When I moved to Vancouver five years ago, the first thing I noticed, other than the natural beauty everywhere, were the scores of healthy bodied runners weaving in and out of the crowds on the sea wall. They were every age group, running solo or in groups and many had this small smile like they knew a secret that I didn’t. At the time, I viewed running as a form of torture, only people with the running gene would like it. I had tried multiple times to use the Couch to 5K app, only to reverse course and dive back onto the couch with Ruffles chips after 2 weeks.
Covid hit. My pub nights and liquid lunches were cancelled. Like many people, I became trapped in my small apartment working from my closet. Then, like many times in life, a branch suddenly appeared when my neighbour asked me if I wanted to join the Striderz 10K running clinic out of Olympic Village, right outside my doorstep.
The beginning is a bit blurry, but I do remember feeling like I was coughing up a lung the first few weeks I ran but our running group was just so engaging, I started to forget about the discomfort. Rabih, the coach, was firm but sympathetic and encouraging (and he has a nice smile…he didn’t pay me to say that) and of course the scenery couldn’t have been more spectacular in June. I was even practicing my Italian while running, where I will be eternally grateful to Robson for reintroducing me to my childhood language…my Italian father would be so happy! I showed up every Tuesday and Thursday and Sunday, slowly making progress with the length and speed I could run with the inspiration of trying to keep up with other group members. And most importantly I laughed a lot.
Rabih, The Coach
The group of people I met expanded as my running improved, we cross trained with hikes and bike excursions which was really an excuse to be outside and socialize. More intense workouts like hill training (which really is a form of torture), fartlek (which I hate by the way), speed workouts which I loved, slowly shrunk my body by 20 pounds over a period of 5 months. I suddenly recognize myself in the mirror again, like seeing an old friend. My joints don’t creak when I wake up in the morning and I have become addicted to physically moving and leaving my apartment. I wonder if my couch misses me.
The funny thing is I just showed up. It didn’t take mounds of self-discipline or pain to reach any of the goals, it was just a slow conditioning along with a lot of encouragement by amazing coaching and fellow runners and friends. I did have some small temporary injuries, but they resulted when I didn’t listen to the clues to know I was overdoing it. I didn’t have high expectations but when I ran my final 10K race, I couldn’t believe I exceeded my goal of 75 minutes to an hour 9 minutes. I saw pictures of me crossing the finish line and there it was, the tiny smile I first saw in others when I moved here with a big dose of determination.
When I look at runners now, I no longer see them as an elusive group. Each person has their own distinctive stride, bounce, hand gestures and fashion choices (my favourite fashion is the neon shiny spandex, you just can’t look away). Some run like Tarzan, others like giant bunnies, some float where you hardly see their feet move at all. Personally, I think I run like a football linebacker, I will have to work on the elegance factor.
I remember talking to someone very inspirational at my first 5K race. He had just completed his 151st Marathon (he completed his 153rd when I did my 10K) and I asked him how he did it. He said he just showed up. Just like me and others in our run club. Next goal is a half marathon. I hope anyone reading this who never thought they could be a runner understands it is achievable and a lot of fun. It does wonders for your body and your mind, helps you become more aware how the mechanics of your body work and how important the mind/body connection is. If you struggle doing it solo, the achievement is even more satisfying when a group of people help boost you up and vice versa and you can celebrate the victories with them. I hope I see you running on the sea wall one day.
- Linda Peruzzi