1 of 59,100

Today is the Sun Run in Vancouver. One of the biggest fun 10K “races” in the world.  It’s raining and I’m thankful that I don’t have to brave the crowds downtown. And while the weeks of physio have resulted in a green light to run again after injuring my knee it’ll be awhile before I am back to 10K. If ever.

I first ran the Sun Run five years ago.  I wrote this piece afterwards but I’ve never shared it. Mostly because it is linked to my issues with food; which I rarely talk about publicly. Today seems like a good day to push through the fear and be proud of my story.


On April 20, 2008 I ran 10km in the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 participants. Maybe they all have stories of how they ended up there early on a cold Sunday morning. This is mine.

When I reached out for help in the fall of 2006 I was in a deep well of pain and hopelessness, looking up at a sliver of sky with no idea how to climb out. The food was no longer helping me cope with life and I was unhappy and in despair. With just over two years to go to my 40th birthday, I looked ahead to that milestone with dread and panic. I was barely managing my life now at halfway through. How would I ever manage the next 40 years – if I even had that long?

Gradually, as I began to find the help I needed, I began to have hope again. As I let go of the physical and emotional weight, I began to believe that I could actively live the life I wanted to live, rather than only dreaming about it.

I remembered how much I used to love to run as a child – the sense of freedom, of motion, of feeling how alive my body was.  I had dreamt through my 30’s of running the Sun Run the year I turned 40 in April, 2009.

I began to think I could make my running dream come true as well.  Having not run for over 20 years, I thought I’d start trying at 39, just in case I “failed” and needed a second try to make it.

It took me 3 days to sign up for the Learn to Run clinic at my local community centre. Three days of feeling the fear of potential failure, three days of berating myself for not doing it and three days of trying to be gentle and encouraging with myself rather than harshly self-judgmental.

The first night of the clinic, a friend had to “talk me in” as I headed to class – scared, nervous and unsure of myself. I worried that I would be the slowest person, that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that the clinic leaders wouldn’t want to stay at the back of the pack with me, that others would judge and think that I shouldn’t be there. I worried about how I looked, what I was wearing, what I sounded like as I was running and whether anyone would want to run with me and be my friend.  Somehow, I made it through the first night.

In between weekly classes, I ran twice during the week on my own. I ran at night in the dark so that no one could see me. I kept to the back streets and off the main roads so that other runners and car drivers wouldn’t look at me. But, I kept running and I kept going to class.

One night, about 6 weeks into the clinic, I was really struggling with the group run. I had a cold and as I huffed and puffed along with all my fears and worries weighing me down, I just wanted to quit. To give up and not have to work so hard.

But, that night, in the sky overhead, there was a rare and awe-inspiring sight. A total eclipse of the moon. While we were running, the clouds had dispersed and I had a beautiful view of the full moon as it gradually turned red and darkened into the eclipse. A full moon is a time of energy full and rich with potential. And a lunar eclipse marks a period of profound transformational change that in the past, was viewed with fear.

As I ran under this powerful sign, I realized that my journey of running – as with my journey of healing – is one of powerful transformational change. And that it is often hard, sometimes really hard, and sometimes scary. But, that my running journey with its physical transformation and my spiritual journey, with its emotional transformation are both worth the effort because I am worth the effort.

With that realization, I took that giant bundle of fear and worry and self-hatred that was weighing me down and left it at the edge of the road and ran onward both lighter and freer. I ran for me, for the joy of running and moving my body, for my health and because I wanted to make this dream – and all my dreams – reality.

A few weeks later, a woman in the running clinic said to me, “I love running behind you, you set such a steady pace.” Surprised, and not realizing that anyone was actually behind me, I replied, “I just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.”

And at that moment, I realized that my method, which had lead to running success, was equally applicable to all the aspects of my life. Transformational change happens one small step at a time at its own pace. It is my journey, and it happens in my own time and speed and rhythm.

On April 20, 2008, I ran the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 runners, I ran it just for me, at my own pace, one step at a time, joyous and free.


I-run-knee of a miracle

I think I need to be more specific about what I pray for.

