Humble Beginnings

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by Ted Swain

As a kid, my biggest running accomplishment was winning a third-place ribbon in the 100-yard dash at a school track meet. Truth be told, there were only three runners in the event.

Kris Acker

As a kid, my biggest running accomplishment was winning a third-place ribbon in the 100-yard dash at a school track meet. Truth be told, there were only three runners in the event.

At age 51, after buying some running shoes from the Running Room, I visited the company’s website and impulsively signed up for a Learn to Run training program at their Kenaston location in Winnipeg. Of course, I spent most of my waking hours between then and the start of the program cursing myself for being so reckless and committing myself to run with a group of finely toned athletes. I imagined myself lagging far behind the group as they disappeared, laughing at me, over the horizon. I cringed at the idea of running outside, possibly during precipitation, and wondered if classes would be cancelled if rain or snow were in the forecast.

I arrived to the first session as people were separating themselves into couch potatoes and “elite” runners (namely, those who could run for five minutes at a time). Naturally, I gravitated to the couch potato group. On this night, we had to run for one minute and walk for two, repeating the pattern seven times. Well, the seventh time felt like the end of a marathon and I was eternally grateful for that second minute to catch my breath. I patted myself on the back for not joining the elite group, noting that it was probably the first correct sporting decision I had ever made.

Still, I was amazed to be surrounded by a crowd of people, most of whom were younger and fitter in appearance than I was, but who were all puffing, gasping and wheezing (as I was) from the effort. Misery really does love company and I was positively elated not to be left behind for once in my athletic life.

Next week came the one-and-one combination (run one minute, walk one minute) and I really missed that extra walk minute. The hardest weeks were spent going from two-and-one to five-and-one. Each run was a run from hell and I gasped my way through each walk break, openly dreading the next period of running. Two things kept me going: the shared agony of the other participants and the upbeat banter of our instructor, Roxie. She was unlike any athletic person I had ever met, treating everyone with respect and encouragement. I truly would not have continued to the end of the program without her.

When we learned that our graduation race would be a 5K event in June, I was more than mildly intimidated. The prospect of running that far, outdoors, in a group that included strangers – most of whom would likely sneer at my performance – was hard to accept. To counteract this, our instructors told us that completing the training runs and the race were all that mattered, not the time or placings. I decided right then that I would take this attitude to heart.

When race day came, I had several positive treats. First, my younger daughter, Kristina, then 16 and athletic like her mother, ran the race with me and I could actually keep up with her, using my ten-and-one system. It was the first time I had worn a racing bib in my life, the first time where everyone cheered for everybody else, regardless of performance, and the first run I had ever had where I felt that I had accomplished something significant for myself in sport. I could never have imagined participating in a sporting event of any kind at my age, let alone with the feeling of accomplishment I experienced that day.

With the help of Running Room’s training programs and supportive instructors, I went on to complete a 10K, half marathon and full marathon. Even so, I will never forget my starting point of running for one minute and walking for two. Anyone who has joined a Running Room training program knows that it’s the personal relationships and camaraderie that help us become so successful as runners.

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