by Andrea Mandzuk
“I’m never doing that again.”
That’s what I told myself after running my first 300 metre race. It was November 2015, and I was in my third year of competing in track and field for the University of Manitoba Bisons. Since starting to run track at the age of 10, I had always been a sprinter. This was my first time competing in anything longer than 200 metres.
I was a mediocre athlete, however I was dedicated. Not seeing the results that I wanted on the track led me to run myself into the ground. I was not kind to my body or mind, and looking back I realize that this resulted in deep unhappiness with myself. Luckily, Running Room changed my life.
Lynn Glowach hired me for my first job at the Pembina Running Room. Initially,
I worked at the store every Sunday morning during Run Club. As a sprinter, the concept of someone choosing to run more than five kilometres at a time was absurd to me, yet I was fascinated by every single runner who came back from the long run. They smiled and laughed, and they made an effort to include everyone who showed up. They were so happy, and I was envious of that. I started to consider the idea of quitting track and taking up distance running, but I didn’t know what I wanted. It was hard to imagine abandoning track and creating a new identity for myself.
In March 2016, I quit track and started training on my own. I worked my way up to 10 kilometres and finally felt ready to join the group. On May 22, 2016, I ran with the Sunday Run Club for the first time. Henry Marie, a long time runner at the Pembina store, announced that we would be running 10 miles. Having no sense of distance in miles, I figured that this couldn’t be much farther than 10 kilometres, so we trotted away on what would be my longest run ever. I struggled to keep up with the group and my joints ached. Henry stayed with me the whole way, and I finished that run. The feeling of pride was unbelievable.
Over the next eight months, my long runs increased. I became a group leader for Shelley Borschawa’s half and full marathon training program, in preparation for the 2017 Manitoba Marathon. With the help of the resources and support of that clinic, I completed the half marathon that year. I continued with my training, and got to the point where my long runs were consistently around 20 kilometres. I knew I needed a new challenge. The idea of running a full marathon floated around in my head for a few months before I registered for the 2018 Manitoba Marathon, and became a group leader for Shelley’s training program once again. Shelley became my long run buddy and marathon mentor. On race day, the first 30 kilometres were strong, but I inevitably hit the wall. Shelley dragged me through the last 12 kilometres with her positive attitude. At the finish, the feeling was surreal. I was so grateful to have an able body that was capable of completing the extraordinary feat of a marathon. It was a feeling of absolute bliss.
My first full marathon brought many lessons. Hydration is important. Electrolytes are important. Fuel is important. Sleep is important. Above all, happiness and life satisfaction are important. If you’re not happy, do something about it.
In the end, I never did run another 300 metre race. What I did do was regain an appreciation for my body and mind, fall in love with running again, and discover the joy of long distance running.