My word for this year is joy. I wrote about what that means in the broader sense but one of the specific joys that want to feel again is the amazing feeling that I have when I run.  There is a point in the run where I move from hating it to loving it. It’s probably that moment where my mind gives up fighting me and decides to work with me. It’d be nice if my mind would give up earlier in the run but I guess it’s a slow learner.

My mind seems to have an endless supply of  reasons excuses to keep me from wrestling into the workout bra and lacing my shoes. It’s too dark and not safe, it’s raining, getting more sleep is healthy, people will see me, I should check my e-mail/facebook/twitter first, it means I have to shower/wash/style my hair after, mercury is in retrograde. Whatever.

So, I’ve been praying for the willingness to get out there and just do it.  To give me a boost, I signed up for a training clinic for a 10K run which runs at 9am on Sunday morning. I knew I would miss the first two weeks but I’ve done the clinic before so I had the training schedule for the first two weeks so I figured I do them on my own. Plus, the training run is through a forested area of my city which is just beautiful.

Last Sunday was the first day of the clinic for me. I did not do the first two weeks on my own (surprise, surprise). Somehow the hacking cough I’ve developed and a trip to Hawaii seemed like good reasons excuses.

But, here’s the miracle. I got out of bed (after being up very late celebrating the night before) and made it to the clinic. I did the third-week run and loved it. The clinic leader was incredible and supportive in just the right way for me. None of that faster, higher, stronger crap. Just a gentle encouragement and a reminder to be in the now of the run and not worry about anything or anyone else.

There was a great moment when I was worrying about people passing us on the forest trail and she said, “just keep to the right and don’t worry about anyone else. You don’t have to manage the forest.” Heh heh, it’s like she knew me.

So, all is good, right? Yeah, this is where my prayers went sideways. Because my knee decided that, despite all evidence to the contrary, it wasn’t ready to be fully healed from my fall last October. It swelled up and I could hardly walk for three days.

So now, for the first time in my life I really WANT to go running. I was excited about feeling healthier, happier and stronger. I have the willingness but now not the capability.  Oh, the irony. I’m like a stranger in a strange land, here.

So, it’s off to the physiotherapist for me. And, an alternate plan of hopefully walking or swimming or something!

And, maybe some prayers for patience as well.


On pace for a great finish

Today I read this awesome blog post – a message to a fat girl running.

I’ll wait while you go and read it.

Awesome, huh!

Thing is, I was that fat girl. Well, not THAT one, but you know what I mean. When I started running I only ran at night in the dark. I kept to the back streets and back alleys so no one would see me. Not a safe thing to do but it felt safer than the imagined (or otherwise) judgements of the other runners at the track. Or the people on the sidewalk walking their dogs. Or the people driving by in their cars.

Once, in a running clinic, the volunteer clinic leader yelled at me in front of everyone because he thought I was too far ahead of the group. I was too embarrassed and mortified to tell him that I was not AHEAD of the group but that some people in the group were about to lap me because I was so far BEHIND!

I never went back to that clinic again.

But I did not stop running and I did find other clinics.

I am not a fast runner. I do not look like a Nike ad. Or an inspirational Pinterest image. My face gets red and I sweat. I bitch about the hills. I mostly focus on putting one foot in front of the other. When it gets too hard I walk for a bit until I feel ready to run again. I love/hate running with friends because I always worry I am holding them back even though they have helped me make it up some pretty big hills!

But I do love running. I love moving my body. I love how it releases my stress and anger and worry. I love that as my body exercises, so does my mind. Roaming through thoughts and ideas and processing my feelings and problems until I feel centred again. I have sorted out many thorny issues while running. All to a great soundtrack of my favourite songs.

I used to worry about how slow I was. How “not good” at running I was. I don’t any more thanks to a woman from one of my running clinics. I don’t know her name but I am ever grateful to her.  One day at the beginning of the run, as I was worrying about if I could keep up with the front of the group (hell, even the middle of the group!) I heard the woman behind me say, “I like running behind you. You keep such a nice steady pace. ” I think I could have hugged her. Me? With my own steady pace?

So, that’s how I am trying to take life. I do not need to compare myself or my race to anyone else’s. While I don’t need to care what anyone thinks, I will surround myself with people who support me and don’t expect me to be anywhere else than exactly where I am. And, I just keep going at my own steady pace, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.