I have always identified as being a runner. From early years of cross country and track and field running in grade school, to early morning solo runs along the waterfront, running was a large part of my physical and mental well being.
Over 5 years ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right hip and was advised by the rheumetologist to refrain from running as I was suffering from a lot of low back pain. This brought me great sadness but I reluctantly complied knowing how important my physical health was to my work and livelihood. I spent the next few years focusing on rehab, mobility, flexibility and strength and soon learned how to live without running. It was always something I knew I could do if I wanted to but the idea of reinjury was frightening.
I enviously followed the journeys of those around me; my close girlfriend ran the New York marathon, my clients were signing up for 5kms races as personal challenges and then Coco of Coco and Cowe started training for her ½ marathon. I was starting to get the itch.
When I was invited to join the #CCRunCrew I expressed my concern to Coco but knew I could no longer ignore the voice inside my head that begged to give it a try. I promised her and myself I would stop running if my body didn’t agree. I was 3 years older and 3 years out of training so I had no idea how my body would respond.
The majority of our crew was composed of first time runners and all were nervous but their excitement to enter into this 15kms challenge was infectious! Each week, lead by our Nike support team of pacers and experts, we met and shared in our week’s accomplishments by running longer distances set out by our aggressive 10 week training program that would have us ready for the Nike Women’s 15km Race.
I am competitive by nature, almost to a fault. Each week I ran at the front of the pack and was challenged to improve my pace. I never missed a training day – even that one time I messed up on our meet up location I ran all the way there in time to cheer everyone on as they finished!
The more other women in Toronto began posting their distances and times the quicker I felt accountable for my training. We would encourage each other to train harder and faster and celebrated each new accomplishment. Runners in Toronto were truly coming together!
A few short week’s leading up to race day, I was invited to join a group of selected females in one last stop of the Nike 15km race training journey!
Our adventure brought us to Edmonton where a surprise met us at every turn! We arrived early in the morning, greeted by the Nike team including Brianne Jenner, who scored a pivotal goal in Canada’s dramatic Olympic women’s hockey gold-medal overtime victory over the USA!
Brianne spent the entire day with us, sharing her experience as a female athlete. It was inspiring to hear her journey to date – being drafted then released from the final roster for the Vancouver 2010 winter games then named to the 2014 Olympic team for Canada and making such a huge impact. We took turns holding her Olympic gold medal. It was not the size or the weight that was impressive (it was heavy as hell!!) it was what it stood for. She never quit, even when she didn’t make the 2010 Olympic team. Her determination to get back on the roster fuelled more training and more focus.
We ran along the Edmonton river valley at a light and easy shake-out run pace. We discussed running strategies for race day and gained helpful tips and simply took in the breathtaking views.
Our afternoon was filled with excitement and roars as we cheered on the national women’s soccer team in the FIFA women’s world cup opening match against China! We could not have asked for a more perfect end to the day! In front of a sold out crowd of 53,000, in the final minutes of the match, after Adriana Leon was fouled, team captain Christine Sinclair made a penalty kick that gave Canada a 1-0 win!
Traveling home I reflected on the last 10 weeks of training, the experiences I am so grateful to have shared with my #CCRunCrew, the family of runners our fearless leader Coco brought together and the hunger and appetite that had been awakened in me.
Just as these beautiful female athletes had inspired me, I was inspired to carry that energy back to my team. In the end, although we raced with over 10,000 women, we truly raced against ourselves. We set the challenge for ourselves, we endured the pain ourselves, we conquered each goal ourselves and we celebrated our individual victories. But when we strip down the medals, the PRs and the new gear, the greatest reward of all is that we are all #betterforit