I have three strong personality traits that are my undoing and my triumphs at the same time. I always give 110%, I always finish what I started, and I don't give up. These three traits are present in every aspect of my life, but they are exemplified through running.
But I can't really talk about my love for running, without admitting how much I used to hate it.
For the majority of my life, I loathed running. For that matter, I hated anything athletic on principle. This was because I was the only girl in a family of three boys, and though I was the second oldest and grew up faster than all my brothers, both my older and younger brothers were physically more capable than I was. Being the only girl, I felt I constantly had to prove or validate my existence by beating my brothers at something. But because the cost of failure was so high, I developed an "all or nothing" approach to competing with my siblings. If I knew I had a sure win, I would pour myself into the activity, but if there was the slightest possibility of losing, I would withdraw and sit out. In my life, I threw myself into academics, literature, and the arts. But any sort of sport I knew to stay far away from.
To this day, I don't know how to ski, I'm inept at biking, I'm terrified of skateboards, and I can't shoot a ball through a hoop for the life of me. I'm a strictly no talent outfit when it comes to those things because I never tried. Once I hit middle-school, however, team sports were a mandatory part of our education. I was a disaster. I was an awkward pre-pubescent tween with the stumbling skills of a clumsy kindergartener. There was no way I could keep up with my peers. This was a problem, because my failure at Phys.Ed was messing up my outstanding academic record. After a lot of crying and whining on my part, my gym teachers made a deal with me that so long as I was doing something active, I could be exempt from team sports. And so, in grade 7, when I was 12 years old, I began running. And bit by bit, I had to admit it was growing on me. I actually enjoyed the wind in my hair and the euphoric rush of going fast. But there was one more curve down the road I was jogging. Because that December, I decided to break the golden rule of never trying anything my brother's did. I decided to run on a treadmill.
My family was on a road trip across the prairies – which was ridiculous enough for its own purposes. We were staying at a hotel in Moosejaw that had a pool and athletic centre. And my father said "Don't fool around on the treadmill." And of course, because I had been told no, I felt the undeniable urge to do so.
That evening, each of my brothers had had their fun cranking the treadmill up to full speed and running for as long as they could. I had just come out of the pool, and so, barefoot and in my bathing suit, I decided I would prove myself an equal with my brothers and run on the treadmill. You can probably guess where this is going.
I got on the rubber belt, and cranked up it full speed. The first 30 seconds were a breeze. I was skipping along, laughing and having a great time while my brothers looked on. But, after those glorious 30 seconds were up, the lactic acid began to build in my muscles, my limbs grew heavy, and I was ready to be off. But because I was going so fast, and because I had never ridden a treadmill before, I didn't know how to make it stop. Rather than hit the big red button that was right in front of me, I jumped onto the plastic front of the machine, but it started squealing, and startled, I placed my feet back on the belt. Thing was, my feet weren't moving, but the treadmill still was. My feet went flying out from under me. At this moment, any sane person would have let go and flown off, result in a bruised body and a bruised ego. But like I mentioned early, I am a finisher, I go 110%, and I don't give up. My legs blew out behind me like superman's cape, while I clutched the bars of the treadmill.
After a few seconds, I realized my ankles and knees were starting to smelter and then I clued in I should let go. The machine promptly flung me into the wall. My brothers promptly collapsed into laughter, and I added a giggle or two, until I glanced at my legs. My knees and ankles had been sanded down to the bone. There was no more laughter after that.
I continued on through life with a hatred of atheleticism and a deathly fear of treadmills. But never the less, my love for running had begun to bloom, and regardless of how scared I was, I couldn't give up. I knew running had more adventures in store for me. And so, that was why on October 10. 2010, I found myself in Victoria, lining up for my first marathon.
Before that, the longest distance I had run was the Times Colonist 10KM and I had finished in 50:07. I had three months to train, and no clue what I was getting myself into. My parents, my peers, my teachers all told me I was insane, and perhaps that was enough to drive me. I did not know my physical breaking point. I did not know the limits I could push myself beyond.
Race day came on a grey fall morning. I remember waiting at the start line, shifting my weight nervously from foot to foot, while the athletic gods beside me contorted their bodies into pretzels and leaped up and down. I looked at the neon reflectors on their shoes, the water-belts strapped around their waists, the sports logos tattooed across their clothing. I was wearing my younger brother's hand-me-up grey sneakers. I had on my black dance pants that ware too short and hung a little bit above my ankle, and strapped to my leg was a purple the dyed purse that I bought from the Saturday Market. I felt entirely out of place among the 3000 people jostling around me. But when the announcer said go, adrenaline took over my body, and I began to run.
For the entire 42.25 km, I ran.
I'll tell you now, I know my breaking point. It was at the 32 kilometre mark, with another 10 left to go, and there was a hill. And my dad, who'd been snapping photos at the sidelines, ran next to me up that hill. And after, he said "Okay, now you are on your own, I'll see you at the finish." I wanted to give up. I wanted to quit. I wanted to walk. I wanted to crawl back and say I was done.
But I didn't. Not once did I stop running. Not once did I walk. And when I crossed the finish line, I promptly collapsed. My time was 4:20:20. I came first in my age category, because there were only four people as young as me running the marathon. I got a medal that said "the finisher" and I couldn't have been more proud.
That night, I got home and lay in the bath tub. I did not emerge for four hours. Here I was, the girl terrified of treadmills, sworn to never do anything involving athletics, someone no one thought could run a marathon. And I smiled. Because I am a finisher, and I give 110%, and no matter what, I won't give up.