The first time I ran a race, the 2009 Army Run, I had never run any long distance. My training was inconsistent and uninformed. Yes, I tried to follow the 10 & 1 rule recommended by various experts. I ran around the neighbourhood and the school track a few times, much to the amusement of my family. I knew I wasn’t going to finish anywhere near the front of the group, but I knew I was going to finish, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me. The route takes runners past Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Memorial, and along the World Heritage Site Rideau Canal. It is also the route many students from Lisgar Collegiate Institute have run for years as part of their Canal run in gym class. As my father was a teacher and Head of Phys. Ed. at Lisgar for 33 years, he knew exactly how long it should take somebody to run that 5k loop.
When I finished my first race, I proclaimed my success to any and all who would listen. My dad’s response he has stuck with me more than anybody else’s. He was pleased that I had completed the race, but my time of 36 minutes received a less than enthusiastic response: “It should’ve taken you 25 minutes.” That’s it. At the time I was impressed that I finished at all. Sure I knew I could go faster, like maybe as fast as 30 minutes, but 25 minutes was just plain crazy. That’s the kind of pace/time super-fit, lean, long-legged true runners achieve. Not 220 lb, stocky, thick calved coach potatoes lumber to.
The idea that I could run 5k faster than I did, let alone in 25 minutes, has stuck with me since. As a result, I’ve been more aware of my pace, my form, and my effort. When I did finally run 5k in 30 minutes (last year), my daughter’s wise assessment was “That’s what happens when you run more.” Not bad for a then 11 year old. Typically, though, I do not spend enough time each year running to get much faster. Last year I was averaging about 7:15/km while still holding to the 10:1 pattern. This time held regardless of the distance; sometimes I was a bit faster and sometimes I was bit slower. While I was pretty pleased with that time, I knew I was getting faster and stronger. I started running a couple of times a week in April of 2015, and fairly quickly (no pun intended) I was getting under 7:00/km. Sure enough those times started dropping below 6:00/km and I wasn’t stopping for walk breaks anymore. Imagine my surprise when I finally ran 5k in 5:05/km — that’s a time of 25:22. I had finally achieved what my father said I could do, something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. What changed? Quite simply, I did. I exercised more this year than any other year. I made better food choices. I worked at it.
I weigh less and I move more; that’s a simple equation for success. But there’s more to than that. I value each accomplishment I’ve made, and I recognize that while those accomplishments will come and go like the tide, I have to keep at it. Here’s hoping I stick with into the winter and beyond.