. I learned which foods caused inflammation in my gut and which foods did not. Some days I did not feel like going to yoga class, but I went anyway and I rested in Child’s Pose or Savasana as the class continued on around me. I realized that nobody was judging me and it was good for me to be in the group regardless of what I could or could not achieve.
Eventually, in 2013, I felt I was ready to kick up my exercise routine a notch or two. I was seeing a chiropractor to help with my posture. Slowly things were improving and I felt my strength coming back. I signed up for some personal training sessions and I made some goals such as being able to do a Turkish Get Up and doing a “modified” handstand in yoga! It was fun. Things were progressing, albeit slowly. I was patient and consistent in my weekly routine. My routine at that time was as follows: yoga class 1-2x per week, chiropractor appointment 1x every 2 weeks, personal training 1x per week, and continuing on my nutrition exploration every day!
In 2014, I stepped up my personal training appointments to twice per week. Once per week to work on the minute aspects of strength and mobility, and once per week working on walk/ run program.
At first, going to the track was a bit intimidating. The first sessions were running one quarter of the track if you can call it that, and walking three quarters. We also spent a lot of time doing running “drills” that helped to teach me proper running form and technique. Eventually the ratio changed and I was running three quarters and walking only one quarter.
The more you work, the easier it gets and over time it did. One day we were running around the track and I realized that I had run two whole circuits of the track while talking. I was so shocked! I started to be able to run a little further each time. I remember the first time I ran a mile (four times around the track!) without stopping. I was shocked to realize that I had started to enjoy running! I also realized that I looked forward to the feeling of the finish; the magical feeling of relaxation, “good” tiredness, and just happiness. I would smile when running. The first time I ran in the pouring rain, I discovered that I was not made of sugar and wouldn’t melt. Running in the rain was fun!
2016 brought me to a time when I entered a running event! It was an MEC event and I walked a 5 km route. I was still nervous to try to run 5km. Other ESF teammates were there too and it was a great feeling of accomplishment! Later that same year I did run a 5km event. It was the Fall Classic out at UBC in November and I ran the entire route except for that pesky 200-300 meter hill near the end! But I still loved it and felt so happy with my accomplishment. Best of all, I was not sore or too tired in the days following. This proved to me that my training had worked.
In 2017 I registered for the 8km BMO event. I wasn’t feeling particularly perky on the day of the event but I still managed to finish with a smile on my face. I continued running once per week throughout the summer. This past Fall I tackled the Fall Classic again. This time around I did the 10km course and I RAN up the hill at the end of the course! That settled it for me and I registered for a half marathon. 21.1kms. TWENTY ONE POINT ONE KILOMETERS. I knew that taking things one step at a time would be all I needed to do. I kept up my 10km base and with guidance, slowly added kilometers in my once per week long run. I was also told to run at least once or twice per week for very short durations of three to five kilometers. In my program, I do not add kilometers every week. Rather, once I add kilometers, I keep running that same distance for a few weeks to make sure my body is really settled in to that distance.
Currently, my long runs are at 17kms which I can do steadily and comfortably.
I am not an expert but this is what I have learned during my running journey.
Work with a team! It pays off in results, less frustration, and even less pain or discomfort. I have a running “coach” to teach me how to run, seriously, it is easier on your back! I have a personal trainer to help me work on strengthening the rest of my body. Core work and weight training make running easier. I have a physiotherapist, chiropractor, and RMT who specialize in mobility and sports. It is sure easier to run when all your muscles are working together.
Get comfortable shoes! Shoes that fit your foot and good socks! I am now addicted to zero drop shoes with minimal padding, they are now the most comfortable for me. Talk to someone at a running shoe store who knows their stuff and isn’t just trying to sell you the latest and greatest pair of trendy runners.
Be patient! I am a real person not an elite athlete. There is life to be lived and stuff to be done., Some days and some weeks, my running and training routine have been skipped or changed due to life. You know something? My fitness does not go away when this happens. It does not dry up or disappear. I remind myself not to panic. It takes more than one day to lose your conditioning. If you put the work in, slowly and surely, you will go forward, and you will be proud of yourself for trying something you would never have dreamed you could do!
Thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey! Wish me luck on May 6th at the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon!
Special thanks to the Eastside Fitness team and members (especially Bev Akhurst, Andrina Tisi and Lucy St. John, Savannagh Marchell and Darnelle Moore and everyone who has offered support and encouragement over the years!), Travis Dodd’s team at Lift Clinic, and Dave Cressman and the team at distance runwear.
Jennifer we are so proud of you and all you have accomplished! Your consistency and open mind have got you where you are now. We hope that your journey can be a lesson for all about how taking things slowly, and using a holistic, multidisciplinary approach is what will help to reach goals. Start small, be patient, be open, be realistic, and HAVE FUN! We look forward to cheering you on in your first Half Marathon.