One of the reasons I love being a runner is that unlike many other sports, as an average everyday runner, when you line up at the start line of a marathon, you line up right behind the elites of our sport – now that just doesn’t happen in most sports. Good luck trying to golf a round with Tiger Woods or play a tennis match with Venus Williams! And even as an average runner, I get to connect with elite athletes.
How do you handle fuelling during training, especially at the start of a training phase if you’re a little “soft” around the edges?
One of my fondest memories from last year’s Toronto Waterfront Marathon was getting a big hug from Lanni as she made her way from the elite holding area towards the start line. Having just completed two marathons that morning, I was wrapped in blankets trying to stop shivering waiting for my third and final marathon, and here was Lanni bouncing around looking full of joy and energy. And we all know how this story ends – Lanni did Canada proud yet again!
Now, let me get to your question. I like the ambiguity of the wording in your question about being “a little soft around the edges” at the start of a training phase. Taking this literally, I can apply it to my entering the base training phase carrying a few extra pounds, and feeling a little “soft” around the middle. I think our natural tendency is to cut back on the calories we consume because it never feels comfortable carting around that extra weight on long training runs. But there in lies the danger. When I don’t fuel properly as I begin to ramp up my long run distance, two things inevitably happen – I become more prone to injury, and the lethargy starts to kick in, and thus, my motivation to hammer out key training runs all but disappears. The strategy I use to get around this is to eat many small meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals. This allows me to fuel my body more consistently, and thereby avoid the nutritional peaks and valleys that come with energy crashes.
If I interpret your question more figuratively, I would say I certainly feel “soft around the edges” in terms of my mental stamina as I enter the final phase of my training leading up to race day. I usually go into the last few weeks before a target race feeling physically and emotionally restless – a lot of this has to do with tapering back on my training, and having to cut the extra calories from my diet in order to get as lean as possible. I’ve been sober so for quite some time, so I don’t have to worry about cutting back on the booze or wine, but like every other recovering addict, I have a wicked sweet tooth. JP without his daily dose of cookies and chocolate is not a happy camper!.
You’ve been running for quite some time now, and I know that you have run a lot of races over the years. At this point, what motivates you to keep heading out the door each day?
My motivation for running has evolved over the years. At first, I began running regularly about 19 years ago when I entered a treatment program for drug and alcohol addiction. At that time, running with definitely my escape – It allowed me to turn off my brain for a little while, and that primarily allowed me to get some distance from the incessant cravings to pick up a drink or a drug. The funny thing is, the more I ran, the more addicted I became to running. But along the way, everything inside me and around me started to change. Without a doubt, I was getting physically and mentally stronger, but in addition to that, people around me began to trust me more, as I was becoming more and more accountable and following through with goals and commitments.
Around eight years into my running practice, the time I spent out on my runs more closely resembled a form of meditation than it did an athletic pursuit. I became less concerned with getting faster, and more interested in going further – not only in distance but also into exploring how running was taking me inside of myself. Running became my meditation, a commitment I made with myself. I feel that the longer I pursue a running practice, the more I realize I am prioritizing my mental wellness by entering into a conversation or communion with me, and only me. By its very nature of personal commitment, I can think of no better sport than running to bring us to this place of inner peace.
Now today, I run for community – I run to build connections with other runners who are on a similar path of self-discovery. With my advocacy work for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I use running as a way to build ‘bridges’ between our sport and the people in our community who are most at risk. I honestly believe that running will change your life if you give yourself over to its mysteries.