I’m no Blackstreet (Come to think of it, lately I’ve barely been Black on the street!). But if I had to pick four words to describe my running these days, those words wound be: No discipline. Self-doubt.
Blame it on the crushing winter we just barely survived. The cold and dark took a serious toll on my adrenaline storage. When Spring finally showed itself, I was beyond help. I’d faithfully set my alarm every night…then hit the snooze button every morning without fail. Our weekly group run was consistently shelved for a variety of reasons: spring cleaning, end of year activities at my kids’ school, late nights with a bottle of red moscato, making plans for summer camp, a barrage of social commitments, Good Times on Netflix (Dynamite!), you name it!
To be honest, my most strenuous activity was running my mouth, with the same enthusiasm that I once used to hit the track. Probably more, since it’s a lot easier to find someone to gossip with than it is to find someone to run with.
Sure I still took on the occasional run event, usually running on fumes between not enough breakfast and not enough sleep (again: Netflix). I was devastated in April when I failed at my first 10k — a late start and a wrong turn led me, well short of my goal, to the 5k finish line. Boo. I succeeded in my second attempt at a 10k in June but with a half-hearted effort, walking more than half the course when I knew I could do much better. I planned to run stretches of 15 minutes but I kept giving in after 2 minutes and just started strolling. My mind told me I was too tired, too old, too stupid to even try to do something like this, and I believed it. I didn’t challenge myself. I just didn’t “feel like it”.
Then, a small spark was lit under the heavy cloak of laziness I wore. What was the catalyst? A great sale on capri running tights. These tights are so good (wicking, strong seams, zip pocket) and the price was so right… Yes, it sounds superficial but when it works, it works. And the lure of the comfortable fit of new running tights? I was unexpectedly rejuvenated.
So I went to bed early and set my alarm clock for 5:35AM. In the morning, I jumped out of bed with gusto. I geared up and hit the sidewalk like I was high-fiving a good friend. The goal? Just run. Don’t think. Don’t make excuses. Don’t do intervals. Don’t stop til you get enough.
To my surprise, I finished 4.07 km in 33 minutes without stopping. I amazed myself, recognizing that the energy, the ability, and the enjoyment that I used to have was still stored away somewhere in my mind and my body. It just took a little digging. Or should I say, no diggity!
New motto: I like the way I worked it. Self-discipline. No doubt.
We RUN Tings invites you to join us the Mercedes-Benz Oakville 10k on Sunday, April 27, 2014. Presented by New Balance Oakville, all funds raised through this popular race will be donated to the Oakville Hospital Foundation. Participants will enjoy pituresque views of Oakville’s lakeshore and a variety of fun events for all ages, including a 5k High School Challenge, a 1k Junior Jog, and a 300m Toddler Trot! But wait, there’s more! One lucky winner will drive away in a brand new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA.
Why did you start running?
I was always a runner off and on from the age of 13. I was inspired by older brothers who all were cross country runners. As an adult, I always dreamed of running again, but I didn’t fully pursue it again until last year. I was inspired by a group of my friends who had started running and that ignited that spark in me once again.
I started out on the track at first, running one lap and walking one, then running two and walking one. I did this until I could run a mile non-stop. Then I moved my track training to the treadmill. This is where I worked on building my distance. Before I knew it, I had built up enough endurance to run longer distances.
I run most often in Detroit [Michigan, USA], my hometown. However, last summer, I ran in Toronto [Ontario, CANADA] with We RUN Tings. That was my first international running experience.
Why did you decide to do the Mercedes Benz 10K in Oakville?
I had so much fun with We RUN Tings in Toronto last year. Having a group of runners that support you to become better and provides opportunities to see the world through running is great. I look forward to the positive energy that We RUN Tings gives me as a runner. They are really an amazing, supportive group.
Have you run a 10K before?
In November of 2013, I ran my first 10k at the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Detroit.
What advice do you have for other runners who may be just getting started?
I’d tell new runners these few points:
- Don’t pressure yourself
- Just take it one day at a time
- Do your best, not anyone else’s best
- Listen to your body
- Oh yeah, and join a great running group!
This month, We RUN Tings is featured on Community Central radio. The topic is Walking the path of life. The host Shaquilla speaks with WRT co-founder Nicole about why it’s so hard to live a healthy lifestyle, how to get started and stay motivated, and how to get involved with the WRT movement. Click here to listen… (29:02)
Why do YOU think many people struggle to exercise and live a healthier lifestyle?
How can we motivate ourselves to meet our fitness goals?
What worked for you? Or what do you need to make it happen?
Runners and readers like you give their best advice for plowing through the winter season.
Friends: Stop toying with my emotions.
At least twice a week I hear “You know I’ve always wanted to start running! I’ve been meaning to call you. We really should get together sometime.”
But when is this elusive sometime? When it comes to getting out there, it seems that something is always standing in the way.
“I’ll join you when it’s not so cold… When it’s not so hot… When I get back in shape… When things slow down at work… When I get my child care in order… When I lose this weight… When I get the right shoes… When I get more sleep… Sometime… Sometime… Sometime…”
Yes, many of us are serious about getting healthy but we always say that it’s too hard to find the time. When life gets hectic, working out is usually the first thing on the chopping block. When we have to work late, we can’t work in a workout. No child care? No workout. Money tight? Goodbye gym membership. Friends wanna go grab a drink but you planned to go to Zumba? Well…
The truth is, we have to prioritize our exercise the same way we prioritize our other regular habits. Few people will ever admit that they are too busy with their job to bathe or brush their teeth. You have to find the time to get dressed and do something with your hair. Maybe you could find an extra 15 minutes to walk or run around the block. At lunch. On the way to work or home.
Don’t wait until you lose the weight. Do what you can now and enjoy the results as you get fitter and you can do more. Don’t let lack of fancy gear stand in your way. Dress for comfort or just slap some sneakers on with your suit and stash the pumps until you get to work. Money is funny? I hear that! That is why running works for me: the sidewalk is free.
Tell your friends to don their sweats and meet you on that free sidewalk or at the track. If not, you can catch up with them for that drink later because you’ve earned it. Child care? That’s always a big one for me. Take my advice: Take the children with you. Not only are you all getting exercise together now but you are also setting the stage for the healthy, balanced lifestyle that they will emulate when they grow up. Sometime.
“But how do I start?” Just start. Forget about planning for that perfect sometime. Now is the time. Strip down, layer up, drop your briefcase, grab the stroller, fire up your tunes, holler at your homies, fling the door open, take a deep breath, and go.
According to the news media, I live in a “high risk” neighbourhood. You know, fraught with violence. Gangsters hanging out and selling crack (or whatever drug of the moment) on every street corner. Drive-bys and carjacking every night. Residents hiding behind closed doors and curtains in fear for their lives. The supposed status quo in this and the 12 other “priority neighbourhoods” spread across Toronto. Politicians (in government buildings far away from here) continue to debate about what to do for us or about us.
Blame it on the endorphins, but I just don’t see it. When I’m out for a run, early in the morning, or on a sunny afternoon, I am motivated by our beautiful parks, trees, shrubs and wildlife (birds and squirrels, that is). It gives me such a feeling of connection when I throw a cheerful “Good morning!” at different people in my community, walking to school, standing at the bus stop, or even out for a run themselves. Our neighbourhood is one of the most diverse in the City, and you can see that reflected in the people jogging at all times of day.
I think seeing people run is uplifting — like the people in our community have the time and the means and the desire to focus on staying healthy, on bettering self and ultimately, family. Healthy families are the backbone of healthy communities.
I honestly believe that running makes our communities safer. Think of it as neighbourhood watch (before George Zimmerman made that a dirty word!). When families and neighbours are outside, running together, at all different times of day, there is less opportunity for crime to happen. There are just too many eyes around. Toronto Police Services states: “Many communities see a decrease in crime because the residents have taken back their neighbourhoods and are actively using the streets, pathways and parks. Walking, jogging, bike riding and being visible in the community effectively limit the opportunity for a crime to be committed.”
AND when we’re walking and jogging on those streets, pathways and parks, we can also see when they need to be fixed. Or cleaned. Or whatever. And we can call our City officials and remind them to get the job done. I’m just saying.
Connect and protect. Talking to our neighbours helps to make us safer too. We start off just saying hi. Then people start to look out for us. They notice when we are not there. We can start making further conversation: “Hey, I didn’t see you running by here last week. Oh, you went on vacation. How was it?” That’s basic community-building right there.
