From Couch to Elite Runner

I wasn’t a kid that dreamed of running the Boston Marathon. I was the kid who cried when asked to run more than one lap of the track. Like many people, I decided to start running because I wanted to lose weight. My first goal was to run an entire 5k without stopping. That was hard, but I did it.

Then a year later, I registered for a half marathon, and, again, my goal was to finish 21.1k of running, which I did in 2:00:01. I ran that same half marathon multiple years in a row. In between, I ran the same route almost everyday, at the same pace, and would get frustrated when my annual half marathon rolled around and my time didn’t change much from year to year. I chiseled my time down to 1:47:xx within the first five years of running, but my ultimate dream was to run a 1:45.

It wasn’t on purpose, but by becoming competitive with myself, I started taking more of an interest in running as a sport and made more of an effort to run more consistently throughout the year.

I started running 11 years ago, when I turned 19. This year, I turned 30. During the past 11 years, a lot has changed on the running front for me. And honestly, I never saw any of it coming.

Bumping Along

A few months after running 1:47, I got pregnant with our first child. I ran for 25 weeks of my pregnancy, albeit very inconsistently. We lived in a rural area at the time, with no sidewalks and limited running options. I didn’t want to drive 30+ minutes to a gym, so we invested in a pretty awesome treadmill so that I could run at home. This was a game-changer for me, as it made running possible during nap time (especially in the Canadian winter when it was too tough to take the jogging stroller out on our road).

I gradually worked my way back up to easily running 10k, and when the spring rolled around, I noticed I was getting a lot stronger as a runner – which was probably due to all of the stroller running. I stayed away from races for awhile after having our son, and while trying to get pregnant with our second child, I hesitated to register for races, especially after experiencing miscarriages.

A Breakthrough

I did manage to run a half marathon between when my son and daughter were born, and I ran a 1:34:01. This was a breakthrough for me. I noticed that my paces dropped a lot after I had my son. They say you can get faster after you have kids, which I think was one part of the equation, but I was also taking training more seriously, trying different types of workouts, doing longer runs and testing my speed a bit more. I was also running very consistently.

Whether it was indoors or outside, I didn’t really have an excuse not to run. I woke up at 4:30am each day to run before work, which a lot of people thought was crazy, but, it was what I had to do to fit everything in. Running was slowly becoming a priority, but it got put on hold a bit after that breakthrough half marathon, as I suffered my second miscarriage, and shortly after would find out I was pregnant with our daughter.

I ran during my pregnancy with our daughter, stopping around the 36 week mark. It was summer, and the humidity was getting to me. One month after she was born, I started running again, and noticed that I actually didn’t lose too much of my fitness. It was around this time that I wanted to try my hand at the marathon. And qualify for Boston. Which happened.

New Territory

After having our daughter, I noticed my paces dropped again. I was running consistently and learning more about running as a whole. I registered for a half marathon, with the hopes of time qualifying for the 2017 NYC Marathon. It took two tries, but on my second attempt I ran a 1:27:08, which was well under the time standard. Then, I learned that the Elite B standard for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend was sub-40min for the 10km. I looked at my kilometre splits from my 1:27 half marathon and noticed that seven of the 21km were under 4:00min/km. 10km was a distance I had never raced before, but I thought that if I just pushed as hard as I could and tried to see how long I could hang on for, I’d make it to the finish in under 40 minutes.

I found a 10km race in Ottawa and registered. I even emailed the elite athlete coordinator for Run Ottawa to verify that a sub-40 time at the race I registered for would be considered. I ran the 10k in 37:54, much faster than I expected. I remember looking at my watch and seeing paces I had never even dreamed of before. Paces I never imagined I would be capable of.

The Elite Field

2016 was an incredible year for me on the running front. I kept pushing the envelope and achieved big goals that I never imagined were a possibility for me. At the end of May, I toed the line with the likes of Tarah Korir, Rachel Cliff and Natasha Wodak at the Ottawa Race Weekend 10k, which is also the Canadian 10k National Championships.

I struggle with feeling like I belong in the elite field – even though I remind myself that I qualified to be there. The learning experience itself is one that I will carry with me moving forward. I didn’t have a great race. I battled my mind and the imposter syndrome monster took control. I need to work on my mental game and not letting the pressure get to me. I am my own worst critic.

When I started running, I was just content with running and finishing races. If you asked me back then if I’d accomplish anything that I have so far as a runner, I probably would have laughed. Running has brought so much to my life. It has taught me I am strong when I feel weak. It has encouraged me to never settle and to keep pushing myself to see what I’m capable of. Bring on my 30s!

Have you achieved more at running than you thought possible when you began?

A mother runner chasing big dreams.

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5 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey! I really enjoy hearing about people’s beginning-to-present running experience.

  2. Love your story! My half marathon progression was similar to yours (2:07 to 1:42 to 1:34) but then it kind of tapered off :). Your story gives me hope though! Congrats on all you’ve accomplished!