A love affair

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” ~Fred DeVito

My love affair with running began slowly, it wasn’t a rush of romance or a “love at first sight” type of affair. It began like many do, a need for stress relief in college. We were introduced and would occasionally cross paths on those weeks when I had extra time and would get out for a run, or jump on the treadmill while watching my favorite show. 

We started hanging out more regularly when I joined a non-profit a few years later that participated in a yearly charity challenge with the Toronto ScotiaBank Waterfront Marathon. I started to see that there was much more depth than what I had previously experienced in running. I signed up for a ½ marathon thinking it would be a fun challenge and so began my comfortable, safe relationship with running. It provided me with just enough excitement and the safety of my treasured alone time as an introvert. 

It wasn’t until my 6th time participating in the  ½ marathon that this love affair would consume and transform my life in a way I didn’t see coming. I had just become a mom and had gone through all the physical challenges and changes a mother goes through in the process of becoming a mom. It was my first long distance race, just 6 month after giving birth and I had convinced my baby sister to run this distance with me. She was a new runner and so I would show her the ropes of this fantastic distance, the one I knew so well. 

I ran every step of that race with her, but this time around for me it was a very different experience. I wasn’t running in the rhyme and pace that I had grown so accustomed to. My sister is shorter and her stride and pace differ from mine, but I adjusted to her the entire race. It was a new kind of hard, rather than pushing myself to the pace I knew I was capable of. I was pushing myself to slow down, to run at a steady uncomfortable pace. As I crossed the finish line of that ½ marathon I had the thought for the first time, “could this be more, was I capable of more”? 

My body had already shown me new things it was capable of over the past year in growing and expanding in creating life, labouring in ways I physically had never experienced, and adjusting to the realities of being a mom and learning the giving of oneself in more ways that you knew was possible that comes along with it all while not becoming less of yourself. Could this be true of running too? Did I have more to give that would actually change and transform me?

What followed was a slow build up of courage, asking my husband if we could clear our schedule to make space for me to dive into training plans, and long runs every week in the midst of having a 1 year old. He was always a yes, doing whatever it took to help me say yes. 

It was in those hours spent in 30 kms runs that I found my confidence. In the isolation of long solo trail runs, pushing and giving everything I had to give and waiting to see if I would break in the presence of only myself. There was no one except myself to see both my failures or successes. I had only to prove to myself that I was strong, that I could continue that I had more within me then I ever dared to embrace in believing before.

It was the ability to prevail through the hill at 12 km or the pressing in at km 16 to get to the halfpoint turnaround. It was the moment of defeat when I picked up the phone and called for a pickup only 2.5 kms away from home. But it was also in the seconds after finding courage to cancel the rescue and get my butt back into the test of would this break me or change me

Months later I was stronger, more disciplined and enjoying most moments of the strict training schedule. On top of this training for a marathon distance my friend had convinced me to pair this with completing a triathlon 1 ½ months prior to my marathon date. Not being a swimmer added variety and newness to my training and completing that terrifying open water swimming distance of 1.5 km only continued this building of my confidence. 

As the day of the marathon arrived, I went into it knowing my gameplan. I was convinced not to  allow my familiarity of the first half of the course to trip me up and to remain committed to my slower yet consistent pace I had put so much work into over the past 6 months. When I hit the halfway mark where friends and family were lining the streets cheering me on, I was blazing. When I looked down to check my pace I was convinced the GPS was messed up because the pace was nowhere near what I was aiming for. My husband (who is not a runner) ran alongside me for a short while cheering me on and surrounding me with words of encouragement. As I entered the unknown terrain of the second half of the race I had two montra’s, don’t stop running and you’ve done this (until you get to those last few kms) you’ve done this before, you’ve got this. 

As I rounded that last corner at 40.5 km with the last km stretched out in front on me, people lined the streets cheering, I found face after face who showed up to cheer me on, my co-worker (who was familiar with this distance) jumped over the barrier screaming at me “this is ridiculous Janelle, you’re killing it”. Summon the tears.  

I was stronger than I ever imagined as I finished that race crushing my goal of 5 hrs by crossing that finish line at 4 hr, 27 min. 

Greater than this was the courage I found to step into things that would continue to change me. What followed this love affair of running two years ago came the courage and confidence to step into being a writer, a crisis responder, a more whole wife and mother. It has allowed me to continue to change and grow with more courage in being myself, not just with myself but allowing others to pay witness to my being, whatever form that may take. 

This post is part of a blog hop with other runner-mother-creatives. Click here to view the next post in this series on running, mothering, and making.

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