Love on a Hill

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by Dr. Sunny Leong

Who knew that I would meet my future spouse at a random Running Room hill training session on an August evening in 2014? I had never been much of a runner but I was getting ready to run my first half marathon in Edmonton. Misaki, on the other hand, was a running machine; she had run in 15 or more marathons before we met and had embraced running as a way to balance the rigours of graduate school.

Photos: Elaine Green Photography

The location was Emily Murphy hill. We had run past each other a couple times without saying anything. I can’t really explain it, but she seemed like a person that I wanted to get to know better. Finally, in the middle of the training session, our eyes met and I decided roll the dice and say hello to her. To my surprise, she replied with a hello back. We actually ended up running and talking together for the rest of that evening. The chemistry was evident and I was glad that I had convinced myself to attend that day. We learned that we both loved the outdoors and travelling. I mustered up the courage to ask her out to dinner at the end of the run, and the rest is history. We got married in Maui two years later.

Running has allowed us to spend quality time together as we travel around the world. Since that fateful day at Emily Murphy, we have participated in running events in Edmonton, Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver, Anaheim, San Francisco, Chicago and Halifax.

I am an orthodontist by profession with two offices, Expressions and Fort Orthodontics. I decided early in my career that I want to give back and volunteer abroad. Misaki and I both go on dental volunteer trips to third world countries and perform free dentistry for those in need. People often trek to our clinics days in advance and from many miles away, sometimes without any shoes at all. Without us, they would not otherwise receive any dental care. Our group brings all of our own dental equipment and we volunteer our time to help the patients. The clinics can be stressful and sometimes last for eight to 10 hours as we try to tend to as many people as we can. To make sure we don’t burn out, we run together either before or after the clinic. Running allows us to unwind and re-energize. It has helped me to foster a better rapport with the dental assistants who I work with daily. I’ve even been able to convince a few dentist colleagues to join us on a run.

While running, we get to see the villages from a different perspective. We see our patients as pivotal members of their community, just like our communities here in Canada. Whether is running through the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru or through the dirt roads of Guatemala, we’ve grown stronger as a couple through running.

Running now for over five years together, we’ve discovered some truisms about runners. One, they are dedicated not only to their sport but also in life. They possess the determination to overcome immense adversity, which has been found to be one of the best markers of future success in individuals. At one point, my wife ran six days a week while attending grad school. She recently graduated with her Ph.D. in Animal Sciences, specializing in Poultry Nutrition, after 13 long years of post-secondary education. She has the same mental mindset and stamina when it comes to running.

Fellow runners are also very encouraging. When you think you just can’t run any further during a marathon, they run up beside you and to give you the mental boost you need to help you finish what you thought was an impossible task. We’ve had runners we don’t even know give us their water or energy packs when we ran out during a race. Lastly, they are a very happy and optimistic bunch. Whomever we run with in any event, we’ve found that they are satisfied with their lives and have a positive outlook.

In closing, my wife and I would have never met if it were not for the Running Room. I thanked John Stanton recently for not only helping us live a healthy and active lifestyle but more importantly, for helping two of his fellow runners find love on a hill. Good things happen when you keep your mind and heart open.

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