by Alice Bohlen
I never really considered myself a runner or someone who has the “running bug.” But, all of that changed when I volunteered at the legendary Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend in 2015. The people were cheering, upbeat music was playing and there was a lot of diversity in the crowd. It was the hidden community of running that I always seemed to be drawn to. So, two years later, on the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary, I completed a 10K race with my cousin. In this first run, the thing that made the biggest difference for me was the atmosphere. It certainly was the best source of adrenaline that I could have.
A year later, I realized that although I had enjoyed my experience, I still didn’t fully enjoy running. In fact, since that Canada Day event, I hadn’t gone running again. So, in the context of a year-long project at school, I wanted to learn how to like running while training for a half marathon. I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, but I had an objective, a good research base, discipline, and a plan. Of course, there were highs and lows. I learned that running is equally hard on the mental side and the physical side.
We are in a constant battle with our brain telling us to continue to move forward and our body telling us to stop. By establishing a routine, I was able to manage my runs, find my pace and wake up more easily in the morning to go running. As soon as my alarm went off, I was on automatic pilot. I got dressed, swallowed a glass of water, put on my running shoes and played a podcast to keep me going during my run. Just like everyone else, there were some days where I did not want to go and would have greatly preferred to sleep in. Little did I know that the days where I forced myself to get out of bed were when my best runs happened.
In October 2018, after about six months of training, I found myself at the half marathon start line on race day. All my research, effort, and pain were going to be tested in the next three hours. I followed the 2:30 pace bunny for the first 5K, then passed it. The first few kilometres were a breeze. I had the beat in my feet and I didn’t stop repeating to myself that I had to put one foot in front of the other and that I was able to do this. Around the seventh kilometre, things started to go downhill. There were a lot more hills than I had anticipated and my quads were burning. At 11K, I took a well-deserved walk while taking energy supplements. I really wanted to finish in under 2:40. I picked up the pace.
At the 18K mark, I was pressing on the gas. For a split second, my pride exceeded all feelings of discomfort and tiredness throughout my body. At the 20th kilometre (a.k.a. the longest kilometre of my life) I was telling myself that I was able to get there, that I needed to smile for the cameras and just go for it. In fact, during the last 100 metres, I saw myself sprinting, finally crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon. I was finally handed a medal that I wore proudly on my sweaty t-shirt. I had finished in an unbelievable time, 2:27.19. I was very proud of myself. Everything was worth it.
What I thought was the end of an adventure was, in fact, the start of something new. I would certainly like to restart this challenge in the future, and maybe even try a full marathon one day.