By Barbara Dundas
When my husband, a civilian employee for the Department of National Defence, was in Afghanistan for five months in 2010, I started running. I did so for two reasons: to get away from worrying about my husband and to escape the stresses of single parenting. What I have, two years later, is a passion for running.
I started with a Learn to Run clinic at a local Running Room store. The first night, the speaker told us that we were all runners because we had come out and that we would amaze ourselves over the coming ten weeks. We went out as a group and ran one minute and walked two. Ten weeks later, to everyone’s amazement, we were able to run ten minutes for every one-minute walk break.
When I’d worked my way up to running for five minutes and walking for one, I participated in the Canada Army Run 5K (five-kilometre run). The slogan for this race is “No ordinary runners. No ordinary race.”
Truer words were never spoken. As I ran with people with prosthetic limbs, people whose spouses were deployed around the world and people with the name of a deceased soldier on their T-shirts, I knew I had to complete the race. How could I do less? And when I had done so, I was hooked. I proudly wore the same medal that the much faster winner had worn. I’d crossed the same start line, travelled the same course and finished in the same place. That’s the thing about runners in any race: in the end we are part of a larger whole.
In the time that has followed, I have progressed through running five and 10-kilometre races and have run five halfmarathons. I love halfmarathons: training for them is manageable with my family commitments, but still a challenge.
Like many parents, I’ve been careful to enroll my daughter in sports so that she leads a healthy life. Until 2010, I really wasn’t a good role model. When I started running, I had to tell Reid that I couldn’t snuggle in bed on Sunday morning anymore because I had to run. Even so, it is important for our children to see us put a priority on our fitness. Sometimes I tell her I need to run and I do need it —to clear my head and to feel my muscles working. We have conversations about being tired but finishing a run anyway. Since beginning to run, I have specific things I love about my body. I talk about my muscles and my strength. The confidence I’ve gained as a runner has also led me to sign up for a skiing class and now I’m looking into triathalons. I never imagined I could run and now that I know I can, I’m able to imagine accomplishing so much more.
It seems my passion for running is contagious. In 2011, Reid insisted that she run in the 2K race for Ottawa Race Weekend and then she tackled the 2K Walk, Run and Roll for Roger’s House. In 2012, we ran together in the 5K and Reid ran the final 1.2 kilometres of the Y Kids Marathon for Ottawa Race Weekend. The Y Kids Marathon is an especially fun event for kids in grades 3 to 8, as they exercise in 30-minute blocks in the weeks leading up to Race Weekend. Each 30-minute block is considered equivalent to a kilometre and after completing 41 blocks, the kids finish their marathon as a group. Reid really enjoyed running solo with all of the other kids.
Over the course of 2012, Reid and I also ran the Game of Life 5K on Canada Day in support of the Commonwealth Games’ International Development Through Sport program, the Color Vibe 5K in support of Graffiti Management of Ottawa, the 5K at Rattle Me Bones in support of The Ottawa Hospital, the Santa Shuffle in support of the Salvation Army and the 5K Resolution Run. Reid and her dad also ran the 5K at the Canada Army Run. There are many opportunities to run in Ottawa and many good causes to support.
During a couple of runs, Reid has talked about stopping and I’ve told her we can run, walk or crawl—even skip, hop and jump—to finish a race but we will not stop. I don’t sign her up for races without her support but I think finishing them is important. At the end of two tough runs, Reid has shown her medal with pride and not mentioned the difficulties. I have, though. I have told her that when she has to work harder than usual to finish, she shows how tough she truly is. I will note, however, that Reid does not train to run. She is active in swimming, hockey and skiing and is generally an active kid. These activities prepare her for the roughly 35 minutes required to cover five kilometres.
If you’re thinking about starting-or re-starting-to run, I would recommend joining a running group. I have had great success with the Running Room, which has instructional clinics for a fee and two free group runs each week on Wednesday night and Saturday morning. The philosophy centres around ten minutes of running coupled with one minutes of walking. It seems possible to run any distance for ten minutes at a time. The Run Ottawa Club, Elation Centre and Mountain Equipment Coop also offer group running activities. If a group run won’t work for you, there are numerous online training programs and applications. I’d also highly recommend books such as Run Like a Mother or Train Like a Mother (even if you’re not a mother or a woman) and any book by John Bingham, who famously said, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”