How and when did you come to be someone who runs?
I’ve run on and off throughout my life. It was mostly motivated by weight and lifestyle ideals rather than a sincere passion for running. As somebody who mostly resides in her head, athleticism is not an instinctive feeling for me. In its most recent incarnation (at 38) running began as an almost accidental thing.
My body had started to feel soft in all the ways it does when you reach a certain age and your days are desk-bound. At the same time, a close friend of mine went through a health scare and it made me buck up and realize how lucky I am to be well. Her health scare did not relate to poor lifestyle choices and I nearly felt like I deserved to be unwell more than she did considering the care I was taking of myself.
I downloaded two apps: MyFitnessPal to track diet (especially sugar and macros) and Pacer to track the steps I walked. And that was it really. My goals were so modest…just to make sure I was hitting those basic wellness marks—enough protein, not too much sugar, the basic number of steps a day for good heart health.
So first, I got really into walking: I started walking to and from work, taking longer and longer routes and exploring Toronto’s ravines. It became such a meditative pastime and I enjoyed feeling that connection with nature. At a certain point, my body started compelling me to run. I felt light and wanted to go fast. I would look at a stretch in front of me and want that feeling of running like a child, where your shoes would fly off your feet. So it really wasn’t a top down plan. I would say my body just told me to GO!
How do you feel when you're running?
As mentioned, I live a lot in my head. So there’s a huge gap between how I feel and how I probably look. I envision myself running gazelle-like, but I’m probably more like a hobbit huffing and puffing my way around a trail. Mostly I feel this incredible brightness when I run. I love the places it takes me to in the city and when I soundtrack that with some favourite music, it makes me feel very much in my own incandescent bubble.
It’s as if that space that I occupy in my head expands to encompass my body. This connection with my own physicality isn’t something I feel all the time and, in a way, I want to say running is like sex in that respect…that I get a sense of my body as its own thing and of me-in-my-body as a different entity than the me-in-my-head I am most of the time.
What has most surprised you about picking up this hobby in adulthood?
I suppose I always thought (and still think in many ways) that being a runner is a “thing"…and a thing that I’m just not. I find it difficult to identify myself as a runner. I don’t race or do organized runs, I don’t set personal bests or even set out to run certain distances. It has remained for me something my body dictates. If I go for a run, I run until my body tells me to stop. Sometimes it just doesn’t click and I walk instead. Other times I keep going for long distances.
I’ve let running be a loose thing, rather than a compulsive and programmatic thing. And I think that’s surprised me because I always thought runners were so obsessive and rigid. But I’ve kept doing it precisely because I haven’t put that structure around it.
What is it about running that suits you at this point in your life?
I turn 40 in June and I now have more mature ideas abut what health and fitness mean for me. I don’t run expecting it to change my body into something it’s not. I don’t run with the same insecurities I would have when I was younger about being seen.
It’s a lovely recurring thing you hear from women as they age—that they become more secure in their bodies. And I definitely feel that. But with that security in your body comes a sense of responsibility to take good care of it in ways beyond appearance.
Do you see the effects of running showing up in other areas of your life?
Generally speaking, I think how you’re living always has a big impact on what you do next and the particular outlook you have at any given life stage. If I sleep well it transforms me. If I read a great book, it transforms me. If I spend time building relationships with others, they transform me. So—yes—because I’ve made running part of my life, it has transformed my life. But in the same ineffable ways that any repeated experience is going to transform you and become part of that time in your life.
In the last year, I’ve accomplished a lot of things I’ve wanted to. I changed my job of 12 years (after a few years of feeling dreadfully stuck). I got a dog (Beau) after years of wanting one. Was running part of that? Likely…yes. But it’s not a direct causal connection.
I think running’s just one ingredient in what makes me who I am right now, which includes my age, my complete contentedness as a single woman, my sense of professional thriving. Running is definitely part of that growing confidence and happiness, but at the same time I still don’t really intertwine it with my identity; it’s a thing I do, not who I am.
Thanks so much for having me :)