The benefits go further because we are getting physically healthy too. And getting out there can motivate others to do the same. When we see runners who look like us, it challenges our views. It makes us say “Well, maybe I can get out there…” My neighbourhood is over 85% “visible minorities”. Believe me, this not just a young, white, middle-class thing. We are out there. I see it every day.
So I say all that to say, it’s not that we don’t need better social supports in our neighbourhood. Let the politicians do what we’re paying them for. But WE can better our communities NOW doing something that does not require any long meetings, panel discussions, debates, red tape, special permissions, a sit-in, or a letter-writing campaign. For a safer and healthier community, vote with your feet. Just make sure you put some comfortable shoes on first.
Today, I officially crossed the line.
You just never know when that is going to happen. It’s like a surprise party. Once the shock has worn off, you can clearly see all the signs that should have alerted you that something was going to happen. You just didn’t recognize them until everybody jumped up in your face, screaming: SURPRISE! (Got’cha real good, huh?)
I should have known when I opened my eyes this morning. I had been stressed out yesterday and went to bed with a whole lot on my mind, unable to get a really good sleep. Waking up, all I could think about was how much I wanted, no NEEDED to get out there and clear my head. See that right there? The first clue. I went to bed feeling BAD and I saw going for a morning run as something that would make me feel BETTER. Not aspirin. Not a warm soak in the tub. Not a hot cup of tea or (vegan) ice cream. I wanted to RUN. I needed to run.
I only hoped it wouldn’t be too cold. It was 6:15AM, still dark, and the whole world seemed to be asleep.
Checking the weather (the Weather Network app said 2 degrees, plus a girlfriend texted me to say that it was mild outside), I made lunch for my kids and then went to get dressed. I layered up (including the ultra-big headphones to protect my sensitive-and-always-cold ears) and donned the running shoes. With a deep breath, I stepped outside into the cold (but mild) sparkling morning air. It was 7:05AM.
The sun had just started to rise. As I stood in the slushy snow, without my even realizing it, it happened. I crossed over: from mere mortal to serious runner.
This morning was the first time I ever had to shovel a path through the snow before a run. Mortal Me would have turned right around and taken her sleep-deprived body back to bed. Super Me was having none of that. She wanted to get out there BAD. So, path cleared, I picked my way through the wet snow to the street.
The snowplows hadn’t made it yet. The slush was ankle deep. Undaunted, I gingerly crossed to the middle of the road and kept right on stepping. I hailed up one of my neighbours (who looked a bit shocked to see me out there) and made my way to the main street. There, as luck would have it, I found a section of sidewalk a few blocks long that was clear. I claimed that stretch of concrete for my own, and hit the ground running. Literally.
As my feet pounded the ground, and the wind pounded my face, I began to lose myself in the beat (Talib Kweli’s “Get By” didn’t hurt either, I was feeling NO pain) and let my mind flow wherever it wanted. I thought about my long gone friend, Hubert, and how amazed he would be at my progress. I thought about why running is good for our bodies and good for the community. I thought about new (old school) songs I could add to my playlist (I have a 5K tomorrow — I’m going to need Cameo’s “Shake your pants”). I thought about how great it is to get my workout out of the way first thing in the morning, and go off to work having already accomplished something.
Mortal Me was distracted (and embarrassed) by the looks on the faces of the people waiting at the bus stop. I couldn’t even bring myself to run past them, I turned back a few feet away and ran in the other direction. Twice. I recognized that look. A lot of people, especially us African-Caribbean people, make that face when we see people jogging outside in the cold. The look says: “She crazy? Bwoy, mi tell yuh, some people a bin in dis country TOO long!”
Super Me had to admit it: I was crazy! But I was also supremely confident, drunk with my success, amazed at my tenacity, all wonderful, positive, life-affirming feelings. I realized that I am an addict. I had to have that feeling. And no snow or slush or funny looks from strangers was going to stop me.
As I slowed to my cool-down walk, I felt like I was glowing. I know I was smiling. I was brimming with energy as I turned my steps toward home.
The best part was walking into my home, now alive with the sounds of my family. My husband and children were amazed that I had been out there, not just running in the snow but ENJOYING running in the snow. My daughter, 7 years old, hugged my legs and exclaimed: “Mommy! I want to go with you next time!”
Life is good on the other side of the line.