This morning as I Ran for the Cure (Fundraising event for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – they’re still taking donations for the run until the end of the month), I had a bit of an epiphany. For me at least.

It’s been more than 10 years since I have been a regular runner. I am happy to run if I’m chasing plastic (she says anticipating some heckling from my ultimate player friends), but just putting one foot in front of the other bores me. Unless I have incredible scenery to enjoy, like the view from my beach run last week in San Diego.

Beach run

Even then, I have a tendency to take a few walking breaks.

As I ran among 8,500 people this morning on a set course, with a clock running at the start and finish line, I started to think to myself maybe I should run faster. Which lead me to a more important question: What is my goal? If I’m going to run faster, what is the finish time I am aiming for? I know myself well enough to know I would hit a point in the run where I would want to stop and walk. And that I’d probably hit that point sooner if I went faster.

I looked around as I considered my goals. I was among 8500 people, many of whom had “I’m running for” stickers on their backs with a blank area for their personal connection to breast cancer. There were some fun ones like “Boobies!”, but most were names of friends and loved ones. It was strangely powerful for me, and also somehow provided a needed perspective.

If this was a Hollywood movie script, I would say that I decided then and there to devote my life to some great cause and the rest of the movie would be about the journey to that achievement. In fact the perspective I found was much less grandiose. But it did take me away from arbitrarily selecting a time goal, and instead brought me to three simple goals:

  1. Finish without stopping to walk.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Re-discover the joy of running.

As I write this, I realize how simple and unimportant this seems in comparison to someone fighting against breast cancer, but that’s life most of the time, isn’t it?

I had my first moment of okay let’s walk now at the 2km mark. I managed to fend it off by pointing out to myself that I am definitely fit enough to run more than 2km without stopping, so if I stopped then, it would be giving up. I really wasn’t actually feeling sore, or weak, or tired. So I continued, as did my inner dialogue. How ’bout now? Yep, even though I’m a pretty motivated person for the most part, I do have an inner lazy-ass.

Somehow the inner dialogue evolved into I’m just going to say no to stopping, and I started to focus on the have fun goal. I looked around again. I smiled as I looked out across the river, and as I looked at the runners in front of me, and again as I saw the front-runners were starting to come back towards us. Getting to watch a race while you run a race is pretty cool. The guy in second place was wearing a bra over his shirt. I smiled. The first woman was in 7th place. I smiled again. I was having fun. And suddenly my inner voice came up with this:

It’s not about saying no to stopping, or calling bullshit on tired (an expression one of my former ultimate coaches used), those are negatives. It’s about continuing to say yes.

And then it clicked, and I knew with absolute certainty that I would finish the run without stopping.  I can always continue to say yes. I smiled again.

I really enjoyed the rest of the run. My favourite part of any there-and-back race is the part where you turn around and get to see all the people still running toward you. I don’t know why I love that part the most, but I do. I also love the magical energy you get from the people around you. A few people were giving high fives along the course, and as I high-fived them, I felt a surge of energy. These are all strangers and yet somehow they motivate me. I think this is particularly true in runs like this one where it’s more about the cause than the time. There is something about 8500 people participating in something that is about more than just them.

If you’ve ever dabbled in running, and your body tolerates it well, then I encourage you to enter a local 5km fundraising run (timed so you can work your way up to it safely, please). You’ll be glad you did.

What do you think about when you run?


Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada, who isn’t completely confident she’s hit that 3rd goal just yet, but knows there’s still time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *